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Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix


After the strangely wonderful experience that was Fear Effect, Eidos and Kronos have joined forces once again to tell the twisting, turning story of Deke, Hana, and Glas -- and Rain. For those who never played Fear Effect, the game successfully blended action, puzzles and storytelling via streaming technology over four massive discs. What drove Fear Effect was its shady characters and serpentine storyline, and what's sure to drive gamers to play Retro Helix is the origin of just how these vastly different characters became acquainted.

The three main characters are: Hana Tsu-Vachel, the beautiful Asian assassin, who's trained in both in love and death, but remains distant and unapproachable; Royce Glas, the master operative of counter intelligence; and Jakob "Deke" Decourt, a straight-out killer driven by cash and killing. The newest star in the lineup is Rain Qin, a close friend to Hana, with an enigma all her own.

The game begins with Hana and Rain alone, working their way out of an underground aqueduct where unpleasantness is definitely afoot. Gameplay frequently takes a break for disturbing cinematics designed to kick up the fear level - rats are chewed to pieces by minigun-packing security droids, disturbing figures set traps from afar, and Rain comes upon the aftermath of some kind of massacre, where droids prowl through the remnants of masked maintenance employees (or are they?). In between the shocks and gunplay, there are plenty of puzzles, although the progression from objective to objective is nothing too trying.

Just like in Fear Effect, Chinese myth and religion influence the game, and the brand new environments created specifically for Retro Helix portray these influences with delicacy and artistry. The game is set in several cities, each one most likely a disc of its own. The destinations include Hong Kong, Hell's Kitchen (New York City), the Walled City of Xi'an, the lost Tomb of the First Emperor of China, and the mountain-island of the immortals, Penglai Shan. The game actually includes eight unique locations, twice as many as the original.

The adventure tells how each character meets up with one another, but also ends up unraveling the story of Rain's "evil" twin sister, Mist, becoming tied into a seriously dangerous final encounter.

Using enhanced Motion FX3D technology (streaming technology), Kronos is able to load up essential aspects of the levels in the initial start-up sequence, after which each and every new level appears instantly, streaming straight off the CD and nearly eliminating the PlayStation's infamous load times altogether.

Improvements over the first game include more than 120 minutes of computer generated sequences, 800 camera angles (they have got to be very subtle to total 800!), no more load times after death sequences, a newly improved realtime inventory system, four playable characters (Rain being number four), 60-plus enemies, and lastly, hidden features and secrets that unlock with replay.

The Kronos team took more than 1 1/2 years to complete the first game, and it has had less than one year to complete a sequel. So while this game is scheduled to appear in Q4 2000, it's quite likely that it won't appear until January or even February 2001. Still, having grown to love the first, I am more than eager to get my hands on this vaunted prequel/sequel.


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