|Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix|
- "The human race. A sentient species. We dream and we ponder."
Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix is the 2001 prequel to Fear Effect, developed by Kronos Digital Entertainment and published by Eidos Interactive for the Sony PlayStation. It is the second installment in the Fear Effect series.
The characters Hana Tsu-Vachel, Royce Glas, and Jakob "Deke" Decourt return. Rain Qin is introduced in this game. Retro Helix begins in Hong Kong. The player delves into the colorful histories of the original cast of three mercenaries as well as the extraordinary circumstances that brought them together. They soon all become entangled in a sinister plot extending far beyond politics, espionage, or personal survival.
In the wake of a degenerative global pandemic called EINDS (Environmentally Induced Nucleotides Degeneration Syndrome), theft, murder, and terrorism have become big business. 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.
1990 AD: The United States' "human genome" project is the result of 12 years of coordinated effort by the department of energy and the national health institute. Its objectives are:
- Identify the roughly 100,000 genes of human DNA
- Determine the sequence of 3,000 million chemical compounds that make up human DNA
- Store the information in databases
- Develop tools to analyze the data
- Determine the ethical, legal and social consequences that the project can unfold
1994 AD: Taking advantage of the new possibilities brought about by the project, the DOE starts program "microbe genome" to sequence the genome of bacteria useful in energy production, environmental regeneration, reduction of hazardous waste, and industrial processing. As a result a new field in science is opened in researching microbe genomics.
2000 AD: Scientists map out 97% of the genetic material of the 23 human chromosomes (they should be pairs). The remaining 3% can't be included in the map. It is therefore named as Retro Helix or retrograde helix; these vestiges of human evolution are considered relics of our past like the tailbone or the appendix.
By 2020, many mysteries of these genes have been unveiled by exhaustive research. Genetic engineering and manipulation have rendered diseases such as AIDS and various forms of cancer to be things of the past. Numerous corporations around the world now hold patents on these fingerprints to life itself. Eugenics has become the new god of science and gene pirating is a multi-trillion dollar industry.
2028 AD: Diagnosis of the first case of Environmentally Induced Nucleotides Degeneration Syndrome (EINDS). In a short 4 year span more than 700 million people in the world have contracted this awful disease. EINDS quickly becomes the last and most lethal epidemic the world has ever seen. What sets it apart from other terminal diseases that just kill patients slowly is that EINDS inhibits the synthesis of proteins at DNA level. This stops processes of "Transcription" and "Translation" meaning the division of DNA into ARNm and ARNt, the key to cellular mitosis, avoiding this way the cell's replication and reproduction. EINDS doesn't just kill individuals, but it inevitably tends to eradicate all of mankind, since it kills stopping the process known as "human evolution". The cause of EINDS and its cure are unknown. What is worse is that nobody seems to know how the disease is contracted. It is speculated that the interminable effort to better our world and species through genetic manipulation caused humanity to release this killer, thus sealing its own fate.
The Retro Helix, a key in the form of a self-resolving jigsaw puzzle, will in time open the locked doorways of human evolution, ushering in the second coming of an evil amorphous being known as the Entity. Despised and hunted by the ancients, the direly wounded Entity fled across dimensions and found the primitive Earth. In hopes of eluding its hunters, with its last bit of life force the Entity weaved its genetic essence into the abundant primordial ooze and sparked the chemical reaction that led to cellular life on Earth. For four billion years, it remained dormant, like a film floating on the pool of human evolution, waiting for a single drop of rain to pull it down.
Hana is instructed in her new mission by Jin for a reward of 25 million: Infiltrate the Wing Chune campus tower and steal DNA. Hana needs to steal Dr. Liu's hair and fingerprints while Rain needs to do background work for the security system. They begin their mission in the aqueducts to bypass the security. They fight off security robots called Fixers. While Hana and Rain explore separately, Hana finds a scared man who claims another man is going crazy and is trying to kill everyone. Unfortunately, Rain encounters the psychotic man, known as the Planner, and is abducted and hooked up to a strange sexual-looking torture device. Hana defeats the Planner and saves Rain.
At the party, Hana manages to successfully take the hair, while Rain is able to get past the security system. The women meet up in an elevator and perform a lesbian act together in order to distract the guards watching them via the cameras. Rain disguises herself in a yellow outfit among Bio-Enforcers. Hana manages to swipe the DNA, but she is discovered. Rain creates a diversion by causing a biohazard alert at the party. Rain also manages to take a deadly virus in a canister with her.
