Fear Effect 2 is a prequel that is very much in the image of the first game but with some additions for better or worse. It has more action, story complexity, puzzles, well-directed cut-scenes, and more cleavage.
Originally, I thought that the overt sexuality of Fear Effect can be considered an empowering factor. That argument is blown out of the water with this second game, where the sex factor is clearly gratuitous and exploitative, but apart from two or three points it's not far removed from a typical action movie.
Depending on how you like the first game and the specific combination of things the sequel has, you will like it more or less. Personally, I found the first game to be slightly better, mostly because of its tighter story and better character interaction, but they are very much in the same league.
#64: Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix
Genre: Action Adventure.
Publisher: Eidos Interactive.
Developer: Kronos Digital Entertainment.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste.
"A psychotic dying of EINDS, a drunk, and a whore. Interesting choice"
Disappointingly, the prequel doesn't delve deeply into the origin of the trio in the first game (Hana, Glas, and Deke). It just explains how they met with a brief glimpse of their actual origins.
Instead, the story revolves around Rain, a less interesting character that may or may not be in a lesbian relationship with Hana. Normally, this would have been a landmark occasion noting the game. However, the gratuitous way the game used this relationship for marketing purposes with an almost soft-core pornography focus removes any supposed progressive values.
These two ladies put the ass in assassin (this is an actual marketing slogan)
Like the first game, the plot is a B-Movie affair with horror and Asian mysticism elements. It's nothing much, but the scene direction and voice acting is very good, and that allows for the characters to sell the story.
The first chapters in the game pertain to a mission that is clearly inspired by movies like Mission Impossible, and that's one hell of an opening (I don't even count the revealing dresses of Hana and Rain against the game for their actual plot relevance).
However, the game's latter parts are just too complex, and the supernatural elements even write off key elements of the first game, but who is keeping track of that.
"Ahh, two kitties... I like kitties... Come play with me kitty kitty"
Regarding gameplay, Fear Effect 2 is a step-wise improvement over its predecessor. It still retains the Resident Evil style tanks controls but with improved mobility options, but it feels a little bit smoother than the first game with more weapon options.
It also has a "Full 3D" movement option, but I didn't feel that worked well with the game's fixed camera angles.
Like the first game, there is a helpful cursor that shows when an enemy is in your sights, which is doubly helpful when you change screens and when you flip around. That removes some of the aiming annoyances typically seen in such games.
Dual-wielding allows you to aim at two enemies at once, except when it doesn't
Honestly, though, the gunfights in the game, at least in normal difficulty, are not that engaging and they depend almost exclusively on having the right weapon equipped and killing the enemies before they get the chance to attack. That's important with the game's health system, which only recovers after surviving unscathed from a fight or solving a puzzle.
Even against bosses, who are not as interesting as the first game, the combat is not especially impressive. In hard mode, it requires more dodging and more ammo, but I imagine that being more annoying than fun.
"Look, I don't think I can hack the computer with my breasts. So it's all up to you and your brains"
Outside of combat, this game focuses more on puzzles than the first game, and they are more elaborate in both nature and execution. There is the typical key-item hunt, which could be quite boring if the level design wasn't particularly good. Here, the best puzzles incorporate the information you gather all around the level and culminates with a final puzzle that combines all that information.
Getting or using key times sometimes requires unique puzzles. These puzzles vary widely. Some require you to recognize a pattern, others require you to figure out the pattern yourself, and there are even some sliding block and war game puzzles.
The best puzzle is one about DNA linking and it has multiple puzzles within it
Another type of puzzle requires some movement elements, which can be quite a pain due to the stiff tank movements. These puzzles are the most annoying parts of the game, but they are thankfully still doable to a certain degree.
Both types of puzzles make sense within the game's world and story, which gives these obstacles a welcome narrative explanation. The more "intellectual" puzzles are also fun to figure out, even if a few of them seem a step to two more complicated (or longer) than they should be.
One puzzle at the end of the game simply didn't make sense to me though, and I had to consult a guide to figure out which still didn't explain how I was supposed to figure out the solution myself.
"Any chance you've seen the tomb beneath us? It's got two nice spots waiting to be filled. Sorry it has to end this way doll"
Like with the first game, the game's unique graphical style and its cinematic focus is the game's biggest strength. Simply put, the game's cell-shaded style didn't age badly at all and still looks quite good even compared to early PS2 titles.
This is further highlighted by the excellent directing of the game's numerous cut-scenes and the fine voice acting on display. It allows you to forgive the game's sometimes muddy in-game textures and ugly enemy models.
But they are not too bad in some areas
Better than the first game, the environments are more varied and colorful, and as such the background doesn't drag the game's graphical department down at all.
Also improved from the first game is the soundtrack, which is clearly better even if it doesn't have any especially standout moments. To b fair, a game of this genre doesn't need a stellar soundtrack, but this one has a good mix of ambient and location-specific sounds that complements the game well.
Despite its more questionable excesses, Fear Effect 2 is still quite a good cinematic action game on the PS1. On that front, it doesn't add much on what the original game already created, but that's just more of a good thing.
I think that cements the legacy of both games as ambitious PS1 games that succeeded in crafting impressive graphics and ambitiously cinematic games married to traditional action gameplay. Yet, the series arrived too late to make much of an impact in the scene, and as such subsequently disappeared.
1-Pay attention to figure out what you need to do.
2-Lear to duck and roll to avoid enemy fire and attack.
3-You must scroll to the blue (key) items to actually use them at the intended location.
4-Whenever the "use" command flashes, make a mental note of it. Sometimes, you need to hug a door to find it.
5-Ammo is plentiful, but don't waste too much of it.
6-You can use stealth attacks to instantly kill enemies from behind with melee weapons (if they didn't notice you).
7-Save whenever the option to save comes up.
8-Health recovers every time you clear a room from enemies, switch characters or solve a puzzle.
9-Some doors can be blasted open with a blasting cap.
10-Sometimes, running away from enemies is the best option.
I don't think the game has the right to make this joke
For those reading one of my PS1 review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed both major Generation 4 consoles, and am now to review Generation 5 consoles. I already finished reviewing the Sega Saturn, so I am now reviewing the PS1. In these reviews, I take a top 100 games list and review the games that interest me in that list.
This time, my review series is based on this list from Retro Sanctuary along with other sources, since the PS1 can handle a list bigger than a top 100.
Also, note the following:
-If you have any suggestions for a game that is not on the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
What do you think?
I expected to like Fear Effect 2 (which I did), but I didn't expect to focus as much on the sexual aspect. Still, it was a good game eve I ended up preferring the first one.
The next games I am going to review are the two Abe's Odyssey games, with the second one occupying #63 in the Retro Sanctuary list.
For Previous PS1 Game Reviews: