Archive for the ‘PS2’ Category
Platform: Xbox, Playstation 2, PC (both the original and the just released Remastered Edition)
Released: 2005 (worldwide)
Developer: Quantic Dream
Digital Release? Yes – Available on Xbox 360 as an Xbox Original and Remastered is on Steam ($9.99 for all versions)
Price: $8.00 (disc only), $10.99 (complete), and $46.97 (new/sealed) per Price Charting (prices are for PS2 version, Xbox/PC versions a bit lower due to re-release)
Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy in America) is one of those games that attempted to create a interactive film experience. Some excepted this concept with open arms, some people frowned on it proclaiming it technically wasn’t a game. Well several years has passed since that fateful release in 2005 so lets see if Fahrenheit is still worth investing in.
Fahrenheit’s story has you following three character Lucas Kane a 9-to-5 IT worker who has a fondness for reading Shakespeare in diners, Carla Valenti a young cop who is claustrophobic and Tyler Miles, Carla’s police partner and your typical comic relief in a cop duo but he likes basketball, which is ok in my book. Essentially New York as well as the world is starting to get cold, really cold and bizarre murders are occurring round the city where normal folk are killing innocent people then themselves. I won’t spoil the story too much as it is the games strongest draw. What I will say is the game is filled with a fair few twists and turns playing out very much like a film, if it hooks you from the beginning it is very likely you will play through to the end.
Fahrenheit is a game that starts you off in one hell of a predicament. You start the story as Lucas Kane, during a brief period of possession Lucas cuts open his own wrists and then proceeds to stab the hell out of a innocent guy in the toilet. He then comes to his senses and the player takes control. This is quite something for a game as this rather tense moment is timed you can either go through a long process of hiding the body and the evidence and sneak out of the diner without anyone suspecting what you did, or you can just run out the door in a panic. The entire game is played out by the players decisions, some choices lead to death which means you have to re start the scene though there are usually multiple routes to progress through the story.
Gameplay wise you basically control your character with the left thumb stick and you then use the right thumbstick to interact with items in the world displayed on the top frame of the screen. The game then has this simon says quick time event system which plays out during the major action screens. You basically have to use both analogue sticks and move them in time with the displays on the screen. The game positions this in the centre of the screen so you can watch the action. Being the anxious gamer, I was much more concerned with getting the prompts correct than watching the scenes.
An important mechanic the game uses which I felt never seemed to have a big enough impact on the game as it should is the mood meter. Basically certain choices and decisions you make in the game will impact a small bar on the bottom right of the screen that pops up to show the mental stability of you character. Should your character get too depressed the game is over. It seemed like a great mechanic to use in the game maybe affecting how you react to other characters in the game, sadly it really doesn’t have any impact on the story unless your intentionally getting your character depressed to see the game over scene. On that note that’s one thing I admire about the game if you die or fail you get a scene that pretty much ends the story of the entire game rather than a typical game over screen. Of course you can try the scene again where you left off but this is a clever concept to close the story entirely should you not want to continue further.
Graphics for the game are standard affair. The 3D character models and environments are showing their age by today’s standard of games. If you enjoy the story the graphics will not deter you from the experience, most of your experience will be spent in snowy environments and peoples apartments though there are a few surprise locations you will not expect. This game also used motion capture on the characters so most of the animations were carried out by real life actors. The game has a nice little documentary giving a over view how the game was made like a dvd extra which is something I wish more games incorporated.
The soundtrack to the game is pretty good. This games uses music from real artists like Theory of a Deadman and Nina Simone and giving them some pretty good exposure most likely increasing their own popularity and music sales. Even if your not too fond of the music the game does a good job using it at the right scenes where it would make sense to fire off a certain song like good old ‘love TKO’ by Teddy Pendergrass during a make out scene. The games score stands head over heals as the strongest music in the game, most of the melodies just feeling so hopeless and sad, matching the mood of each scene so well like a blockbuster film. Combining both the music and score together makes a killer combination which the game also allows you to listen to at your convince in the extras menu. In case that wasn’t enough the voice acting is solid. This is pretty important for a game that is heavily story focused. Almost every character is believable in their role although occasionally you’ll come across the odd line of dialogue from a character that just makes no sense usually from the background extras.
