Trepang2 Review - Putting the F.E.A.R. Back Into FPS
Back in 2005, a game landed that quickly garnered a cult following. It combined fast-paced action FPS gameplay with true horror to create something unique, something the world hadn’t seen before. That game was F.E.A.R. It went on to spawn two sequels, both of which were solid but failed to recapture what made the first so great. Since that point in time, the franchise has gone quiet and that very particular style of gameplay hasn’t really been seen since. That is, until now. Trepang2 is here to pick up the F.E.A.R. mantle and run with it and while it doesn’t quite reach the highs of Alma’s exploits, it does give it a damn good crack.
Trepang2 sees players take control of Subject 106, an incarcerated super soldier whose first mission is to escape imprisonment. Shortly after escape, Subject 106 joins an organisation bent on bringing down a corrupt corporation called Horizon, which is using cults, scientific experiments and good old capitalism to take over the world. It’s a story as old as time, super soldier vs evil corporation and isn’t exactly the deepest and most engaging part of the game. It comes across as a little disjointed at times and there are no real surprises, but it serves its purpose in giving players a reason to tear through a variety of locations, killing everything that moves.
The killing is where the game really shines though. This is a fast game, like Doom fast. The shooting is quite loose, with a lot of weapons having a fairly large amount of bullet spread which encourages players to get right up in the face of their enemies, dodging and weaving between attacks as they lay down waves of fire. There is a huge emphasis placed on mobility with the ability to slide into enemies and knock them over (perfect for shielded enemies), jump over enemies’ heads and just move about the battlefield at a super-fast pace. This makes combat both intense and satisfying and even at the normal difficulty a tough experience.
To assist players (and give the super-soldier setup some credence) players have two special abilities. One is a cloak and the other is bullet-time. Both have limited use, which re-charges over time and both are essential to getting through this challenging game. Combat becomes a dance of switching between slow-mo to take down enemies in quick succession with headshots and cloaking to escape the heat, find some more health and take a moment to assess what is going on. Juggling these two abilities is a fantastic addition to the core loop and it really plays into the power fantasy of a super-soldier. What’s even better is as you become more proficient you can hear the fear in the voices of the opposing soldiers as they scramble into cover from your continued and unrelenting onslaught.
The real F.E.A.R. vibes come from the look of the game and the slight horror elements. From the environments to the excessively gory and visceral combat to the enemy design, everything seems to pull inspiration from the classic franchise. It doesn’t quite have the same knack for building tension as F.E.A.R. did, being more of a full-on action title with very few quiet moments, but it does incorporate a lot of the trademarks of what made F.E.A.R. so great. None of this feels like a blatant rip-off, however, more of an homage to a classic game of yore than a straight-up copy. I am more than ok with that, there has been sufficient time since the last game in the F.E.A.R franchise to see someone else take a crack at the formula. What’s even more impressive is that Trepang2 was built primarily by four people (with support from others) which is undoubtedly an amazing effort.
I think the biggest problem I have with Trepang2 is the structure of the game. Instead of a flowing linear story, there are missions that can be selected at a home base. These range from simple side missions that involve killing waves of enemies for the chance to unlock weapon attachments (turning your shotgun into a flame-dealing death weapon is a must) to more complex story missions. This structure means the story never has a chance to really flow, always stop starting and as a result, each story mission feels in a lot of ways like its own separate tale instead of being a part of a larger narrative. Had some tweaks been made in this department I feel like it could have taken Trepang2 to the next level.
Other issues in the game, things like graphics and enemy design, all can be traced back to the presumably small budget and development team and as a result are all easily forgivable. What is impressive though is the level design of the story missions. The developers have created sprawling maps that initially feel like it would be easy to get lost in, but manage to guide players to their destination and avoid frustration. It is a neat trick, especially considering at first glance things can look a little generic and unremarkable. Even when being chased by a giant monster through a sprawling maze of corridors, the game subtly guided my path, ensuring I wasn’t raging at getting stuck in corridor hell, something that was common in FPS games of yesteryear.
When all is said and done, Trepang2 is a fantastic, visceral shooter that never quite reaches the heights of the game that it was so clearly inspired by. Some tightening in the structure of the game would have perhaps allowed it to reach its full potential and really equal the high water mark that F.E.A.R. set before it. That said, I find it hard to believe that any fan of the FPS genre wouldn’t have a good time with Trepang2. The gameplay is tight and satisfying and the level design is first-class, making a wonderful playground in which to decimate those capitalist soldiers. There is no doubt that this is a fantastic effort by such a small team and I can’t wait to see what they have coming next.
Trepang2 was reviewed on PC with code kindly supplied by the publisher.