Review: There is nothing to fear but F.E.A.R. itself.
If there's any game of this era which has managed to bring together the interactive experience of a horror game with the pant-filling terror of a horror movie, it's Monolith's second Xbox 360 horror offering F.E.A.R., although it has been doing the rounds on the PC for a while now. When it was released on the PC back in October 2005 it was critically acclaimed by those who could actually play the damn thing ? yes, the game had such high specs that it was missed or at the very least, not experienced how it was destined to be by those without ridiculously powerful PCs. Thanks to the processing power of the 360, F.E.A.R. can now be fully enjoyed by a brand new audience.
But you'll probably want to know more on the game itself and that's where I come in. One thing becomes apparent right from the very beginning ? gore doesn't matter here. Hell yeah, there's a lot
of gore, but the main focus of the game and how it scares is in what's yet to come. For starters, you begin the game with only the smallest of details of who you are, who you work for (the First Encounter Assault Recon or F.E.A.R.) and what you're about to go and do. Other than that, you're left to spend the game unravelling the plot as you progress, which works extremely well.
Being an experience best served un-ruined, it's best not to go into the story too much. But if you want to know how it all starts off, consider it a given that the game doesn't mess around with special introductory missions. As a F.E.A.R. operative you're given a short briefing (which you control ? the cut-scenes are viewed in the same first-person view you experience the rest of the game) about Paxton Fettel's overtaking of a weapons company, Armacham Technology Corporation, in which Fettel launched an attack of clone soldiers who are to kill all of ATC's occupants. As I mentioned, you start off with few details, although the story makes perfect sense as it progresses and you begin to learn more about the mission.
While the main aim is to track down the evil Fettel, the main enemy in F.E.A.R. is the clone soldiers, and what enemies they are. Intent on flushing you out, the clones perform flanking manoeuvers, hide behind objects and even go to the trouble of taking alternative routes to take you by surprise. Really, next-generation games are supposed to be all about pretty graphics, huge landscapes and advanced AI but F.E.A.R. sets the benchmark for enemy intelligence. It's something that can only be truly realised by playing the game itself as it is phenomenally good. It doesn't stop there though; while it's easy to be outflanked and in what seems like a complete trap, one of F.E.A.R.'s trademark features comes in handy?
SloMo! Not since Max Payne has SloMo been executed so well in a game and it can be a lifesaver at times. It doesn't make the game easier ? not by a long shot ? but what it does do is serve as a genuinely meaningful addition to the gameplay. When your F.E.A.R. operative is on his last legs, what do you do? You don't call it a day and shout many four-lettered words. Hell no, you hit the left bumper on the controller and provided the bar is full enough things will slow down for everyone else allowing you to see the paths of bullets and wreak havoc upon those clone bastards. Woop! It's not a gimmick at all though as certain parts of the game require the usage of SloMo, such as certain crawling enemies which are only seen as a clear figure in real time. That is, until you hit the SloMo and can see them crawling about at high speeds before unloading an assault rifle into their face? then watching them explode like a man who's been eating way too many cakes. F.E.A.R. will really hit home with you when you learn advanced tactics to use in conjunction with SloMo; like throwing a grenade, activating SloMo and watching the resulting explosion in a slow motion daydream. Now that's cool.
Now to pose a question ? is F.E.A.R. perfect? Not quite, but it's pretty damn close. For starters, it's not much different from the PC version from two years ago. This is not necessarily a bad thing ? at least, in terms of quality ? but it isn't a particularly good thing either. Granted there are new modes such as Instant Action (think Rainbow Six Vegas' Terrorist Hunt mode), which places the F.E.A.R. operative in four of the single player maps along with a time limit. Other than that, in the new content department there's a bonus mission, which isn't rubbish. They're not problems, but they don't really separate the game from being a straight port of the PC version with a few treats.
Next up, the controls? god, the controls. The layout is essentially not bad, but assigning SloMo to the left bumper was a bad idea. That or assigning grenades to the left trigger doesn't work. With the game requiring pretty fast reaction times it's annoying to accidentally lob a grenade ahead when you meant to go into SloMo to kill the surrounding enemies ? even more so when said grenade lands by your feet, promptly going boom.
Following on from that fairly big issue is a much less major one. The textures look a bit plain, especially when a big slice of the game is spent indoors and this may be nitpicking a little but it's something anyone who plays the game will undoubtedly pick up on. They're an improvement on the PC version's textures, no doubt about it, but on the other hand they look basic. But hey, gladly those are the only issues I had with F.E.A.R. and if you look at them, they're no big deal.
Finally it's time for the multiplayer to step up and be counted. It is awesome
! Not quite Rainbow Six Vegas awesome but still pretty damn good. There are many modes on offer ranging from Deathmatch to Capture the Flag and all of them are way above average. SloMo has also been added to the multiplayer as an entire mode (see SloMo Deathmatch), which spells out a fun experience, especially with a couple of friends. Speaking personally, F.E.A.R.'s online mode is better than Gears of War's and is only lacking in the players department. Really, online F.E.A.R. is pretty dead at the best of times meaning if you do find people playing it they'll be the best of the bunch and totally ?Pwn ur ass1111'.