Fahrenheit is not a long game at all. Unlike most games this game is designed for you to see it through to the end, you will probably complete it in two long gaming sessions. Should the quick time events bother you too much you can turn the difficulty down making it a lot more manageable, which is something I actually recommend in this game since it is story focused. The game has multiple endings but after completing the game the first time it is unlikely you’ll be playing through the story again straight away. This is one of those games you’ll probably play through once a year and maybe just do things a little different compared to how you remember doing them before and you will most likely see scenes play out differently each time you play through.
Of course the big deterrent is if the story doesn’t grab you then you won’t like this game and will likely fall into the crowd of people who moan that this is a film not a game. Personally I praise designs like this but I guess a lot of that’s stems from one of the other passions in my life which is of course is watching films and this game does a fantastic job of creating a interactive story telling experience that just works. The game isn’t arcade action or FPS fragging, it’s a unique game that allows you to determine your own path through it. I recommend this game for everybody to try especially to those who are looking for a more casual experience. Plus if nothing else if your a busy gamer this is one game I can assure you most people will complete.
Final Score: 3 out of 5 (review policy)
When it comes to video games and what I like in them, I’m all over the place. I’ve claimed to be all about story, but then tear down the very genre that helped define storytelling in video games. At the same time I claim that Resident Evil is my favorite game of all time and it’s not particularly good at gameplay or story, so despite how annoying my taste can sound, it really just comes down to how I feel about a certain game and not typically the sum of its parts. That’s why I’m so ambiguous about what I think about Fahrenheit – yes, as Jam stated it’s Indigo Prophecy in the States but that’s all changed with the Remastered Edition and let’s face it, Fahrenheit is the cooler and more appropriate title.
In one regard the game evolves the story from being a simple concept, a man who awakens to find a dead body with him in a bathroom, to a truly out of this world science fiction story with the entire world at stake. We don’t take too long to get there either, which is another enchanting part to Quantic Dream’s storytelling, and the progression is weaved in so naturally it’s like the time you accepted a shark can blow up from an air tank in Jaws. All of this seemingly quick progression is pulled off thanks to the concept of taking control of multiple people, which is compounded by the fact that you’re playing both the criminal on the run and the cops tracking him down, and the rarely pulled off concept of the unreliable narrator. When visions and reality start to blend with Lucas, especially when you mix those with the conceived true realities of Carla and Tyler, it makes for a quite impressive effect that you either allow yourself to get engulfed in or snub for face value. I have to admit that in 2005, many games were trying to do what Fahrenheit does, but it’s one of the few titles that successfully pulled it off without becoming too boring or vague.
Now as I said I’m torn on the value of this game and clearly I’m on board with the story, but what hitches me is both the assembly of that story and the gameplay elements that get in the way much more often than they assist in the experience. Let’s focus on the assembly of the story that I so graciously praised. It has you switching back and forth between Lucas, Tyler, and Carla on a regular basis, but already in the setup you can see the conflict of character development and plot dynamics: there is only one criminal and two cops. As a result we are forced to split the detective work between Tyler and Carla at the expense of learning too much about their personal lives in what starts off as nice touches to character development and ends up in what appears to be filler levels. The early establishing scenarios where we get to see Carla and Tyler’s home lives is useful because there’s a lot to take in visually while they are having a simple conversation on the phone. We learn about Tyler’s relationship, both characters’ apartments, the fact that Carla seems to own the same sleeping underwear outfit that David Cage puts in every female lead he has in a game, but I feel that beyond those moments we are then led on odd wild goose chases for simple snippets of data or clues that could be best integrated into a larger scene surrounding it. Jam felt this game was short, but the first time through probably took me around 10 hours and frankly I only felt that about six or seven of those hours (and the scenes they contained) were worthwhile. I’ll give credit to the fact that Quantic Dream was still trying to figure out how to skate the line between movie and game – which they still haven’t figured out and no longer holds water with later titles – but many games in the mid 2000s were shorter than Fahrenheit and had more to offer as well.
Then we come to the “gameplay” elements, the weakest link in all Quantic Dream games. Aside from a bit of tank-controlled point-and-click adventure shenanigans, you are mostly left to play through action sequences via quick-time event (QTE). I’m not the biggest fan of QTEs, but not because I find them difficult or without value, and rather because they change your focus from the action going on in the game to arbitrary button prompts along the borders of the screen. A perfect example of this is the office sequence early in the game, where Lucas has to escape from a surprise attack (I won’t spoil what), and you’re forced to ignore the relatively cool sequence of events as Lucas evades his attackers. Did you get to see those events? Can you revel in the interesting close calls and near misses? Nope, because you were busy looking at the bottom of the screen for the next blue arrow or X prompt. It begs you to do two things at once: watch the action and play the game. Few can do this and I’m definitely not of that smaller group. This gets even worse when the game really ramps it up in the middle and forces you to do an insane series of button prompts in Lucas’s apartment during an apparent dream where a pathetically rote series of casual visuals play the backdrop. This portion is double-fail for me because it not only shows off how stupid the QTE element is and the frustrating nature to which it’s integrated, but also that the developers didn’t even bother to couple it with something interesting on the screen. By the time I completed that sequence that had nearly 100 button presses and the ability to only fail 3 of them (I will admit I believe I was on hard difficulty), I was both physically exhausted and had about had enough of Fahrenheit. Aside from investigation and QTE, there are a handful of stealth elements in an military base that prove Quantic Dream is also terrible at stealth. Put it all together and I felt at times like the game was daring me to quit.
As you can see, my thoughts on Fahrenheit are all over the place. It’s like an ex-girlfriend that was so crazy I couldn’t bear to stay with her but the good times we had were so acute that I couldn’t imagine not going back. This game always tempted me with some interesting plot points and that air of mystery right before slapping me across the face with challenges that go against everything I like about video game difficulty. In the end I can admit that I love the over-arching plot and the ending is something worth seeing through, but that doesn’t me an I have to like the potholes I found myself in on a semi-regular basis. I guess in short, play the game on easy.
Final Score: 3 out of 5
Did you know that Quantic Dream recently released the Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered version of this game that upgrades the visuals and adds controller support on PC? Oh and I guess everyone’s all overjoyed that the censored sex scenes in the US version of the game are back in all it’s polygonal video game detail, for whatever that’s worth. It’s only been out for just over a week, but against his better judgement Fred will be taking a quick look at it for this week’s Retro Game Night so watch for a video with snarky commentary to go live on Saturday. Hell, it may just convince you to give this unique title a try.
More than a year ago, Fred featured the Playstation 2 game Shinobi on Retro Game Night. I was told that this is a brutally hard title that will test my skills. He put it to the back burner, but after recent feedback we’re returning to these games to take up the challenge. In his own words, here’s Fred’s reflection:
I remember playing it at first and didn’t understand what the big deal was. Shinobi’s battle mechanics are pretty basic, not even coming close to the skills required of games like Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. While the two games may be compared based on premise, time of release, and challenge, they couldn’t be more different. Shinobi is not hard at the beginning, it’s barely a challenge, while I know plenty who haven’t completed the first level (and specifically boss) of Ninja Gaiden. All of that changed with part 2 of this Retro Game Challenge. Shinobi ramps up fast and despite beating the level at the end, it made my blood boil and wasn’t worth the effort I put in. My conquest felt cheap, possibly even cheating. I’m not done with this title, but my skepticism on it’s fairness and ability to provide a proper challenge that I enjoy in gaming, is raised. I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, enjoy a video that starts very positive and ends with a nearly embarrassing response from me. As you may have already guessed beware of crass adult language near the end.
Recently Fred played Die Hard Arcade on the Sega Saturn to show off one of the oddest directions licensed franchises have gone in games. Well the game was known as Dynamite Deka (Dynamite Cop) in Japan, but retained all the Die Hard similarities, and was re-made in arcade perfect form on the PS2 (only in Japan as part of the Sega Ages 2500 series). When Fred noticed it on the Japanese PSN for the PS3 – and at only ¥400 on sale, ¥823 normally – he had to pick it up and play through it. Feel free to grab it for yourself if interested, but without further ado we present the complete playthrough of Dynamite Deka.
I’ve always wanted to dedicate an article to Half Life on the Playstation 2 (PS2). However, Half Life is one of those games I genuinely get a bit worried about when reviewing, since so much as mentioning anything negative about this series will cause the entire Valve fan base to storm on you with torches and pitchforks. No where is safe, you are screwed. But since so few people have even played Half Life on the PS2 hopefully, its safe to come out of my Half Life hermit cave and talk about it.
Now here is where I make my first shocking statement: Half Life on PS2 is the first time I ever played Half Life. One redeeming factor maybe that it did lead me to playing the game on the PC later when I was able to. Anyway, I was in day one for Half Life on console. I’d been anticipating the game since the hyped up Dreamcast port which never official surfaced outside of the homebrew scene (despite being advertised in leaflets that game with games at the time). It seems like a lot of the assets used to make the game on the Dreamcast surfaced on the PS2. Whether your a massive fan of the Dreamcast or not, its hard not to argue this game was much more suited to the PS2 due its its dual analogue sticks. This was the time where First Person Shooters (FPS) were finally getting easier to control on consoles, with thanks to Halo, gamers where just no longer stomaching the single analogue nub system famous on the N64 and Dreamcast.
Half Life on PS2 is technically an HD remaster (but just up-scaled, not actual HD graphics). The graphics received a massive overhaul and for the time looked fantastic. Enemies and human character models looked much more polished and some of the guns such as the assault rifle were completely remodelled. The recharge points had little probes for example, the health station had a syringe that would come out and stick your character. Though its very much a cosmetic change it does look pretty cool. The entire campaign was playable and you were able to save anywhere just like the PC version, which was quite uncommon for console games. Everything in the PC version is present on the PS2 even the humorous gore.
I actually played Red Faction on PS2 before Half Life and it was clear to see that a lot of the inspiration for that game came from the Half Life design. I also remember a article in PS2 Official Magazine confirming this from the developers.
Now the developers decided to include an interesting idea to make the game a bit more simple on the console. That feature is the dreaded auto lock-on system. I absolutely hated this and still don’t care for its inclusion to this day. This was probably a feature that was originally designed for the Dreamcast and probably made sense with its controller restrictions. Basically, what you do is when an enemy is in the area a simple press of the button will literally force Gordan Freeman to lock onto the enemy with his gun cursor pointing in more or less the correct area. It felt very similar to the lock-on feature [this is known by many as “Z-targeting” – Ed.] in Legend of Zelda Orcarina of Time (you know, just without the fairy shouting at you). Now you would think this feature would make the game a lot easier, but for a lot of the enemies, especially the boss characters like the scrotum monster on Xen (you know the one I’m talking about) the feature doesn’t lock-on properly and causes practically no damage. Its inclusion feels pointless especially when the dual analogue controls seem to work absolutely fine. Of course many would argue the controls can’t possibly compete with mouse and keyboard, but for a console port this was a fine effort.
The original Dreamcast version was going to feature the additional campaign, which later became Blue Shift, and was eventually released separately for PC. On the PS2 the developers included a co-op campaign that can be played in split screen, even if your playing alone. It’s a fantastic inclusion to the package. When you do play the game alone it’s a bit awkward because you have to control both of the female characters separately. A press of the button will switch back and forth between the characters if you are in the area alone your partner will defend themselves but will not move, they will just stand there like a loon till you move them yourself. This makes playing it solo feel very slow as you are literally travelling through the level twice. Unlike the main Gordon Freeman campaign, which is a continuous campaign with no level breaks, the co-op campaign is split up into individual levels you select from a menu. There is more backstory to the Half Life universe that even ties into the story of Blue Shift. So if you are a die hard Half Life fan and want to experience every campaign possible you will need to dust off your PS2 and get this game to experience the co-op campaign as it was exclusive on PS2. Not sure whether its worth all that effort though, since the co-op is very short. You do receive a fantastic bonus co-op mission where you get to play the aliens in the game; it’s brutally hard but its a nice touch.
So is Half Life on PS2 worth picking up? Well these days probably not so much especially since Half Life got another HD remaster in the form of Black Mesa on PC [as of this writing, Xen, the least popular portion – but also the ending – of Half Life is not included in Black Mesa although the development team reassured in early 2014 that it is coming and will be improved from the original – ed]. Die hard PC gamers will most likely laugh at this games existence despite the improvements the developers made to the graphics. The reason you may want to consider the title is if you already own a PS2 because this game is crazy cheap. Back in the day I paid full price for the game and I didn’t feel cheated. I later sold my entire PS2 collection but when I started collecting again I found Half Life on PS2 for a single British pound, and that’s still the going rate for this game. To this day I have an interest in PC ports to console even if they are most likely worse. It’s fascinating to see what developers do to a game to make it work on restricted hardware. Another fascinating example like this is Half Life 2 on the original Xbox and I may cover that in a later article.
God of War feels like a series that just exploded in popularity but has now been lost in the gaming community abyss. Last year the God of War Collection (featuring the first two games in the series) was released to the Playstation Vita to such a poor reception that a lot of friends were generally surprised it was actually released. Then again the same group of friends were gob smacked that Borderlands 2 also came out on the Vita. Now, it could be argued that this lack of enthusiasm may be due to the lack of interest in the Playstation Vita. But forgotten or not, I’ve played through both God of War games so it’s time to see how they hold up today.
I was originally a massive fan of the very first God of War game on PS2. When I was first introduced to the game by a friend I got so into it we played through the entire game together in one single sitting, something that I rarely do with a video game. We spent a lot of the experience just gob smacked by how the PS2 was able to include great graphics and set pieces. Of course a lot of the great visuals are attributed to a fixed camera control and the set pieces being controlled entirely by quick time events (a feature I’m glad has started to disappear in the gaming industry). The game felt like a breath of fresh air. Although the game did not introduce a completely original experience it seemed to take elements that worked with other games like an anti hero storyline, hack and slash gameplay and upgrading your character with orbs. The game was not perfect, even for the time people criticised some of the challenging sections in the game most notably the infamous Hades area where you had to get pass various traps and obstacles. If you were hit just once you died instantly, leading to some massive gamer rage grinding your enjoyable experience to a complete halt. What made God of War stand out at the time was the epic adventure, where you travel into areas no man can supposedly enter (and the game clearly displays this by having dead bodies littered everywhere). You really felt like you were on this impossible quest. Every time you beat a gigantic boss or got pass a deadly trap you really felt a sense of achievement. The bosses were also enormous like the infamous hydra, a fantastic way to open the game and a design feature that seemed to carry over to all future games in the series as well. The game was well received by critics and gamers so it pretty much guaranteed a sequel. The developers seemed confident of this as well as the message “Kratos will return,” appears once the credits have finished at the end of the experience.
It was no surprise that I was anticipating God of War 2 on PS2 even though it was released very late in the life cycle. The game was very much the same experience as the first just with a new story and new weapons (although I never used these I always stuck with the blades). You were once again tasked with another impossible quest. For some reason I found this experience quite bland. Although there were small changes to the gameplay, with new magic spells and new outrageous set pieces. For example, flying on a griffin then jumping onto an enemy one, cutting its wings off and leaping back onto your own. However, it really just felt like more of the same. I think what really disappointed me was the ending, which for the time did what we called a “Halo 2” where it ends on a crappy cliffhanger. I don’t know why but for the time this sort of ending really pissed me off and lead me to avoid God of War 3 on PS3 for quite some time, just because I was acting childish about it. This didn’t stop God of War 2 receiving massive critical praise and selling very well despite its late release.
Revisiting the first game on the Vita was quite a pleasant experience. The in game graphics having been polished up look fantastic on the OLED screen. The game visually looks surprisingly similar to the HD version on the PS3. A notable problem is the cutscenes in the game have not been given the same graphical upgrade. In the original game the cutscenes merged very well with the in game graphics so it almost looked the same. In the HD versions the cutscenes look blurry and worse than the in game graphics. Consequently taking you out of the immersion of the game. This same problem is present in the second game as well. Of course since the poor Vita lacks the extra buttons on a PS2 controller it does mean buttons have been mapped to the touch screen. But you may be pleased to hear they really don’t effect the experience. The back touch pad is only used to open chests, save and interact with objects of interest. The front screen maps two additional abilities which work very well. After playing the God of War games on PSP its refreshing to have the game use two analogue sticks again, something very few PSVita games require with it’s limited library. I was quite surprised that I still got stuck occasionally. God of War likes to throw the odd puzzle section at you and some of them are head scratchers. The rage quit moments are still just as awful to play through if not worse on a portable. One area in particular (the trials of Hades to be specific) has a section where you have to navigate across balance beams and it requires pin point precision, getting touched by a moving blade or falling leads to an instant death. I spent ages here, almost to the extent that I almost quit the game for good. It’s these dreadful sections why most people get put off the series.
