E3 08 Preview: Project Origin
F.E.A.R. was a great game, but it had a couple of key flaws that held it back from greatness. Monolith is working on a new game called Project Origin, which exists because of a bizarre twist in Monolith's split from publisher Sierra/Vivendi. Sierra got to keep the name F.E.A.R., while Monolith got to keep the story and characters from their game and asked the community to create the name for the new project. For some reason, out of a bunch of great choices, Monolith picked the rather bland name Project Origin. But from my time spent at E3, the game is anything but boring.
I enjoyed F.E.A.R. quite a bit, but I had two major issues with it. One, the level design was horrible, with one basement after warehouse after office complex after another. Two, the horror elements were great, but for almost the whole game, none of the scary stuff could actually kill you. You'd take on these tough commandos with Matrix-like abilities to slow down time and powerful weapons to take out pretty much anything in your way, but then the action would die down, it got very formulaic. Your HUD would flicker and you knew a scary part was coming - a few of those moments were really damn scary, but for the most part you'd get some predictable glances at Alma, the girl that's causing all the craziness in the game world. Only once the horror part was over and you moved away from it would another fight would start up. Even though I felt like F.E.A.R. had much more potential and better fights, I preferred playing their other horror action game, Condemned, simply because you had to actually fight the scary things instead of just having them go "boo!" and fade away.
All of this has been taken into account with Project Origin. Monolith has committed to better level design and, this time, is giving you creepy enemies to fight as well as the more conventional troops to take on. The level I got to play on was a ruined city street - yes, the nuke that went off at the end of F.E.A.R. is around the time that this game starts - as I took on a bunch of enemy troops who were moving between cover, sniping me from above, and generally doing a great job of kicking my ass while I was trying to get a shot. The weapons I got to use weren't terribly original, but the experience of seeing the bullets being driven into enemy skulls in slow motion was very gratifying - it's even better than in F.E.A.R..
I actually died quite a few times in trying to get to the end of the level - something that you don't usually have to deal with at shows like E3 - as enemies were slipping around behind me and using explosives in some pretty smart ways. I hadn't played F.E.A.R. in years, but once I got a hang of using the slow motion system again, I was able to push through. It helped that the game now uses a regenerating health system similar to the Call of Duty or Halo games, and for the most part it didn't feel out of place or tacked on.
As I walked into a half-destroyed movie theater, I got tossed into a fight with a big, nasty robot, but I was ready for it with a couple of shots from a rocket launcher. Then some really cool horror scenes happened (I'd rather not spoil them here) and I was back to the action. The Monolith rep insisted that while this bit was a lot like the separation of action and horror that F.E.A.R. was dragged down by, they do mix it up - and later I found out that that's what the Remnant enemies are for. While I didn't get to see any of those at E3 and only saw them in trailer form later, the next section I played had me taking control of my own suit of Power Armor and I got to take down a ton of troops and other mechs and robots as I made my way down a city street. The Power Armor has a big chaingun as well as missiles you can fire, but you can't use the slow motion anymore and both weapons can overheat or may take a while to reload, so smart shooting is still a must.
While the demo's gameplay only lasted about 15 minutes at most (minus my dying, of course), I was impressed with the variety that is going into Project Origin. With some great enemies and of course very creepy scenes about Alma and what she's done to the city, I can say that while I simply didn't care about Project Origin until E3, I'm very excited to play the final version now. We'll get our chance soon: Project Origin is scheduled for a release this Fall on PC, PS3, and 360. The rumor is that it'll be out around Halloween, but nothing has been confirmed yet.