The first F.E.A.R. game was a real curate's egg. See, for every bit that was so good it set a new high watermark for the shooter genre - gunplay, particle effects, ultra cool slow-mo kung fu - there were other bits so dire they made us want to visit Monolith with a nailgun. Namely: boorish level design, deathly dull office-based locations and probably the least scary (cough) 'horror' moments since Killer Klowns from Outer Space. (Strong movie, that - Tim.)
The other problem with F.E.A.R, at least on 360, was that by the time it arrived - a not so timely eleven months after the PC version - it looked and sounded more dated than Ace of Base. Put simply, it was outnumbered, outclassed and outgunned by shinier, newer rivals like Gears of War, Prey and CoD 3. But that's all set to change with this sequel that isn't a sequel, but actually... er, is. Geddit? No? Um, us neither.
Right, pay close attention 'cause this feature is about to get more confusing than an episode of Lost. See, while publishers Sierra have retained the rights to the F.E.A.R. license, developers Monolith still own the actual game world and characters - resulting in the incredulous situation whereby both parties will release their own takes on the scare-o-universe this year. Ironically, while lots of F.E.A.R. fans will probably plump for the licensed sequel it's actually this incarnation that'll continue the adventures of lank-haired girly demon Alma and the First Encounter Assault Recon team chappies. All sorted now? Great.
Plot-wise, things are still very much under wraps at this alpha stage - but one thing we do know is that Origin will ignore F.E.A.R. expansions Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate and instead pick up the reins directly after the climax of the original. (That'd be when an entire city got nuked with a paranormal A-Bomb). Scary girl-in-a-red-dress-with-black-eyes Alma is up to no good once again, but instead of going toe-to-toe with her as F.E.A.R.'s original protagonist - the silent but extremely violent Point Man - the focus of the story will shift to incorporate a new ghostbustin' hero, newbie Delta Force operative... Michael Becket.
Whereas Monolith stablemate Condemned isn't afraid to get its hands dirty, well... bloody with ultra visceral melée combat and wince-making fisticuffs, Project Origin prefers to carry the fight from distance. One major faux pas a number of recent high-profile FPSs have made are their unforgivably weedy weapons - rest assured Project Origin will certainly not be falling for that one. After all, precursor F.E.A.R. was stellar in this regard - not only boasting the VK-12, the best buckshot blaster since Doom 2's supper shottie - but also the Penetrator nailgun that really made the most of the game's unerringly realistic ragdoll models and helped you make gruesome, gore-drenched tableaus out of roomfuls of unsuspecting baddies. Get in close with the as yet unnamed laser-based successor to the trusty VK-12 and enemies literally disintegrate in viscous clouds of bone and blood.
The extra good news is that everything that was ace in F.E.A.R. is simply incredible in Origin; the sheer cinematic intensity in particular now looks even more sumptuous thanks to copious dollops of blur and more particle effects than the inside of a flux capacitor. (We're guessing.)
But the good news doesn't end there. Oh no. Because here's the truly great news: Monolith have really opened their ears to fan feedback and, bravely in an age of PR spin, responded to the various criticisms of the first game in super proactive fashion. Out go the bland-o corridors you were forced to trudge through for 85% of the first game, replaced with a much wider range of locales.