The graphics in F.E.A.R. 2 are fabulous, photorealistic and totally sell you on the environment they depict being primarily indoors in the rooms and corridors of various residential, municipal and secret underground facilities. The game will at times take you outdoors though and here you'll be treated to a kind of post-apocalyptic cityscape with crumbled burnt out buildings, crashed-landed aircraft, downed electrical wires (watch out!) and the like.
Character modelling and animation was also very impressive and I was especially enamored with the facial expressions and gestures of nervous twitching. If you don't fall in love with Lt. Stokes, you should probably check to see if you still have a pulse.
One issue I did have with the graphics in F.E.A.R. 2 is the horribly obtrusive HUD which completely ruined the level of immersion and gave the game a kind of 'made-for-dummies' feel. And by obtrusive HUD, I'm referring to the endless litany of messages constantly popping up right in the middle of the screen regarding PDA updates and ammo pickups as well as the way the whole screen glows blue or red whenever acquiring armor or health pickups.
All of this 'helping hand' stuff is the conceptual opposite of a game like Far Cry 2. It's too bad because, in my humble opinion, the horror element in FEAR 2 could have been immensely improved had the game focussed more on immersion instead of user friendliness. And looking back on an FPS classic like the original DOOM released in 1993 and the way it handles ammo and health pickups, one has to wonder if Monolith (and other game developers for that matter) think that video gamers are getting stupider as the years go on.
I mean, what gives? We didnt' need that "Ammo acquired. Submachine gun" crap back then. Why do we need it now?
As for weaponry, F.E.A.R. 2 offers up a decent arsenal and thankfully, in single player mode, weapons aren't classed or set in specific groups. This means that although you are limited to carrying only 4 weapons at a time, you may carry any four weapons you wish.
And although there is not a wide array of weaponry in F.E.A.R. 2, you'll find a smattering of the usual suspects including machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers and a couple or three experimental weapons including a nail gun.
The star of the show here is the so-called Elite Powered Armor (EPA), a giant mechanical armored suit sporting rail guns for arms and equipped with a powerful rocket launcher. You don't get to use the EPA often —and understandibly so since it turns the game into a total cakewalk— but when you do, the words "payback" and "time" immediately come to mind.
I do have some gripes with the weaponry in F.E.A.R. 2 (yeah I know, bitch, bitch, bitch...) and most particularly with the fact that there was no machine gun with an iron sight. Both offerings in the machine gun department (submachine gun, assault rifle) carried scoped sights which I found obtrusive.
On top of which, there is no option to turn off the crosshair nor is there a difficulty level in which the crosshair is turned off by default (e.g., the Delta mode in Crysis). On the other hand, the sniper rifle was one weapon which desperately needed a crosshair (in non-scoped view) and surprisingly did not have one making it difficult to use effectively and confusing when it came to figuring out exactly what you were looking at when you were looking down the scope.
And finally, the so-called assault rifle had an annoyingly wide muzzle fire animation. So although the PDA described it as ostensibly superior to the submachine gun (regarding stopping power and range) I ended up choosing the submachine gun over the assault rifle whenever I could.
Weapon sounds for the most part worked although in some instances were strangely unsatisfying, most particulary regarding grenades and the assault rifle, the latter of which had a kind of cheap, tinny sound which once again induced me to select the inferior submachine gun over it.
Buy F.E.A.R. 2?
So after all is said and done, should you buy F.E.A.R. 2?
I would say yes. It is indeed a solid FPS shooter with gorgeous graphics, a good story that will definitely entertain and exciting gameplay. But don't buy it for the fear factor because this is hit and miss. The game is very creepy at times but the horror element is not sustained throughout giving the game a kind of split personality.