Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix
|Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix|
US Cover art
|Developer(s)||Kronos Digital Entertainment|
|Release date(s)||NA February 21, 2001
|Distribution||4 × CD-ROM|
Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix is an action-adventure game for the PlayStation in 2001. It was developed by Kronos Digital Entertainment and published by Eidos Interactive. Fear Effect 2 is a prequel chronicling the events that lead up to the original Fear Effect. The game garnered attention leading up to its release for a sexually charged advertising campaign focusing primarily on the suggested lesbian relationship between the two female protagonists, showing them posing together suggestively in revealing clothing.
Retro Helix begins in Hong Kong in the year 2048. The player delves into the colorful histories of the original cast of three mercenaries - and newcomer Rain Qin - as well as the extraordinary circumstances that brought them together. In the wake of a degenerative global pandemic called EINDS (Environmentally Induced Nucleotides Degeneration Syndrome – pronounced "ends"), theft, murder, and terrorism have become big business.
Hana Tsu Vachel and Rain Qin are freelance operatives, Royce Glas is a washed-up former soldier, and Jacob "Deke" Decourt is a cutthroat assassin. Much of the game's intrigue lies in how these unlikely allies even manage to come together for one cause. From the start, each of them have their own motives, but they soon all become entangled in a sinister plot extending far beyond politics, espionage, or personal survival. The adventure takes players through a futuristic Hong Kong, the formidable walled city of Xi'an, the lost tomb of the first emperor of China, and, finally, into the mountain island of the immortals, Penglai Shan.
- Royce Glas – a former commander in the U.S. Military, and expert with high tech weapons and counter-intelligence. He was a member of a branch so secret that it was even beneath the radar of the CIA. But after a certain incident he essentially gave up on life, resorting to sustained drinking binges and games of Russian roulette. After a chance meeting with Hana he rediscovers his purpose and sets on a path towards redemption.
- Jacob DeCourt – a cold-blooded assassin from Australia who will kill anyone under any circumstances so long as the pay-off is worth his while. But as yet another victim of EINDS, what he needs more than money is a cure. It is this that motivates him to work for mysterious power brokers – that is, of course, until they too outlive their usefulness.
- Rain Qin –Hana's friend and lover, a girl with a past shrouded in secrecy who Hana discovered during a mission a few years before the story begins. A technology wizard, Rain is a useful complement to Hana's freelance operations. She is plagued by dreams of people she has never met or doesn't remember, and places she may or may not have ever visited. These dreams leave her with lingering existential questions that form the very pretext upon which the game's story unfolds.
Like the original Fear Effect, the sequel features cel-shaded character models on top of pseudo-3D environments that use looping full-motion video to give the appearance of constantly animated background elements. Players take control of each of the four main characters at different times throughout the game, which enables multilateral perspective on the storyline.
Retro Helix mostly relys on a third-person perspective. The controls are mapped without regard to the character's current position or direction faced. Unlike the original Fear Effect, however, Retro Helix offers players the option of a more traditional control scheme. At the player's disposal is a small arsenal of weapons, including a variety of firearms – including pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles, specialty equipment such as a hand-held EMPs and a taser, and one unique melee weapon for each character.
Fear Effect 2 is primarily focused on solving puzzles to progress rather than combating enemies. In spite of the heavy ordnance available, enemies are few and far between, with static – as opposed to dynamic – placement. The gameplay is intended to evoke tension and suspense, rather than relying on the nonstop action formula of standard shooters. This format has the consequence of making the gameplay arguably less difficult, although it is offset by the relative ease at which characters can die from enemy attacks and a number of instant-death scenarios. The fear gauge present in the original game returns for Retro Helix, a variation on the health meter common to most action games.
Fear Effect 2 was praised for its visual style, mature story, and character development. GameSpot said that it represented the best aspects of the survival horror genre, while also introducing new features that make it more appealing to a broad audience. Gaming Age called it a "blast from start to finish". IGN, on the other hand, was critical of the Resident Evil style controls and the puzzle design. With an average ratio of 82% on the ratings aggregate site Game Rankings, it stands as the 55th highest rated game on the PlayStation, and second highest of all PlayStation games released in 2001.
Sales were strong enough that work began on a third installment, titled Fear Effect Inferno, which was to be a PlayStation 2 title. However, financial difficulties at Eidos forced the publisher to cut back on projects, and Inferno was one of the casualties.