Monolith's Dave Matthews, primary art lead on F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, tells us that the developer has addressed its fans' wishes by moving the series and - the undead? - Alma out of their previous confines, how it has built on the first game's AI, combat and visuals, and about its hopes for the future of the series.
Why was Project Origin's release pushed back from autumn 2008 to February 2009 and what has the extra time allowed you to do?
Dave Matthews: From a developer perspective we would hate to put anything out that hasn't reached the bar we've set. When we were playing the game we identified all these cool new features that required a bit of extra time to get them to the level we wanted.
[Publisher] Warner was really cool about it. Having the EPA [Elite Powered Armour mech suit] and really cool new AI that are the teeth of Alma - getting that stuff to feel really good - was more important for our audiences than having less of that stuff in there.
The delay also means you've avoided a lot of big pre-Christmas releases, doesn't it?
Matthews: Resident Evil 5 and Killzone 2 will be out around the time that we release [February 13], and they're focusing on similar areas, so we didn't make the decision [to delay] because of other stuff that was coming out at a certain time. It was down to the fact that we needed the extra time to execute the things the team wanted to.
Project Origin's primarily a shooter, but it's also a horror game. How do you strike the right balance?
Matthews: If you have just action, action, action then you get numb to it. Even in a regular shooter you've got to have a change from that pacing and you have something to fill that void. For us, [action and horror] is a perfect marriage, so the cool freaky moments can be leveraged as counterpoints to the action, and if the two of them can be blended together you can create nice ebbs and flows back and forth.
Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the direction in which the story is headed?
Matthews: In F.E.A.R. we explored the idea of the little girl Alma, that she was trapped, and started to lay the foundation of educating people about what had happened to her.
In F.E.A.R. 2, now that she's released, having been in this slumber, dreaming, unable to do anything, people trying to kill her, there's so much trapped inside of her that the toxicity has kept her alive, whatever that is. I don't want to say whether she's alive or not. I don't even know if she is. I think she's maybe undead, I'm not sure.
Ultimately we're starting to explore the next phase of Alma, so you're starting to see, now that she's out, now that her powers are fully unbridled, what that means for the world and what your part in that [as Delta Force sergeant Michael Beckett] is, and that's what people are going to experience.
Are you working towards a trilogy?
Matthews: We have so many boards filled with ideas about Alma that we have a very grand scale of Alma, Alma's influence and even Point Man. There's so much out there that we have in the universe that we want to tell. I can't say yes or no that Alma continues forwards, but I will say that we have a lot of Alma and her influences that we want to tell. There's a huge story about what goes on with Alma, and we're pulling some very tight pieces out of it and putting them into a game. There's a lot more that we'd like to experience and if the fans out there want, I'm more than happy to do it.