F.E.A.R., the 2005 first person survival horror shooter, burst onto the gaming scene as a daring, terrifying trip into the macabre. In just a few shorts months, fans will be able to once again jump into the horrid adventure with F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. The game hits stores February 9th, 2009, and we sat down with Dave Matthews, F.E.A.R 2’s primary art lead to get the scoop on what it’s all about. Hit the jump to face your F.E.A.R.s!
How has F.E.A.R. 2 improved upon the story and gameplay elements that premiered in the first game?
F.E.A.R. 2 is a direct continuation of the events of the first game. Alma, the psychic antagonist in F.E.A.R. has been released, and now the player in the role of Michael Becket has to find a way to stop her. Armacham, the company that created Alma, is back and you’re going to learn a whole lot more about what the company is and what they are capable of. We’ve gone back and refined all of the elements that made the first game great, and we think players are really going to love it. The horror is more intense, the enemies are more intelligent, and the world is far more varied. We’ve built upon the excellent foundation of the first game to deliver an incredibly unique game.
What were your major influences in creating the various story elements of the game?
As with F.E.A.R., our initial inspirations came from Japanese horror movies and Alma is a testament to that. A lot of those themes return in F.E.A.R. 2, but we felt that just bringing Alma back as the scary little girl wouldn’t have the same effect as she did when F.E.A.R. originally launched. As a result, we have tried to enhance and expand upon her character and how she will interact with you. Your encounters with her will be a lot more personal, she’s going to touch you a lot more.
Since first game took a lot of cues from Japanese horror for its scares will the sequel follow suit or are you going for a different tone?
We’re taking the themes established form the first game and expanding on them, absolutely. We expanded our palette of horror reference, tapping into Eastern European, more modern American Psychological Horror and leveraged that in the evolution of Alma. As mentioned before, just bringing Alma back wouldn’t have gotten the response we wanted from the players. The way she’s going to interact with you and change the world around you is something we’ve worked extremely hard on, and we think it’s going to provide a genuinely terrifying experience for players.
The first game was set in a series of tight corridors and hallways. How does it feel to be able to expand to a city-scaled environment?
That’s an interesting question, because our expectations of what would happen differ from what actually happened. One of the blessings of the close quarter combat was the way it created moments of incredibly high intensity, fast encounters. It was just the nature of the space and how players ended up utilizing it. When we opened the world up we found that encounters changed as a result. They weren’t the same frenetic combat experience as before. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun, it just means that players were forced to change their strategies and find new ways of overcoming foes who aren’t as easy to flank due to the space. This variation of combat styles, afforded by the different environments, gave us the opportunity to change the pacing of the game more dramatically. By changing the battlefields, players won’t get inured to space and become desensitized to it. It helps keep the game experience fresh and rewarding for players.
Gameplay footage shows your character climbing inside of a giant robotic mech. How did that idea come to light?
Much like the variations in the size of battle fields, we wanted to create a game where the player was always on his toes. Throwing one thing at you over and over again becomes boring and players quickly learn to expect what’s coming next. This applies as much to horror as it does to combat. The Elite Powered Armor is one way we address that. When we started outlining our features for F.E.A.R.2 we looked to a lot of the feedback from F.E.A.R.. One of the big comments that kept coming from our community was they wanted to pilot the Powered Armor from the first game. We thought it would be a great addition, but we needed to make it over the top. So in its creation, we were able to give something back to our community and provide a new form of combat. Basically, players spend much of F.E.A.R. 2 overcoming incredible odds and barely surviving, you are one man against two armies after all. When you get a chance to get in the EPA for the first time, you finally get to take the fight back to your foes. The feeling of empowerment is unsurpassed, and it never fails to get people excited and continue building the momentum for what’s happening next.
From a technological standpoint, what improvements have been made to the Lithtech Jupiter engine that powers F.E.A.R. 2?
F.E.A.R. was the Jupiter EX engine; F.E.A.R.2 is built on Monolith proprietary technology. In F.E.A.R. 2 people will notice the significant jump in visual fidelity. Let me shotgun just a few of our new features since F.E.A.R.: dynamic shadows, dynamic ambient occlusion, ambient environment FX, fully dynamic lighting, per object and scene motion blur, HDR lighting, post processing support with wide range of FX, real time textured volume rendering, fully volumetric lighting solution, detail normal maps for very high detail surfaces and the list goes on, none of that would have been possible without the fast core systems like physics, networking, audio and so on. The engineers, we have here, really love to code and it shows. I’m not sure about all the workings under the hood, but I am enjoying the new toys the engine provides to us. Basically, all this boils down to creating a really visceral world that you can sink your teeth into and we can say proudly, that F.E.A.R. 2 is the best looking game we’ve done to date.
You first broke into the industry with another horror game, Blood. Are there any plans to revisit that franchise or any of your other franchises (i. e. Shogo, No One Lives Forever, etc.) in the future?
Monolith has a huge library of beloved titles, and we’re always thinking about ways to introduce those franchises to new players. Maybe something could be in the cards for the future...who knows!
What’s next for Monolith after F.E.A.R. 2 is released?
At Monolith, we are constantly looking to improve and evolve. We have some great ideas brewing, I’d love to talk about them, but you’ll just have to wait and see!
What’s your biggest F.E.A.R.?
I think my biggest F.E.A.R. is to be ordinary, at the end of the day to have lived an ordinary and uninspiring life. That kinda sounds like a cop-out, but it’s true.
Do you have any favorite Halloween memories?
Halloween is hands down my favorite day of the year. I’ve worked at Knott’s Scary Farm, done makeup for local haunted houses and small films and definitely terrorized kids insuring they will need therapy as they get older. Each year is I always take away something new. For instance, last year, I dressed up as the dark Lord Voldemort; robes, latex prosthetics I even shaved my head, Nick Dudman would have been proud. Trick or treated with my boys (both dressed as Harry Potter) and it was great to watch kids and parents alike cross the street to avoid me, not to mention the wand battles for the houses we went to. As we returned home I proceeded to linger near my house torturing the older crowd ensuring no one would be knocking upon my door. Every year is always a blast; you should come by, if your heart will handle it!