Review by Morgoth22
"A must have for FPS fans"
There are many of you out there who have been eagerly anticipating this game, so I thought it's about time I gave you my view on this new shooter. You'll be glad to know that it lives up to the hype for the most part and provides a thoroughly enjoyable and intense experience as a result of an immersive blend of action and horror elements.
It's also worth pointing out that this is a very demanding game and even those with high end computers are struggling with it. Still, it looks pretty good on medium details and lower resolutions too, so don't panic if your PC wasn't built yesterday. I played this on an AMD64 3400+, 2 gigs pc3200 and an X800XT. It still struggled at higher resolutions and details, so I opted for 800*600 max details and it ran very respectably. The high requirements of the game may put some people off, but for the most part, you will only experience slow-down when entering new areas, which doesn't affect the gameplay too much.
So without further ado, I will go into detail about what makes the game so addictive and gripping.
Story - 9/10
The story really is a good one, and that's saying something for an FPS game! You are part of the First Encounter Assault Recon squad, sent to investigate odd happenings. You'll soon discover however that you have far more to do with the paranormal than you're team (who aren't with you most of the time) realise. Through a mixture of visions, phone messages, radio communication and laptops, you'll learn more about the man you are after (Paxton Fettel) and the mysterious figure of Alma, who's role becomes clear towards the end. All in all, it's hard to say much about it, other than the fact that it draws you in well and keeps the tension and intrigue going throughout.
Graphics - 8/10
Onto the graphics, and I have to say that there is a mix between stunning visual effects and somewhat lazy textures. For the most part and arguably the parts that matter the most, the visual effects are stunning. Character models are extremely detailed and the blood, vapour trails, explosions and bullet holes that will appear after most of your firefights are a joy to behold and add greatly to the cinematic nature of the battles. The guns are well modelled and the environments are generally very realistic.
However, oddly there is some lazy texturing in places such as long distance buildings and outside views from the inside of a building. The grass and buildings in these situations have a very low amount of detail. It is an odd thing, as most of the close environments have superb lighting and shadows that surpass anything else out at the moment. Smoke and particle effects are also excellent, but it's also worth pointing out that environments are all urban and fairly grey and dark. There is plenty of colour too, but many of the environments feel a little too similar to each other - the office building, the industrial complex, the research facility all give off the same vibe. Whilst this ties in to the story, it's a shame the environments themselves aren't a little more varied.
Gameplay - 9/10
Now as with all of my reviews, I'll say again that this is the most important facet of any game. You'll be pleased to hear that FEAR doesn't disappoint here and gives an amazing mix of fast kinetic gun battles and tension building trips through deserted (or so you thought) office buildings and the like. I think it really does give a good balance between fighting enemies and walking parts with no enemies to kill, but with plenty of scary visions and so on. Unfortunately, one of the things that somewhat kills the tension factor at times is the radio chatter of the clone soldiers. They will always radio a warning upon approach, so you know to expect trouble around the next corner. Despite this though, there are a few moments during the game where you will jump if the sound is up - was it just a paint can, or is there something more to it?!
The most satisfying part of the gameplay is undoubtedly the slow-mo abilities (to represent your increased reflexes) and in a Max Payne type of way, there's nothing quite like hitting that button and watching that grenade go off in slow-mo. Explosions provide satisfying ripple effects, bodies explode with a nice accurate shotgun blast to the head. Bodies fly around realistically with excellent ragdoll physics, glass shatters, but most importantly, enemies really do react to you. You could argue that slow-mo makes it too easy, and though it takes some challenge away from the game even on the Extreme difficulty setting, it provides endless fun!
The AI is quite frankly fantastic. They all work together in teams, providing covering fire for each other, radioing options around, throwing grenades to flush you out and attempting to flank you, which is often highly successful despite the enclosed environments that permeate much of the game. Though there are only a few different types of enemies, all prove worthy adversaries. There are several times when they'll have you genuinely worried about their next move and unaware of what they might do next. They dive for cover, and never let themselves be easy targets. The single player is a little too short (around 10 hours) but provides a good mix of tough firefights and scares. It is however mighty difficult on the higher difficulty settings and without slow mo, some of the enemies provide a stern challenge.
All of the weapons are varied and well spaced throughout each level, so none feel under utilised. They are all capable of ripping through different types of enemies and with only being able to hold 3 weapons at a time, they each present a good case for being chosen! Overall, the game is paced well and the AI is great. It suffers a little from repetitive enemies and linear play, but the fun factor of the gun play and slow mo more make this one not to miss.
Sound - 10/10
The sound in this game is truly top-notch. The ambient sounds and music set the tone beautifully and are never over-done or so loud that is takes you out of the playing experience. Guns and speech is well done and bullets ping off walls, metal and sparks fly and enemies shout to each other, which often adds to the chaos of the situation. Everything is done right, and though there is some swearing in it, it doesn't sound too out of place. 5.1 speakers greatly enhance the experience, and if you haven't got some yet, I urge you to for this game.
Multiplayer/Replayability - 7/10
I personally love the multiplayer - it's fast paced and has all of the usual Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and CTF modes. It also incorporates slow-mo in the form of a pick up which gives an interesting twist to the regular game types. The maps are well balanced and though I haven't had a chance to master them all yet, they are relatively varied and the weapon pick-ups well spread. It won't be for everyone due to the unbalanced nature in power of the weapons and somewhat crazy melee attacks, but for me, it provides a welcome addition to a single player experience that whilst replayable due to the different difficulty settings, suffers from being too short. I also think this is the sort of game you'll get the most out of on the first play through, and hence the slightly lower score for replay value.
In conclusion, this one is definitely worth picking up and keeping. The one real gripe is the length and even that shouldn't detract too much from what is otherwise an incredibly fun and tense single player. Add to that the frenetic nature and fast pace of multiplayer, and you have a must-buy that shouldn't disappoint.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/24/05
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