Upon playing God of War 2 I actually enjoyed it a lot more the second time. Unlike the first game, I haven’t replayed the second game since the PS2. So I was able to enjoy the game for what it was. Though the game still has those moments where you just want to throw the portable across the room (the worst here being the section where the bridge is collapsing and you have to swing to escape). I guess I got more into the story this time through. The first game plays out like a greek tragedy, the second game is basically Kratos being an ass and wanting things his own way (this solidified his anti hero status with the series moving forward). God of War 2 unlike the first has a new game plus feature and just like the last time I played the game on the PS2, I started playing the game again with all my abilities unlocked and just lost interest really quick. The game just lacks any form of challenge in new game plus and is only worth playing if you want to unlock everything. A surprising omission from God of War 2 on the Vita is the game lacks any trophy support, though I understand trophies serve no purpose but for bragging points, it was weird that I unlocked trophies in the first game but not the second. Also trophy support is so common in games nowadays its hard to ignore when it isn’t present.
I really would only recommend God of War on the Vita if you feel you must absolutely have the game on the go. Since the majority of my gaming is done on the go I tend to warm to games like this, but I’m very aware I’m in the minority. If you want the most God of War in HD for your buck the best buy by far is the five game collection called God of War Saga, which is only available in America (it includes all three core games and the two PSP games) – however, if you have a PS3 you can play any region game regardless of where you live, the game is still available very cheap to this day. Overall, God of War is one of those series to me that I still think out did itself on the first game and ever since then just hasn’t really evolved It hasn’t stopped me buying each iteration but let’s just say my expectations of the new game in development are not high.
This week Fred and Jam are throwing around fighters of the 90s (that aren’t Street Fighter II or Tekken, we did a show for those already). In the 1990s, the fighter genre was the most popular type of game available (like First Person Shooters today), and among those that have withstood the test of time there were plenty of others that played the field. From Mortal Kombat to Soulcalibur you had plenty of arcades (and home ports) to drink your quarters in arcades.
Ever since the 10/01 episode “Silent 3vil” released, we felt one thing was severely missing: everyone’s impressions on Silent Hill 3. In honor of Halloween Fred, Jam, and Vos all got together 30 days later and had a little round table discussion about what we appreciate about the third and final Team Silent installment in the series.
Please Note: This episode is a follow-up to an earlier episode this month (Silent 3vil).
Console: Playstation 2, Xbox, Wii
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3 for $9.99
Price: $24.77 (disc only), $26.88 (complete), $56.88 (sealed) per Price Charting
Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly is a sequel to the original horror PS2 hit that brings more of everything. More ghosts, more places to wander around and more pictures than a bachelors degree in photography. But is this game a picture worth hanging on your wall or maybe more suitable as a Christmas greeting card?
After surviving the mansion incident from the first game you find yourself now playing as a totally different character in a different setting. This time you play as a young girl called Mio Amakura and occasionally your messed up twin sister Mayu. After becoming lost in Minakami forest you stumble across a village. What could possibly go wrong here? Well it doesn’t take long for you to figure out that the place is haunted with the tortured souls of its dead inhabitants as well as that something weird is affecting your twin sister Mayo. The plot is completely separate from the original Project Zero title. The only main link being that you find the Camera Obscura, which is the same device in the first game, as a weapon. You use it to snap the things that go bump in the night – this time its an entire village as opposed to just a mansion. The plot of this game is rather complicated and felt quite hard to follow. Like the first game, there are several documents littered around the place providing you with some background information on what happened to the village and its inhabitants.
