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Scared stiff: Why should we care about Project Origin?

Jason Dobson

If Silent Hill taught us to be afraid of fog and Fatal Frame was quite clear in its mandate that ghosts are not to be screwed with, Monolith proved with a little acronym called F.E.A.R. that little girls are truly freaky. The much vaunted PC shooter married run-and-gun gameplay with survival horror in a way that, while not being terribly unique, still managed to achieve a synergy wholly uncommon in video games.

However, shortly after F.E.A.R. landed on retail shelves in 2005, Monolith parted ways with BFF publisher Vivendi, a move that left all but the game's name in the hands of the developer, forcing the studio to re-brand its IP. And in 2007, Monolith turned to the gamer community, asking for creative types to submit ideas for what the sequel should be called.

The result, as it turned out, was Project Origin. But even with a name for its new baby, the question remained, and admittedly still lingers, as to if Monolith can recapture the lightning in a bottle that was F.E.A.R. To this end, we recently cornered designers Craig Hubbard and John Mulkey to ask them both why we should care about their latest offering.

Gallery: Project Origin | 5 Photos

When it comes to survival horror, both designers have different ideas for what makes a good game. Even so, both Hubbard and Mulkey sang the praises of Tecmo's Fatal Frame franchise in unison, a series also recently championed by Silent Hill: Homecoming's Jason Allen. "For horror... the Fatal Frame series really got under my skin. I'm a sucker for ghost stories, and those games pushed all the right buttons," Hubbard, who also served as the lead designer on F.E.A.R., told us.

" I think the thing about the first game that resonated with people was the mix of the over-the-top action movie experience and creepy modern ghost story."

Interestingly, Mulkey liked the series as well, but for a much different reason. "I loved the combat mechanic of Fatal Frame," he commented. "I loved the idea that you fight the spirits with this camera, and that to do the most damage, you had to wait for the spirit to get really close." He added: "It totally plays upon the fight or flight instincts in all of us."

We sincerely hope that at least some of the influences from their favorite titles from the genre will make their way into Project Origin, particularly office fave System Shock 2. Recalled Mulkey, "Man, when you hear the midwife cyborgs singing to their 'babies'...turn on all the lights."

Looking to their own project, Hubbard indicated that the studio is not setting out to break any sort of mold, or even stretch far beyond the original F.E.A.R. with Project Origin. Rather, the company is working to build upon the original's foundation "by giving the horror elements sharper teeth and really polishing the pacing."

Interestingly, Hubbard called this idea of being able to sharpen the gameplay and atmosphere to a fine point a luxury the developer didn't have with F.E.A.R. "due to how late some of that stuff got into the game."

Speaking of the foundation laid by the original, Hubbard added: "I think the thing about the first game that resonated with people was the mix of the over-the-top action movie experience and creepy modern ghost story."

"I wouldn't really call that an innovation," he added, "but it's definitely a combination nobody had done before in a video game."

Unfortunately, the pair couldn't talk much about Project Origin's actual mechanics, only adding fuel to the mystery surrounding the upcoming sequel. However, our hope is that with E3 practically breathing down our necks, and the game being set to be shown by publisher Warner Bros. during the annual event, we'll likely come away knowing much more than we do today about Project Origin very soon.

Still, one has to wonder if there enough here to get excited about yet? It's possible, but your mileage will likely vary depending on how much you enjoyed the original. And of course, how much you enjoy blood.

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