F.E.A.R. 2 works in exactly the same way and does exactly the same things, helped along by even smarter enemy troops who are now capable of flipping furniture and creating their own cover, and your ability to do the same thing. As before, there's a strong element of tactics to the fighting, as victory is a lot easier if you have a clear idea of the environment and plan your attacks before triggering the slowmo. However, it's never a dry, technical affair for the simple reason that plans go awry, new enemies appear and you're always fighting to the edge of your abilities. Many games have tried to replicate the experience of the classic lobby gun battle from the first Matrix film, but F.E.A.R. was one of the few to actually manage it. Now F.E.A.R. 2 can make the same proud boast.
Some new additions seem designed specifically to please the hardcore fanbase. Remember those big robot suits that gave you such a hard time around the Armacham facilities? Well, they're back, but this time you can take one for a spin yourself and engage in some thoroughly cathartic rampaging through a ruined city. The storyline also goes even further into the history of Armacham and Alma, bringing back old characters, introducing some great new ones and showing what Alma can do when she's really let loose. Other improvements feel aimed specifically at complaints about the original game, most of all its lack of scenic variety. F.E.A.R. 2 still sticks to modern industrial, civic and commercial environments, but at least we see the odd bit of daylight and even the interior of an elementary school on our journey. As someone who got heartily sick of F.E.A.R.'s office-block locations (and warehouses - ed.) during two play throughs, I would definitely describe this as a change for the better.
All of this stuff is good, but the question I keep coming back to while playing F.E.A.R. 2 is, is it enough? And the reason I keep asking that question is that Project Origin is badly scarred by that least exciting of weird phenomena: Deja Vu. Simply put, F.E.A.R. 2 feels so much like the original game that it's in danger of feeling like an expansion pack, and three years on the whole experience has dated. Forgetting the slowmo for a second, this is as staid and traditional a corridor shooter as I've played in the last two years; a fact not helped by linear level design, a reliance on gloomy indoor environments and an overall lack of scale. Claustrophobia is certainly good for tension, but you can get too much of it, and you spend much of the game waiting for the designers to open out a bit more and show us something bigger, brighter or just, plain unexpected.
Throw in such old tropes as the health bar and medikits, and you have a game that feels like it stems from an older generation of shooter. Meanwhile, all those illusions and visions, while effective, are losing their impact with time and repetition. In the wake of EA's Dead Space - a game that had scary atmosphere and shocks to spare - F.E.A.R. 2 only manages to muster up a few really frightening moments. It's a creepy game with some slick use of in-game cinematics, but atmospherically it's not in the Silent Hill/Dead Space/Bioshock league.