Review by kiriyama2

"An almost perfect melding of horror and action"

A couple of years ago I decided that it was time to buy myself a new computer, as my old one was continually being an incompetent mess. As I went to the local Best Buy to buy this computer I had decided that I would also buy a game or two to go along with my new system. One of the ones I decided on was F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon, I had wanted to play this game since I'd heard about it, but my computer at the time had troubles playing Call of Duty, so that was out. Fortunately this new laptop of mine was able to play the game, not at the best settings, but still, I'd rather play it on less than perfect settings than not playing it at all. Also at the time, I did not know there were console versions in the works. Point being, F.E.A.R. was and is, one of the more entertaining shooters I've played on the PC.

At the start of F.E.A.R. a man named Paxton Fettel, takes control of a battalion of psychically controlled soldiers. As Fettel merely munches on a security guards organs your tossed headlong into the briefing. You control the point man of the organization F.E.A.R. a government funded military squad who specializes in paranormal phenomena. The F.E.A.R. team's mission is to take out Fettel, and by that same effect the psychic controlled soldiers. Aiding the F.E.A.R. team is a detachment of Delta Forces soldiers, not that it matters, shortly into the game, those accompanying you die a harsh death. What starts out as a relatively straightforward story begins to spiral into a more convoluted story ripe with conspiracy, genetic experimentation, and paranormal happenstance! Making things a tad more complicated than finding and whacking Fettel is this little girl who appears intermittently. But what possible connection could she possibly have with Fettel and his “Replica” army? What I like about the story is the fact that it's not force fed to you, it gradually reveals itself, and at times you actually have to hunt down laptops and blinking phones to get some parts of the story. It's a nice change, and refreshing when you consider the usual sort of story that FPS games have is the marine in space, or some military squad at war in Asia. Sure you play as a military squad, but its different in that there's some horror elements to it.

Graphically the game was amazing, however the game is starting to show its age. However I still think that it's a nice looking game. Granted I was not able to run at the highest settings (I had to run it around the medium settings), it still looked pretty amazing. What I liked about them was the fact that shooting the walls tore large chunks out of them, and if you ran up and shot someone with a shotgun they would get torn in half, or would be turned into a fine bloody mist. Also, an amusing thing about the graphics is, aside from turning people into bloody mists, is the fact that you blow off individual limbs. One of the other things you can do is you can actually pin people to the walls, ceiling or floor using this spike gun (I don't know its official name) you acquire early in the game. However, the one aspect of the graphics that is really, really poor is the environments. They are quite drab. For pretty much all of the game your running through the same office and industrial environments. It also doesn't help that they are the same consistently grey color for most of the proceedings. To be honest, I thought I was playing a better, and somewhat prettier version of Breakdown. You see, sometimes F.E.A.R. will break up the monotony of the drab corridors by throwing you into a room with blood smeared along the walls, floors, and dripping from the roof. Also on occasion your main character will hallucinate and run through different hallways, that have blood hanging in the air above your head. Or you'll be tossed in a pitch black room that bursts into flames. I do like the character models though, sure they are commandos, but I like ‘em for the fact that you can, quite literally, blow them to pieces. However they are not with their little quirks. Some time into the game you acquire a laser rifle that can turn the soldiers into skeletons. While it looks nice, a lot of times when I used it the corpse-to-be's neck seemed to elongate before dying. It's just a minor glitch that I found odd, amusing, but odd.

Audio is both a blessing and a curse in this game. One the one hand, the atmospheric stuff is great, little audio cues like the crackle of your radio, or a hushed whisper type of sound, that stuff is great. However the weapons sounds are really quite underpowered sounding. The voice acting is really quite good in this game, with the exception of the generic soldier enemies they sound quite good. I have nothing against the generic soldiers mind you, I just didn't particularly care for them. I also enjoyed the news reports that played on some of the radios, and the almost non-existent music. I just like the games that actually use the audio to set up a nice atmospheric atmosphere.

While initially F.E.A.R. may seem like your generic run of the mill PC shooter it sets itself apart with the wonderful slow motion aspect. The F.E.A.R. point man has “enhanced reflexes” that makes it so he can move noticeably faster than the enemy soldiers (slow motion). While this is not an entirely new thing in gaming it is a nice little addition that makes it better than scores of other shooters. Another thing that sets this apart is the fact that your character will suffer from visions, like people walking a short ways away from him, only to fall into a pile of ashes as you approach the person. Or seeing a savaged man strapped to a chair missing parts of his head, or being tossed into a hospital hallway where the little girl walks along the roof as blood hangs suspended in the air. Its these segments that really make F.E.A.R. a pretty excellent shooter. However, the game sadly is not all great. The problem I have with the game is the fact that its pretty much the same four gunfights repeated throughout the majority of the game, only with slight increases in difficulty to shake things up a bit.

If it weren't for the addition of the slow-mo the game would have definitely tanked and fell to the pits of horrible game design. Another thing I really didn't care for was the poorly implemented kung-fu gimmick. You see, you can go empty-handed and try to beat down the replica forces, the problem with this is, if you do try to go and engage in fisticuffs is that you are always attacked in groups of no less than three, and the Replica soldiers seem to have the keen sense of knowing where the hell you are even if your perfectly hidden. There's only really one or two moves you can do that are worth a damn, but they're so damned hard to do that it's easier just to blast them to hell using whatever gun you have on hand. However that is one thing the game has going for it, the enemies are fiendishly smart. Sure they still stand and scream “grenade!” when you throw one instead of just running, but every game does that. Still despite the unintuitive gameplay I really do enjoy the game.

There's also the inclusion of a multiplayer mode, but I think saying a PC FPS has a multiplayer is like saying it comes in a box and has a manual. Of course these are the standard deathmatch, capture the flag style of game types. However, there are also the variations that make use of the “reflex time” slow-mo aspect of the game. The modes are moderately entertaining, and especially worth mention now for the fact that the multiplayer is available free for download. But then again the multiplayer doesn't set the world of competitive multiplayer ablaze. Still it was a nice enough addition.

I really do like this game. I also think that this is the best game Monolith has produced. Sure Condemned may have a better atmospheric horror vibe, F.E.A.R. just really is a good game. I loved it back in 2006 where I shelled out forty dollars, and I love it now where you can buy it and the two expansions for about thirty. Also the games requirements aren't so demanding, you should be able to play it on most any system at decent enough settings without any major slow down. It's definitely worth playing just for the nice horror atmosphere the game goes to establish. Granted its not the most scary of horror games (indeed a number of the scares the game goes with are cheap jumps, like something falling off a shelf), but it is a tense game. Also if your willing to overlook the repetitive combat the game really is quite fun.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/17/08

Game Release: F.E.A.R. (US, 10/17/05)

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