Review by sfcalimari

"an action-packed and very fun game, but certainly a bit watered down"

Perseus Mandate

Another year, another FEAR expansion. What always set FEAR apart from the other 4.3 million fps games for pc was its slow-mo and also its unique mesh of action with horror movie-style storytelling. But what dragged FEAR down was repetitive levels and having to face the same types of enemies and tactics 500 times in a row. Extraction Point had a bit more level and weaponry variety, but was shorter and the story was a bit watered down. So how does Perseus Mandate stack up? Pretty well overall.

Perseus Mandate has you as a different character than the "Point Man" you played in FEAR and Extraction Point. This time you're some soldier dude from a different organization sent into the same area that Point Man was sent into. Yeah, there's not much explanation of what your job is. Some guy tells you "go in there!" or something and the next thing you know you're under fire from replica soldiers.

This kind of sums up the game really. The story and atmosphere elements that were so strong in FEAR have really been watered down, but the frenetic action has been kept in place, and in many places the game feels a lot more intense and action-packed than the previous installments.

Gameplay

Basically the gameplay is still the same as FEAR. For some unexplained reason you have the same slow-mo powers that Point Man did, which is fine because the slow-mo is what sets this game apart. It never gets old to carefully line up a shotgun blast and turn your enemy into a cloud of dust. The same great ragdoll effects are here. The only real change I can think of is that you get to use a couple of new weapons. One is an assault rifle with a scope which isn't that different from the one you've been using since FEAR, although it is noticeably more powerful. Also there's a "lightning bolt" gun which shoots out a bolt that bounces from one enemy to any nearby enemies. It's not terribly useful or powerful and as usual you only get a tiny bit of ammunition for it.

As for levels, well again FEAR was great but the levels were ridiculously repetitive sometimes. Perseus Mandate has a bit more level variety, which keeps things fresher. Some of the underground levels are really well done and visually interesting, but unfortunately these are usually empty of enemies. You'll mainly be fighting in the sorts of levels you saw in the previous games--laboratories, tunnels, office buildings, etc. There could have been a bit more variety and honestly couldn't they try to set up some large outdoors areas for a change? Oh well.

As for the type of gameplay you encounter, well again if you've played FEAR you won't see much new here. You move along a linear corridor, encounter enemies, fight them, then move on. Sometimes you will need to hunt for a switch or a door so you can progress. And sometimes you'll be wandering down some corridor and something extremely freaky but predictable will happen. Rule #4,653 of horror movies: if you are all alone in a desolate place and the music suddenly starts sounding creepy and forboding, something is about to jump out at you.

And how about the enemies? Well again you will be fighting all the enemy types you have seen before, with a few new ones. The main new type is the Nightcrawlers, who are mysterious mercenaries. Honestly they are exactly like the replica soldiers you have been blasting away since FEAR. They look about the same, behave the same during combat, and even cuss and shout the same as the replicas. So nothing really new here, just kind of a palette swap. For one thing they don't fight alongside the heavy armor troopers that the replicas have, and those heavy armor types were often the most challenging enemies to face, so in a way the Nightcrawlers are maybe on the whole easier to deal with, which is a bit weak. They do however have some guys who are able to dash around quickly and evade your bullets, kind of like the Matrix or something. They're very challenging to beat and a little annoying, good luck.

One thing that does stand out is that the enemy AI seems dumber than in earlier games. The enemies don't really try to do much other than hide behind cover or rush at you firing wildly. They don't try to flank you by using a side passage you didn't know about, as sometimes happens in FEAR or Extraction Point. Part of this issue is probably that the levels are so linear that maybe the enemies don't have any options to move around laterally. Also the enemies never seem to react when you use your flashlight—one of the most intense things about FEAR or EP was that enemies would spot you if you used your light. So overall the enemies are still pretty tough and seem to outnumber you even more than in previous games, so the game is very intense...it's just that the enemy AI doesn't have the kind of polish that made gameplay stand out in the previous installments.

Graphics

Yes, the graphics are noticeably worse than even FEAR. Yes, Perseus Mandate just came out in November 2007, and FEAR came out in 2005. I played through FEAR for the first time just before playing Perseus Mandate, and I definitely noticed that FEAR looks a lot more polished. Perseus Mandate does not look horrible, just a bit less polished and dated. But it is odd that I can run a brand new game at max settings and it looks worse than when I play two-year-old FEAR on medium settings.

Sound

The same eerie sound effects and ambient music as in FEAR. The sound and music really set the mood. I also liked the "action" music that plays whenever you are spotted by the enemy and get into a massive firefight, it seems a bit more intense than the previous FEAR games.

Story

Well kind of a weak point here. FEAR was a lot of fun mainly because of the eerie and fairly compelling story. Perseus Mandate has a story but honestly it just seems a bit thrown together, and some of the enemy NPC characters are just silly. You won't really learn much from this game, so again the main point is blasting baddies, not so much getting involved in a compelling storyline.

Conclusion

Again, I state that this game is just pure action. If you are dying for more FEAR but are getting tired of replaying the other FEAR games, and you want some new levels to play in, this is a good game to get. It won't amaze you like playing FEAR for the first time did, and it's mostly just a rehash of levels and gameplay you've seen in FEAR and EP, but it's fun enough and the action is fast and furious enough to warrant a playthrough. I wouldn't quite say that it is worth the full $30 it is being sold for now, so maybe $20 is a rather better price for it.

So I would have to give this game a 7. It's not bad, and it's a blast to play through, it's just not as great as it could have been, and it's definitely not as great as the original FEAR.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/29/07

Game Release: F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate (US, 11/06/07)


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