After the mission, Jin orders Hana to go another mission in Xi'an, although she has to go alone as part of the deal. She is to meet up with two other couriers. Meanwhile, Deke retrieves a can called the "Genetic Marker" for a mysterious group. Deke is drugged by a drink and wakes up among shirtless zombies in Xi'an. After exploring the area, Deke is ambushed by ghost-like beings. Later, Glas arrives in a robot mech and finds a woman caught under debris, claiming to have been chased by creatures. She gives Glas a good luck charm before leaving.
Hana arrives in the city with a motorbike and crosses paths with Deke and Glas, the other couriers. Unable to find their buyers, Hana and Glas wish to bail on the mission which seems like a setup, although Deke wishes to remain. He shows the others his Marker while Hana shows her DNA sequence and Glas shows a blood sample. Before they can discuss their findings, Deke threatens to kill Hana and Glas. The three are ambushed by zombies and Deke flees after stealing Hana's DNA sequence. While Hana chases Deke, he almost kills her but she is saved by Rain who mentions she came because she was worried about Hana. Another zombie attack occurs and Hana separates from Rain.
Rain passes by an unconscious Deke, although he springs up and takes her hostage. Hana arrives and Rain tells Hana they are after the "Dark Cipher" before her mouth is closed by Deke. Deke tells Hana he will free Rain once she obtains the blood sample from Glas and that he will be waiting in the lower tomb. When Hana finds Glas, she explains the situation but Glas claims it's her problem and tries to leave. After they threaten each other, they decide to work together after Hana says please. Hana makes a plan to exchange Glas' sample, but Glas will ambush Deke as he leaves.
While Hana makes her way to the underground, she meets a ghostly figure who calls her a fool and tells her she must do various trials. After solving riddles and even being transported to a spiritual version of the past. Hana and Glas meet Qin Zheng/Qin Shihuangdi, the First Emperor of China who sought immortality and has achieved it. Hana tries to get information out of Qin, but he only tells her that Rain has returned home to Penglai Shan and he will only allow her to reach Rain if she passes challenges. Hana says "we accept" and Glas reluctantly gets dragged into the challenges. After, Qin transports Deke to them. Hana forces information out of Deke who reveals he has been doing missions for a Chinese man in exchange for money and medicine to keep him alive, as he has EINDS. Deke's organization refuses to share a cure for EINDS because they don't care about good will. The organization told Deke the Genetic Marker he found could cure his EINDS.
Now that the three are on even terms, Qin opens the portal to the island of Penglai Shan. There, they become entrapped and separated by fog. Hana makes it to a palace, while Glas gets forced into reliving the memories of his past. Hana meets an older version of herself, although does not know it. Older Hana tells younger Hana to be careful about an upcoming choice she will make because it could affect countless lifetimes. After young Hana leaves, the King of Hell appears beside older Hana. Hana and Glas ascend a tower and meet the Eight Immortals. After completing their challenges, Glas enters a white realm and a woman claiming to be Rain appears. However, Deke appears with another woman resembling Rain and he claims the woman beside him has cured his EINDS.
Fear Effect 2 has two endings, based on whether or not the player is able to figure out which twin is Mist and Rain. There are some major hints to determine the true Rain:
- The first twin that appears to Glas pressures him immediately, dodging his questions.
- The second twin that appears has cured Deke of his EINDS according to him.
- The flash disc is the standard item which Rain always brings with her.
- If the player has been watching the cutscenes carefully, they will notice Rain has been doing things with her left hand, such as answering her phone and using weapons.
The proceeding endings:
- Kill Mist (Good Ending): Hana shoots the real Mist. Hana tries to to finish her off, but Rain implores Hana not to, saying Mist is still her sister. Mist reveals Rachel is in the same room as them and proceeds to inject herself with the Dark Cipher. Mist becomes one with Rachel and transforms into a hideous baby-like monster. Rain fights the monster alone and injects Mist/Rachel with the DNA virus. Rain tears up a bit, knowing she killed her sister and mother, and leaves with the group. A news report mentions EINDS has been cured. Elsewhere, Rain says Hana could've used the cure to free herself from the Triad but Hana says she found another gig.
