What exactly does F.E.A.R. 2 have in common with F.E.A.R. and its true sequel, Project Origin? Absolutely nothing. In fact, it has so little to do with the original IP; Origin's lead designer John Mulky is completely baffled as to how Vivendi plans to follow it up at all.
"Vivendi owns the name. We own everything else: the setting, the premise, the style, everything. So if they make F.E.A.R. 2, it can't have anything to do with the first game," muses Mulky when I catch up with him in his Seattle office. "I don't know what it's going to be. It's going to be like kart racing or something!"
Surely Vivendi could just as easily produce a shooter with the element of slo-mo gunplay woven into the gameplay's mechanics? "Well you see that's the thing. They can certainly go right ahead and make a shooter. But I know that at Monolith and the way it was split up with Warner Bros, if those guys turned around and said it's a another shooter with slo-mo, we'd be like 'lawyers, please!'"
Unsurprisingly, I can't help but feel that the split from Vivendi Universal wasn't exactly one of the most acrimonious break-ups in the realm of developer, producer partnerships.
After all, Warner Bros did purchase the team right in the midst of development of F.E.A.R. "It was just weird. And spiteful too," explains Mulky when I pry him for a little more insight into the parting of ways, but it seems that's all I'm going to get from him on this occasion. Still, there is no denying that whatever went on behind closed doors when Monolith broke free from Vivendi and moved to its new parent company, Warner Brothers Interactive, it left a bad taste in Mulky's mouth.
While story details are being kept predominantly under wraps until the release hits (and rightly so), we know that Project Origin opens approximately thirty or so minutes prior to the finale of the first game, which sees a huge explosion rip through a city and obliterate it.
Your team has been sent in to retrieve and secure Genevieve Artistide, president of Armacham Technology Corporation, and the voice we heard on the phone alongside the mysterious senator during the epilogue of F.E.A.R. once the credits finished rolling. I got to play through a small number of sections of Project Origin during PSW's exclusive hands-on session at Monolith, the first of which was the game's opening mission where you, Delta Force operative, Michael Becket, and your team make the incursion into the ATC building. Naturally, it isn't going to be easy - but that's part of Project Origin's charm.
The new HUD is much slicker than the previous game, with a visor outline similar to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and the Rainbow Six games, replacing the old one, bio-rhythm rippling in the bottom left-hand corner, ammo in the other. Squad-wise there's the usual blend of gunners and a lippy female tech-savvy trooper called Stokes.
What the first game did incredibly well was to ratchet up the tension to an almost unbearable level, hit you with some gut-twisting scares, slow it down and then build it back up again to a spectacular level. Project Origin maintains that trait with a number of new scares and a vast menagerie of ghoulish-looking creatures to keep you guessing from one moment to the next, and keep that itchy finger on the trigger.
One such moment is during the first minutes of the game where you and your squad hack a computer system and enable the building's elevators.
Standing there, the lift pings open and completely unprepared, a security agent bursts out of the elevator, riddles one of my team-mates with searing lead and almost gets me if it were not for the wonders of slo-mo gunplay. But wasn't the Point Man from the first game the only one with the time slowing abilities? Yes, but you have them too at the outset of this game.