F.E.A.R. – PC/360/PS3 – Monolith – Sierra
Originally released on the PC back in 2005 which was then ported to the 360 in late 2006 before being released on the PS3 shortly after the consoles launch, F.E.A.R. is a first person action horror shooter which tries to break the conventions of the genre.
Opening with the breakout of cannibalistic psychiatric patient, Paxton Fettle (think Hannibal Lectre with supernatural powers), the F.E.A.R. unit, for which you are the new point man, has been despatched to apprehend him. What starts off as a standard FPS, quickly turns into a psychological ordeal. Met with visions and apparitions that appear out of nowhere, things start to get rather dark. At times you will see a disfigured face flash up at the screen, or suddenly appear wandering down a blood soaked corridor before returning to you where you once were. Throughout the game you find yourself haunted by a ghost child, who will just appear when you least expect it and disappear just as quickly. That’s all well and good, what with it being a horror title and all, but it is missing the one key element that makes them work – scares.
The amount of times these ghouls have appeared or you end up in a creepy corridor that you weren’t in just before, borders on excessive. And each time this has happened, it just hasn’t scared me. Maybe it’s lacking a dark ominous build up, or weather it’s that the jumps seem forced but unfortunately, the titular acronym is a little misleading! That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of the other element of horror that most fans love – gore! For every half arsed ghost child scare, there’s some poor souls pulped remains leaking from an air conditioning vent, or a pile of semi-vaporised skeletons with nothing but a pool of blood to show for or even maiming a foe at close range with the shotgun. As well as that, you come across some of Fettles victims from time to time, usually still conscious, but having been an entrée moments before.
Some of the other elements of the game, which separate it from the usual FPS is the ability to temporarily slow down time. This gives you an advantage over a surprisingly clever enemy AI. You have a small meter that allows you slow down time for roughly 20-30 seconds, but you still get full use of your weapons, although movement is not as quick with the slow down activated. Getting back to the AI, this is some of the most cunning I’ve seen in an FPS. Although most games these days have enemies that will try and flank your position, these ones actually know when to come out guns blazing and when to hang back. That’s on top of them being very tough as they seem to be as vulnerable as the player.
When it comes to players’ health, the standard for games like this these days is to have regenerative health. This one bucks the trend and opts for the traditional health pack. These are picked up and stored so you can keep using them when going through a tough encounter with enemies. The enemies themselves are not that varied unfortunately. The majority appear to be some protection detail for Fettle. There is the occasional stealth assassin bad guy, for which you need to use your time slowing ability to stop as they are very quick and pack a punch. There is also a security force when you are in a particular building, but other than that, it’s pretty much the same throughout.
The weapons at your disposal are your bog standard FPS guns. These range from pistols, automatic rifles, shotguns, explosives and scoped weapons. There are also grenades and proximity mines available which prove valuable when pinned down by enemies. Another feature is the torch. This is at times a literally dark game, meaning that a torch is required to find your way around. This really should add to the games atmosphere and create a sense of dread. After all, you fear most what you can’t see. However, this is not played on at all and usually only serves to get you spotted by the enemy. The only real dread I’ve felt playing F.E.A.R. was that of being almost dead when surrounded by enemies. Some areas can be rather unforgiving.
F.E.A.R. also has the selling point which is a staple of most shooters these days, multiplayer. This consists of the usual key game types you find with an FPS multiplayer, death match, capture the flag etc. though I’d be surprised if the servers were populated these days.
Overall I found the F.E.A.R. experience somewhat lacking. The level design just appears to be one industrial complex/sewer after another and the same enemies most of the way through, makes for a rather repetitive game. The Silent Hill-esque corridors that appear out of nowhere should really have been used a bit more rather than just for a few seconds before returning to normality. I would use that it may be dated as an excuse for it not being anything great, but thinking back, Doom 3 did an exceptional job of scaring the wits out of me! By all means, I encourage you to give it a go if you have yet to play it. I’m sure some of you will find randomly appearing ghost children quite the fright! I feel that we may have become over exposed to the FPS genre a little too much these days. In saying that however, keep an eye on HCF as I’ll be getting to grips with F.E.A.R. Files, the expansion for F.E.A.R and F.E.A.R. 2. Project Origin, in due course.
F.E.A.R. gets 6 out of 10.