Released in early 2000, Kronos' Fear Effect was marked as "average" by nearly every critic. While the title's story, presentation, and puzzles were superb,
the long loading times, poor controls, and invisible save points held
it back from excellence. But, for once, a developer has taken criticism to
heart when crafting the sequel. Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix fixes nearly
every problem of FE1, resulting in a fully-realized package that is sure
to be one of the year's most memorable titles.
The biggest improvement is obvious right from the beginning:
Fear Effect 2 offers players a Metal Gear Solid-style alternative
("3-D control") to the dreaded Resident Evil control scheme. The
3-D style is quite effective; not only does pushing the D-pad in a
given direction actualy move the hero in that direction, as
long as the pad is held down, the character keep running in the same
direction even if the camera angle changes. In both
control schemes, a handy green targeting icon appears whenever a weapon
is "locked on" to an enemy, eliminating any aiming woes. With the 3-D controls in place, FE2 becomes one of the most playable games in its genre.
Each area has its own "Game Over" screen
Much has been made of the ease with which the protagonists can be
killed. While it's true that death awaits around nearly every corner, so
does a save point. In another huge improvement over the first Fear Effect,
post-death loading time has been completely eliminated, as it only takes
a few seconds to get back into the action when you perish. Dying and reloading thus becomes part of the gameplay; instead of bombarding the gamer with a long series of simple challenges, the game presents a smaller number of more difficult obstacles. Indeed, no-holds-barred
firefights present a welcome change from the ammo and health conservation in most
That's not to say Retro Helix is nothing but gunplay, however. The game
contains at least as much thinking as it does
fighting, a welcome feature in the puzzle-starved console world.
Most of the puzzles are of the standard "disarm the electronic / magical
lock" variety, but there's surprising variation within this category.
From creating geometric shapes point-by-point to repairing broken circuits,
FE2 keeps a steady stream of interesting new challenges coming. The
majority are fairly simple to solve, but some will take a few tries to work
out. Are they illogical? It's true that no one would ever create such locks
in real-life, but that doesn't keep them from being fun to solve.
The triumphant return of Mr. DNA
Between the battles and puzzles, the game also manages to weave a reasonably
entertaining story. While the plot elements themselves -- zombies,
genetic manipulation, ancient ruins, etc. -- are almost as worn out as Zero
Wing jokes, the characters and presentation are generally entertaining
enough to compensate. Though the game earns its mature rating, it never abuses it; this story is about techno-mercenaries facing supernatural forces, not lesbians.
Fear Effect 2 re-uses its predecessor's "MotionFX 3-D" graphic system:
Jet Grind Radio-style "2D-in-3D" characters atop looping FMV backgrounds. While this system allows for much more lively
scenes than the static pre-rendered backdrops of Final Fantasy and Resident
Evil, it forces them to run at a visibly lower resolution. The FMV backgrounds
also pause slightly after each play, which is rarely
noticeable but sometimes results in such oddities
as ceiling fans that pause after every spin. Both these aberrations
are understandable given the limits of the PlayStation, but it
doesn't keep them from being occasionally distracting. The character
animation, on the other hand, is excellent. While the characters tend
to look odd in still frames, in motion they seamlessly blend 2-D art with
a 3-D world.
Let's see them do this with a static background
Fear Effect 2 isn't without its idiosyncracies. Turning on
save beacons and switching to 3-D control every time the game boots
is an unnecessary nuisance; some players may give up on the
title too early if they only experience the extremely frustrating
default settings. Some of the areas also drag on too long, suffering
from an excess of keycards to collect and doors to open before
anything interesting happens. For the most part, however, the game
keeps enough entertaining new ideas coming that it's easy enough to forget
about its quirks. The frequent switches between the four characters,
each of whom has his or her own weapons, also keep the action fresh.
Kronos has done an outstanding job in turning an
average franchise into an excellent one. Gamers put off by the first game's
control issues should give the sequel a chance anyway, as most of their
complaints have probably been addressed. And since Fear Effect 2 is a prequel,
players new to the franchise will have no problem jumping right in.
Review by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
|Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix
|108 screenshots / 8 movies
|4 wallpaper images