- Kill Rain (Bad Ending): Hana accidentally shoots the incorrect twin. Mist laughs and thanks Hana, saying she saved her the trouble. Rain says, "Don't cry, Hana. I would rather die in your arms than live forever without you. Now the reunion will never happen." Mist corrects Rain, saying the reunion can still happen because all Rachel needs is Mist's body. Mist reveals Rachel is in the same room as them and proceeds to inject herself with the Dark Cipher. Mist becomes one with Rachel and transforms into a hideous baby-like monster. Both Hana and Glas die fighting the monster. Deke is unable to finish it off and escapes out a portal carrying Rain's dead body. The King of Hell, who has been watching all of these events, says "Thank you for saving me the trouble."
- Hana Tsu-Vachel
- Rain Qin
- Royce Glas
- Jakob "Deke" Decourt
- Wong Ling
- Qin Zheng (Qin Shihuangdi)
- Rachel Kazra
The Eight Immortals:
- Shao Chiu / Ts'ao Kio Chiu / Tsao Kuo Chiu
- Ho Hsien Ku
- Lan Tsai Ho
- Han Hsiang Tzu
- Chung Li Chuan
- Li Tieh Kuai
- Chang Kuo Lao
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 (Hana, Rain, Deke and Glas) at different times throughout the game, which enables multilateral perspective on the storyline.
Fear Effect 2 mostly relies on a third-person perspective. The controls are mapped without regard to the character's current position or direction faced. Unlike the original game, 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.
Director Stan Liu commented, "Retro Helix is not for everyone because it was not made for everyone! I didn’t want to dilute the experience for the intended audience. I wanted to create a mature, intelligent and a little twisted game for adults and I was not willing to compromise that vision." He also said, "When I created the story for Retro Helix, I really wasn’t thinking about making this a game for male or female players. All I wanted to do is to create an engaging story and a fun experience for anyone interested. Sometimes I wonder if the content of the game is actually alienating female gamer or is the hype from the press that is doing the alienating for us."
The game was made for the PlayStation 1 at the end of its life cycle instead of the newly released PlayStation 2; Stan Liu commented, "We want to take our time and really learn the ins and outs of the PS2 before we create a game for it. The original Fear Effect pushed the PSX to its limits because our MotionFX engine was based on three generations of PlayStation programming know-how. We want to make sure that we're utilizing all of the PS2's capabilities when we put the next-generation Fear Effect title on it."
Fear Effect 2 was made to be longer with more cutscenes and a longer playing time due to criticism that the first game was too short.
Fear Effect 2 received generally positive reviews. Many players enjoyed the dynamic between Hana and Rain. The game also now includes a 3D control scheme, stemming from many people's hatred of tank controls.
For criticism, many players did not like the first opening level of the game, with some feeling it is drab, confusing to get lost in, and full of backtracking. Many players also found that the final act of the game has an extremely confusing storyline, especially when the plot begins mentioning things like the Dark Cipher, Gemonic Void, etc.
The increased sexualization of Hana and Rain also proved divisive. Fear Effect 2 was released in a time where men were the primary demographic for video games, and many companies decided to sexualize their female characters for a "sex sells" approach. While Hana showed some cleavage in the first game, it is full frontal and much more prominent on the sequel's cover. Hana and Rain also show cleavage in situations that do not require it, such as the diving suits in the prologue and while exploring ancient ruins.
- Many sources claim the game is set in 2048, but this needs a citation and could be wrong.
- According to the writer, the game is set two years before the first game. Hana is said to be 24 in the first game, confirmed by various sources, though some sources claim say is either 20 or 22 in Fear Effect 2. It is most likely that the sources claiming Hana is 20 in Retro Helix are incorrect. Glas is said to be 28 in 2 and 34 in 1, making the gap six years, so this is likely a timeline goof. Regardless, Hana claims she was born June 18th, 2028, meaning FE1 must be set between June 18th, 2052 and June 18th, 2053. FE2 is most likely set December 25th, 2050, given the annual Christmas party.
- Despite the claim of two years, the Good Ending of Fear Effect 2 seems to proceed directly into the start of Fear Effect, making the ending questionable.
- Director Stan Liu commented regarding the relationship about Hana and Rain, "It completely boggles my mind how the ad agency and the media had made such a huge deal out of that, when in the opening cinematic alone, we had genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, prostitution, drug abuse, alcoholism and cold-blooded murder. It kind of gives you a good sense on how deprived our society truly is!"
- Although the player does not really get a good look at the Wing Chune building, there is a high chance the tower resembles a giant DNA strand, as shown in concept art. The long hallways with windows appear to the base pairs of the DNA. This is fitting considering the building, or at least one of its major purposes, is genetic research.