Reviews: For die-hard F.E.A.R. fans only.
The original F.E.A.R. was a smash hit, frightening people into many sleepless nights and soiled undies. So it's no surprise that Sierra released two PC expansion packs, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate, to cash in on the popularity of the franchise and give gamers more of the creepiness we all love. Fortunately for console owners, both expansion packs are bundled together in the standalone F.E.A.R. Files, so you don't even need the original to play it. So is it worth going back to the Origin Facility and let Alma scare the bejeezus out of you all over again?
Well ? kind of. Sort of. Maybe. If you're a huge F.E.A.R. fan and can't wait for the upcoming sequel Project Origin, then you might want to give F.E.A.R. Files a spin. If you're a casual fan or haven't played the original, you'll probably want to skip it.
The problem is that F.E.A.R. Files pretty much gives you exactly the same thing as before, which is both good and bad. Good in the sense that the amazing enemy AI is as tactical and aggressive as ever as they knock obstacles out of their way, attempt to flank you, or smartly take cover. If you rush them, they will pop out and attack you from all sides and if you hide, they will happily chuck grenades to keep you company. Enemies will do cool things like run away if you chase them ? which doesn't sound impressive until you discover he's leading you to some of his buddies waiting around the corner.
Also good is the creepiness factor, which is back in full hair-raising force. However, you've seen it all before so the scare tactics aren't as nearly as effective. The graphic gore also returns, as is the ability to blow limbs off enemies or even gib them into a bloody mist. Yummy!
The exact same graphics are back as well ? which is bad considering the original F.E.A.R. is almost three years old. Everything looks old and dated, especially the low res shadows and ugly 2-D ?textures? that are simply drawn onto surfaces (like cracked plaster on walls or buttons on control panels) rather than bump mapped in 3-D. F.E.A.R. Files looks like a rusty beat-up Chevy compared to the shiny new Ferraris of Gears of War, Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4.
Extraction Point picks up immediately after F.E.A.R. with little preamble and virtually no tutorial ? which means if you've never played the original, you'll have to figure out the controls by yourself and will have absolutely no idea what's going on, making this truly for fans only.
The story continues as your helicopter crashes and you are forced to fight your way through the Origin Facility to reach an extraction point. Along the way you will encounter familiar enemies and those unnerving supernatural moments that made the original such a goosebump-filled joy. Unfortunately, the gameplay hasn't changed for the better; you still wander through similar-looking offices, hallways and tunnels, encounter a small handful of enemies, and repeat. In fact, you'll spend far more time wandering through dull empty rooms and hallways than you will shooting; it's repetitive and ? dare I say it ? boring. Even the supernatural hallucinations get old quickly. The ending is also a downer and kind of makes you wonder what the whole point of the past six hours of playtime was.
On the other hand, Perseus Mandate is the complete opposite, focusing more on action than atmosphere. You still get the creepy stuff but it's far less than in Extraction Point; instead, the enemies are plentiful, aggressive and offer some tough boss battles. You play as a Sergeant on a second F.E.A.R. team called in to investigate what the heck is going on about mid-way through Extraction Point. Oddly, you have the same bullet-time slow motion ability as the original character but it's never explained why. But since you can blow away the nasty new Nightcrawler enemies with the brand new VES Advanced Assault Rifle and electrifying LP4 Lightning Arc Weapon, who cares? The action gets fast and furious at times and is a heck of a lot more enjoyable than Extraction Point. On the flip side, die-hard fans probably won't like the emphasis on twitch shooting at the expense of the creepy stuff (which only appears in significant quantities towards the end).
For more fun shooting action, you can partake in eight new Instant Action scenarios, which are timed mini-missions that score you based on your efficiency at killing waves of enemies. Your score is uploaded to the Xbox Live leaderboards so there is always incentive to try and do better.
F.E.A.R. Files also supports 16-player online battles over Xbox Live, and while all shooters are at their best in multiplayer, there really isn't anything special that distinguishes the game from the big kids with Halo, Gears, Duty or Rainbow in their names. You do have a special SloMo powerup but carrying it highlights you like a Christmas tree, making you a prime target as anyone can pick up the powerup if you die.