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F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (Video Game)

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F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin reviewReviewed by Ryan “Plagiarize” Acheson

Available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Developed by Monolith Games

Published by Warner Bros. Interactive

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F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin gives me mixed feelings. It’s a distinctive mix of horror and action, and it’s certainly a step up from the lackluster add-on packs that followed the first game, which F.E.A.R. 2 wisely ignores. But it’s also a sequel that plays it incredibly safe, and where the original was a PC game first (and one that really tried to push the best hardware of the time, making it one of the better looking titles of the time) and a console game second, F.E.A.R. 2 loses its bleeding edge beauty by releasing on PC, 360 and PS3 all at once.

Maybe that’s just the sour grapes of someone with a PC they spent four figures on, and F.E.A.R. 2 does certainly look a lot better than the original … it just doesn’t look three and a half years better.

And while the game takes on a ‘less is more’ approach to story which is admirable, it also completely forgets that it was three and a half years since the original and does nothing to introduce the world to new players or reintroduce it for people that can’t remember who Genevieve Aristide is, a character central to the sequel who is never seen on screen in the original.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin reviewMy copy of the game came with a pre-order bonus that if anything should be required reading for anyone hoping to make head or tail of F.E.A.R. 2’s plot. There are a lot of ‘Projects’ and characters that get name dropped in F.E.A.R. 2. Heck, one of the great things about F.E.A.R. 2 is the wider variety of enemies. The interesting creepy back stories behind those enemies? Nowhere to be found in the game itself.

But then there’s that grin on your face … diving into the game’s kinetic action, easily where the game looks its best with bullets and blood and limbs and debris slowly flying around like a sick fireworks display.

Then there’s that chill running down your spine … edging down a deserted and derelict school corridor, water flowing from burst pipes above you, strange glows coming from around the corner and your heads up display flickering. There’s what made the original good. Maybe not advanced in anyway, but still effective, streamlined and more polished this time. Leaning is out, but aiming down the sights is in, so it’s really not that big a deal.

The enemy AI is as good as ever. Out numbering you and out flanking you at every opportunity so that you need the one edge you have over them, which is your ability to slow time.

At this point it’s probably worth pointing out that you are not playing as the mysterious ‘Point Man’ of the original game. Here you play as Michael Becket, a member of Delta Team, and events start off a short while before the events of the original game have finished transpiring. A short while before a huge nuclear explosion rips through the entire city in a failed attempt at destroying Alma. If you’re wondering whether or not there’s an explanation as to how Becket is able to slow time (as there was for Point Man) then you’ll want to make sure that you take the time to read the numerous files dotted around the world.

Most of the game then takes place in the ruins of the city gutted by the massive explosion and this is definitely the area where F.E.A.R. 2 surpasses the first one. Level design in the original was mundane and felt like one long slog through a long twisty corridor that visited offices and industrial areas.

F.E.A.R. 2 is still a linear affair, but even so the game is no longer one note over and over again. The game isn’t going to win any awards for its choice of environments (Hospital, School, Scientific Facility, etc.), but the fact these have all just been rocked by a bomb gives them enough of an edge, and it sure beats hours and hours of the same kind of thing like we saw in the original. Plus there is a tad more exploration this time. You’re going to be stepping off that corridor into side rooms with extra stuff to pick up for example.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin reviewThe combat hasn’t really changed much. The weapons are mostly the same aside from a few changes. The crazy energy beam thing from the original is gone, and missed, but they’ve got a couple of new energy weapons that almost make up for it. The new sniper rifle is ridiculously powerful and satisfying, and again the guns feel powerful and solid.

It’s still going to be a cycle of taking cover while waiting for your slow motion to recharge, constantly under attack from a smart enemy that will be moving to try to negate your cover or flush you out of it, then charging out like a slow motion death bringer until your power runs out and you dive for cover again, but it was still enjoyable for me.

This one brings the horror more into the game play too. The ghost like enemies from the end of the first game have been reproached and replaced with something that serves the same purpose without being annoying. Most impressive are the Remnants which walk around an area reanimating the dead to attack you. Red ‘strings’ come out of them into the corpses, and the animation of their puppeteering is highly unsettling.

There is still a lot of intangible horror … stuff that neither hurts you nor you can hurt, though I’d estimate less than the original. I could definitely have done with more personally, though the school area was a highlight and one that actually haunted my nightmares.

The atmosphere isn’t as choking as the Condemned games which Monolith also developed, but one part of the team that definitely excelled again are the sound guys. The music, voice work and sound effects are hit the perfect tone, are believable and enveloping. I always feel bad talking about sound in a game as an aside and here I am doing it again, but don’t think that means that I was less than impressed.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin reviewAnd Alma? The creepy dead girl that is central to the series? Well she’s still around, and now fully aware that she’s a grown up (at least, she was when she died). Her plans for you are not what you think, and not I should stress what anyone in the game seems to think either. They are quite disturbing, though the reveal of what they are could have done with being a bit more in your face and to the point. It took me a while to realize what was supposed to have been going on in the closing moments of the game.

The last fight, the closest thing the game has to a boss fight, was unsurprisingly underwhelming as these things often are. I’m not sure why so many games fail to make their final confrontation entertaining, but here is yet another. The fights against the power armors and the Remnants were much more interesting.

And yes, the power armor is something you can actually get into this time. These moments throw tension completely out of the window. Letting you be an unstoppable killing machine for a few short minutes. The blood you’ll spill during these moments is something you won’t forget.

So F.E.A.R. 2, a sequel that left me with mixed emotions. There’s a fight between the fun game that I played and the imagined sequel that rose the bar as the original had. It’s a fairly typical first sequel. Improving the graphics a bit, but not so that they impress as the originals did. Adding a few weapons. Fixing the complaints of the original, but not really trying to evolve or improve the things that did work.

There’s a good story, but half of it is in a book that you probably won’t be able to get now.

Here I am, finishing up a disjointed review to a game that made me feel ambivalent not sure what to sum up with or whether or not to recommend it. I certainly enjoyed it, but I leave it feeling unsatisfied and looking around for something more like one of those 100 calorie packs of snacks.

Game Features

  • Online multiplayer 2-16
  • Game content download
  • Achievement and trophy support

    “>“>“>“>

    3 1/2 out of 5

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    Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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    Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

    Directed by Charles Martin Smith


    I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

    Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

    Now let’s get to it.

    First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

    Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

    I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

    Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

    It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

    And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

    Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

    This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

    And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

    Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

    In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

    That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

    Rockstar lighting for days.

    Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

    Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

    More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

    Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

    Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

    All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

    Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

    • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
    3.5

    Summary

    Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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    User Rating 3.65 (20 votes)
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    AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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    Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

    Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


    ** NO SPOILERS **

    It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

    Spoiler free.

    To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

    That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

    Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

    Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

    Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

    Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

    But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

    But let’s backtrack a bit here.

    Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

    And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

    Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

    With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

    Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

    I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

    Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

    Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

    Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

    On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

    That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

    In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

    While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

    Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

    Bring on season 12.

    • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
    3.5

    Summary

    The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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    User Rating 4.14 (22 votes)
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    The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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    Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

    Directed by Nicholas Woods


    The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

    The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

    The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

    The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

    The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

    The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

    • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
    • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
    • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
    • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
    • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
    • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
    • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
    • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
    • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
    • The Axiom
    4.0

    Summary

    In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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    User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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