Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix is the prequel to last year's acclaimed hit Fear Effect. Clocking in with more than 40 hours of first-run gameplay across four discs, this chapter delves into the histories of Hana, Glas, and Deke, while simultaneously presenting a story of espionage and supernatural villainy that ultimately surpasses the original game in terms of both shock value and excellence. As it is a prequel, Fear Effect 2 retains many of the traits that defined its predecessor, such as Resident Evil-style gameplay, full-motion animated backgrounds, and a Hollywood-inspired presentation. In tandem with this solid foundation, though, the game stands firm in its own right thanks to a plethora of control, weaponry, character, and setting improvements. Like the original, Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix is an experience many people will either truly love or deeply loathe. For those in the first category, Eidos has just released your PlayStation game of the year. However, because of the recurring violence and sexual themes, this is definitely not a game for young children.
Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix is set in Hong Kong, circa 2048. In the aftermath of the onset of a terrible genetic malady, biological theft and terrorism are big business. Beginning with Hana's mission to liberate a DNA sequence from a renowned doctor, you'll act out and experience multiple roles throughout the game. You'll play as Hana Tsu-Vachel, a beautiful assassin who is equally as trained in the art of seduction as she is warfare; Rain Qin, a close companion to Hana whose flair for technology hides a dark secret; Royce Glas, a burnt-out mercenary-for-hire; and Jakob "Deke" Decourt, a greedy thug who just so happens to be afflicted with the same genetic disease that is slowly wiping out the population. Unlike similar games where you switch perspectives midway through the game, Fear Effect 2 keeps things fresh by constantly transporting you from one character to another. As in the original Fear Effect, the prequel starts out grounded in reality but soon becomes a one-way ticket to weirdness. Corporate conspiracy gives way to supernatural meddling, while Rain and Hana's relationship ultimately proves itself to be the game's tearful legacy. If you like action-oriented survival-horror that's story driven, Fear Effect 2 is the right game for you.
Because its roots are in survival-horror, Fear Effect 2 embodies what is best about the genre, while also incorporating a few much-needed changes to make the game attractive to a wider audience. Spanning the game's four discs, the game's eight distinct environments require that you crawl, run, shoot, and think your way out of a variety of tough situations. Deadly robots, thugs, and monsters leap from the floors and ceilings with little notice, while numerous onrushing catastrophes force you to acclimate to the game's sneak, run, and roll gameplay features. There are a variety of weapons at your disposal, ranging from handguns and small arms to genre staples such as rocket launchers and flamethrowers. The number of weapons is triple that of the original Fear Effect, and this includes a few humorous additions, such as a long-range tazer, a 40-foot-tall mech, and a portable EMP generator. Along the way, you'll also have to solve numerous mathematical, spatial, and odds-based puzzles, as well as gather items that gain you access to later areas. Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix plays like a comfortable merger of Parasite Eve and Metal Gear Solid, with a cinematic presentation that's on an even keel with Resident Evil: Code Veronica in terms of quality. Although the difficulty level is high due to the game's trial-and-error nature, there are few times when a situation requires more than two or three attempts. Thankfully, there are also plenty of save points along the way.