Project Zero 2 does make a couple of changes to the series as well. First off, the game now has a novice mode for those gamers who are just utterly terrified of the “brave” normal mode. Saying that, even normal mode comes across as significantly easier than the first game in the series. The most significant gameplay adjustment is taking pictures of the ghosts. Like the first game you wander around in third person and when you want to take a picture you switch to a first person perspective. A small yellow bar will be highlighted indicating that your picture will damage the ghost. Items of interest can be photographed and highlighted in blue in the view finder, taking the picture will usually help unlock a door or solve a puzzle. In this game you are practically encouraged to get up close and personal to the ghouls to take damage from them, the closer you get the more the yellow bar fills. If your used to the charging mechanic of the first game, that mechanic may confuse you at first as it is not made entirely clear when taking a picture will damage the ghost. Similar to the first game there is an opportunity to take a picture at just the right point to do maximum damage, called a “Zero shot,” and your HUD bar will highlight totally red when you have this opportunity. Unlike the previous games ghost encounters may have more than one ghost, they may even last longer, which is saying a lot as ghosts encounters in the first game were not a short experience. Not only that, encounters can be random anywhere in the game, it is not advised to hang around in a room doing nothing for too long.
You can upgrade the camera, which has been made a lot easier from the first. You accumulate points to upgrade by snapping pictures of the ghoulies and you also find spirit stones for upgrade slots hidden around the game. To upgrade the camera you need to use a spirit stone first to activate the slot and then have enough points to solidify the upgrade. This unique way of upgrading seems to be a way of preventing the player upgrading the camera too quickly. Just like the first game you can also load your camera with different types of film that will do different amounts of damage and specific effects. These are in limited supply and scattered across the village.
You will regularly encounter puzzles throughout the game and many of them involve you using the camera at a specific spot to unlock a door. The game will also give you logic puzzles to solve like rotating dials to match the colours. A lot of the game feels like a giant Easter egg hunt where you wander around an area looking for key items to solve a bigger puzzle. You can save your game as many times as you want at designated lamp points; however, if there is a ghost in the area the lamp will go out preventing you from saving. Taking a snap shot and vanquishing the spook will enable you to once again use the save point. This mechanic was in the original game as well and is a great way of making you feel that nowhere is safe.
Graphically the game does an excellent job of recreating a spooky village. You really feel like you’re alone as you wander around this creepy place with the sense that something is watching you, and it usually is. Ghosts appear to look surprisingly solid, which I’m not entirely sure is a good thing. Ghosts take on the forms of members of the villagers who once lived there and there are a huge number of ghosts in comparison to the first game. You’ll encounter blind ghosts, priest ghosts, children ghosts, and my favourite the crazy suicide ghost who attack you by constantly falling from a high up altitude. Of course this ghost was not meant to be funny but it did make me laugh more than tremble with fear. There are of course a lot of ghosts which just seem to hang around in the village. They won’t attack you, they act as the collectables in the game. Taking images of ghosts in the game and saving them to a separate photo album file will unlock additional costumes for Mio and Mayu.
The question I just could not help asking in Project Zero 2 was: so when does this game get scary? To be fair this game has several eerie moments but I never particularly felt scared or in danger when playing this game. Once again I am comparing this to the original game which seemed to contain scenes I found very unsettling. Saying that the developers apparently toned the horror down for this game to encourage players to actually finish the experience.
Project Zero 2 is certainly easier than the first game and a lot more accessible to people new to the series. Ammo and health items are very easy to come by even on standard difficulty. Some may find the pace of the game a little slow and frustrating as you wander around the village looking where to go next, the game does have a handy map if you get completely stuck. Once you get over the first few hours of the game you should be able to finish between eight to ten hours the first time through. The game does have multiple endings to experience and you are encouraged to play through the game multiple times to unlock extra difficulties, costumes and collect a picture of every damn ghost in the game if your a hardcore collector.
Overall, Project Zero 2 is a solid game but as you could tell from this review I could not help constantly comparing it to the original. The game changes the gameplay mechanics for the camera in a way I don’t think is as enjoyable by timing the right shot as opposed to charging it up. The story didn’t really draw me into the world or care as much for the main characters. When the game was finished I was quite surprised as it just seemed to abruptly end. Saying that, the game is a lot easier and more appealing to people new to the series. Unfortunately the game will still only appeal to a niche audience. If you want to try a horror game that tries things different from the typical survival horror experience I recommend giving this a try. If you liked the original I’m pretty sure you’ll find this game enjoyable. For everyone else this is a tough game to recommend. Though I had fun with the game I favour the original more, but felt compelled enough to look at the sequel.
