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Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix
Fear Effect 2 box.jpg
Cover for Retro Helix
Developer(s) Kronos Digital Entertainment
Publisher(s) Eidos Interactive
Designer(s) Stan Liu
Platform(s) PlayStation
Release date(s) NA February 20, 2001
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Survival horror
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature (M)
Media 4 × CD-ROM

Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix is a 2001 video game for the PlayStation. 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.



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.


  • Hana Tsu Vachel – a freelancer of French and Chinese descent who was once a member of a vast criminal organization called the Triad. In fact, the Triad still claim her as their property, and it is in part to earn enough money to buy back her "contract" that she works such high-risk and high-paying assignments. Brash, edgy, with a penchant for witty one-liners, Hana is as skillful with her tongue as she is with artillery, just as likely to finagle her way out of difficult situation as blast her way through it. In spite of a demonstrated level of sophistication, she is not beyond using sex as a weapon or performing assassinations.
  • 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 – 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.


Fear Effect: 2 Retro Helix features cel-shaded character models in pre-rendered pseudo-3D environments. 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 plays like survival horror games, relying on a third-person perspective. Similar to the initial entries in the Resident Evil series, 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.

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 more 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.

Controversial themes

Hana and Rain

Retro Helix gained some notoriety for a suggestive ad campaign hinting at a lesbian relationship between the two female protagonists. Director Stan Liu would go on to state in various interviews that Hana and Rain were not lesbians, but simply two women who in this particular instance chose to become lovers. The suggestion here is that human relationships are not so black and white as to be reduced to categories, but often fall into a gray area. In his words:

Once and for all, let me set the record straight. Hana is not a lesbian! She likes men...and she likes women. Who she chooses to go to bed with at the end of the day is not a big deal![...]The only reason I wanted Hana to have a female companion this time around is because it gives me the ability to create an extremely interesting love triangle further down the road.

Stan Liu, Game Critics Interview, April 4, 2001[1]


Review scores
Publication Score
Electronic Gaming Monthly 8.5 out of 10
Game Informer 9.0 of 10
GameSpot 8.9 out of 10
IGN 6.9 out of 10
Official PlayStation Magazine (US) 4.5 out of 5

Fear Effect 2 was praised for its visual style, 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.[2] Gaming Age called it "blast from start to finish".[3] IGN, on the other hand, was critical of the Resident Evil style controls and the puzzle design.[4] 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.[5] 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.


  1. ^ Interview with Stan Liu – Part 2 – Game Critics, April 4, 2001
  2. ^ Gamespot Review by Frank Provo
  3. ^ Gaming Age Review] by Patrick Klepek
  4. ^ IGN Review by David Smith
  5. ^ Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix at

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