Hana and her sister.
Hong Kong, 2028 years after the death of Christ. A deadly disease pioneered by an evil corporation is wiping out humanity. The disease attacks at an extremely fundamental level, killing everything remotely human, even Hillary Clinton. What can be done to save humanity? Who can rescue this trite plot!?
"Lesbians!" someone must have screamed on a hot day at Eidos headquarters. "We'll make them lesbians! Then we can have twice as many boobs and skimpy outfits... and we can make them, well, never mind, but we'll sell millions of copies!!"
Yes, scantily clad lesbians to the rescue, complete with coy sexual innuendos and horrible robo-insect rape scenes. Tantalized? Of course you are. But as opposed to provocatively luring gamers to disappointment with risqué advertising and a lousy ass game a la Danger Girl, Fear Effect 2 delivers everything it promises, times two.
Retro Helix is a preqeul to the original Fear Effect. Throughout the game you take control of Hana (the man in the relationship), Rain (the lipstick lesbian) and their two bozo partners Deke and Glas. As you play along, the characters talk amongst themselves, revealing plots and missions and basically fleshing out their own personalities.
Unfortunately, the dialogue leaves a little to be desired. For such an over-the-top game, you'd think the talking would be full of witty, immature innuendos. Instead, you get an almost serious take on outrageous circumstances.
For example, at one point Rain gets pretty much raped by a mecha-cricket-octopus thing. She moans and gyrates throughout a short loop, and the whole effect is extremely disturbing, and not a little hypnotic. While it's certainly a cool, weird scene, it throws any pretexts pertaining to maturity and charm right out the window and off a cliff.
The robo-rape is just one drop in a bucket full of man-eating rats, gallons of blood, and horrible head wounds. This game is chock full of shock and other colorful little tidbits that enhance the story and keep the game feeling fresh (and yucky) all the way through.
While considerably more graphic, FE2's graphics are pretty much identical to those in the original, which is a very good thing. There's still heavy bloodshed every time you take out an enemy and the levels still look fantastic. Though your player still gets pixilated the further (s)he gets from the screen, this is barely an issue. FE2 could well be the last great looking PSX game.
Most of the levels involve a hub with three or four doors, all of which lead to several other doors, behind which lurk puzzles to get keys so you can go to the next hub and unlock all of its doors. This leads to all sorts of running back and forth between rooms you've already been in. Exasperating.
However, FE2 is full of clues that fill you in on what you ought to be doing, so you usually know where you need to go and why you're going there, making the repetition of the same rooms less noticeable.
These clues are also meant to help you along with the puzzles. Almost every bizarre looking puzzle (some of them are totally inscrutable if you don't know what to look for) has a clue for it somewhere in the level. However, the helpfulness of these clues is extremely variable, and sometimes the hints are undetectably subtle.
And for every puzzle that requires a few clues, there are a bunch that don't and instead require a lot of time and trial and error. These range from really hard to really stupid, and almost all of them are boring. This hurts, because the puzzles make up a major part of the game, and for a game as wild as FE2, they seem way out of place. Many of them have nothing to do with the plot and can't be justified at all. Fortunately there are enough FAQ pages out there to make the puzzles a non-issue. Still, inane logic puzzles in an action game is a design choice that should have been avoided.
The other half of the game is the combat, and in this arena FE2 doesn't quite live up to the difficulty in the original FE. A lot of combat involves what the pundits call "Just shooting stuff." You walk into a room and shoot stuff until it explodes or dies. There's very little challenge in most of the action.
This seems to be a result of the control scheme. The major action maneuver in the original was the roll. It still is. In the first game, you had to get the roll down or you'd be mincemeat in no time. However, the roll wasn't very much fun, and once you got it down you could basically roll through all the action in the game.
However, as opposed to changing or improving the control scheme, the designers just made rolling unnecessary, so now you can shoot guys to death from a crouching position all the time. The result is that most of the action is very, very easy. While it's still satisfying due to the good graphics and sound, nothing ever puts up much of a fight, because if it did, it'd probably kick your ass.
I also have to mention the silent kills. For those who aren't hip, silent kills involve stabbing or kicking an enemy who isn't looking at you, resulting in his or her immediate demise. Here would seem to be the opportunity for some really violent, execution style goodness, but alas, there is no spice for this meatball.
Fortunately, when you execute a silent kill, it sounds great...just like everything else in the game. Sometimes you get a gurgling "GhAAaa..," and you always get to enjoy the sound of a blade rending flesh or a boot breaking a back. There really isn't much music, but there are some cool atmospheric noises and the voice acting is some of the best I've ever heard.
The problem with FE2 is that the action elements and the puzzle elements of the game are almost entirely segregated. The game should have employed more tactical action and ensured that the puzzles they did throw in made some sense within the context of the story.
Having said that, Fear Effect 2 is still a kick with its sharp visual style, crisp sounds, and thousands of tasty, violent, obscene morsels which are sure to stimulate your psychic sweet tooth. A strong game to be sure, but not the sequel it could have been.