Unlike Jam, I have not played the first and thus do not have to worry about comparing the two. What I have a harder time with is wrapping my head around why this game is so popular in US horror gaming circles. I get what appeals in other Japan-centric games like Silent Hill or even potentially Resident Evil - disturbing images and big squishy monsters – but I never understood that supernatural appeal vibrant in Japanese ghost stories. These stories in visual media always break the universal rules of good horror: they are complicated tales instead of a simple plot, you see the danger in full view instead of off screen or lingering in the shadows, and they don’t clearly end. Fatal Frame II is all of these things and I just don’t understand the appeal.
Despite this fact, it is a decent game that encompasses solid mechanics and a great world to explore. Whereas many found it to be an unsettling attack to the senses, I found to it to be a great exploratory simulation of events and locations I’d never have to the guts to tread in real life. I always talk about games being haunted house simulations, which is more of an American view in that I’m expecting big gory beasts and graphic violence, whereas Fatal Frame II is literally a series of haunted houses you have to reconcile. The village is flooded with souls that are both at peace and tortured, but you may never know who these people are or why they fit in either camp (except for whether or not you can damage them with the camera) thanks to the brunt of the plot being in collectible books. Reading those books isn’t the issue, its knowing whether or not you have found all of them and the game’s complete lack of care whether you did or not, that I start having issues with. When unraveled the tale is quite simple, but far be it for the developers to present it that way and instead you end up circling the same concepts and stories a few dozen times before you can comprehend what even happened by the time the credits roll. Fatal Frame II does effectively capture the strongest sense from Japanese ghost stories, which is to screw with your perspective and corrupt something you love. It’s very good at that. It messes with you.
Combat is consistent, although figuring out the inner workings of how that all comes to pass takes time. Just when you think you’ve figured out a mechanic, the game allows other ghosts you encounter to change or break the rules you just figured out. Perhaps you could always snap a shot of a ghost coming out of invisibility the last time but this time the ghost’s ability is to disappear when it’s fully visible and you have to hit it at a different time or distance. Maybe the ghost is in plain view but because the camera doesn’t turn yellow/red you can’t snap a photo for damage. Maybe a girl is literally falling out of the sky to her death and although she’s invisible has the ability to hurt you when she lands even though other ghosts walk right through you. It’s a bit irritating at first until you realize you have plenty of health and healing items for trial and error, but when faced with a ghost that can’t be exorcised or one that kills you in a single touch (or both) the annoyance of the battle system can get the best of you. I just had a hard time being threatened by enemies that I can walk through, in many points of animation can’t harm me, and consistently go invisible. Then again, I was scared to death and on the edge of my seat as I navigated a room plagued by a one-hit death ghost.
With all the focus on exploration – whether it’s fighting a new enemy, looking for something specific, or trying to find out where your half-goofballs sister is gallivanting to next – I was hoping I’d be looking for more interesting items. The random unnecessary books that document the past, present, and potential future of The Lost Village and your place in it are fascinating little tidbits of lore, but those are completely optional as are the content spirits lingering about. What is necessary is annoying fetch quests that have you finding stupid little stones in the ground with fragments of a key, assembling a doll from six or seven different parts strewn about, or traversing an entire house only to find the item you need was in the first room you entered and having to re-trace your steps twice while you fetch and return with that item. It makes the relatively short game a bit long in the tooth.
In the end I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for a traditional, non-violent, complicated ghost story about fetching things while your sister goes crazy. I did, however, have a good time getting through the game’s 6-8 hour initial campaign and appreciating the moments, stories, and enemies that did make me smile and nod. Fatal Frame II is different from other games and it’s well executed in what that specific game is, which is perhaps why it stands as such a pivotal title in the genre. Everything you experience, down to the final moments and multiple endings, assure you that if you’re a fan of the likes of Ringu (The Ring) or Ju-On (The Grudge) that you’ll be right at home with the eerie atmosphere Fatal Frame II has to offer. For me, this was nothing more than a unique style to a niche genre that, while well executed, just wasn’t that much up my ally. Still, if you feel at home with a good old fashioned Japanese ghost story, complete with cryptic outcome, this may just be the game you’ve always been looking for.
Final Scores Jam: 2 out of 5 – Fred: 3 out of 5 (Review Policy)