First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R.) Review – The scariest part about this game is unintentional.


Sierra, Day 1, Monolith


When FEAR was first released for the PC, it was met with great critical praise for its unique gameplay and scare tactics, and when the Xbox 360 version was released, it was met with still good, yet slightly lower scores. In April last year, Day 1 studios released the Ps3 version of FEAR. While still scary, the problems that plagued the other 2 versions, in addition with a crappy port, FEAR for the Playstation 3, although still decent, is a big disappointment.

You play as a nameless operative for the government agency called F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon). Your first gig with this new job of you, has you tracking down a man named Paxton Fettel, some cannibalistic psycho who is controlling an army of clone soldiers, and is wreaking havoc in some sort of facility. When you are sent in to the area, almost instantly this little girl shows up and kills your crew. Throughout the game, all sorts of paranormal activities occur around you, and somehow you, Fettel, and the little girl are all connected.

At times, this game will scare the hell out of you. You’ll be walking down a darkened corridor, all is quiet, and then when you turn around, something is right on your ass, and you’ll have no idea how long its been there. Other times, you’ll see a shadow move, and when you go to it, you’ll find nothing there. Lights will shatter, weird ghostly figures will appear out of nowhere, and it’s almost like playing the Japanese version of the Ring. It’s a real treat to play this game at 3AM with the lights out.

You may have seen my 3.5 score for the story, so you know that I didn’t enjoy it too much. Aside from the creepiness, nothing really makes sense, and the things that do make sense, are laughable and very cliche and generic. The characters are very shallow, and one of them actually made me wish he was real, just so I could knock him out.

This character really doesn’t fit in very well, and it makes everything seems like a big joke. He plays a big role in the outcome of things, which downright pisses me off.

Even after completing the game, I’m left completely confused on what the hell happened. The only way that the story is told is through odd conversations with Fettel, which are confusing as hell, and through voice messages on phones that seem like they have no connection to you, and what makes things worse is that they are impossible to hear if the volume isn’t on FULL. The way that the story is presented is quite poor, and it’s a shame, because it had potential.

What does make FEAR shine, is in its gameplay. The enemy artificial intelligence is quite advanced. These guys will yell out tactics to each other, they will point out your location, and a few of them will break off and try to flank. They have superb aiming as well. They keep FEAR a real challenge the whole way through. Weapon selection isn’t vast, but the weapons are very well designed. Auto maching guns, snipers, shotguns, rocket launchers, and even the dual pistols are all a blast to fire with. Monolith is a very talented studio, and they’ve proven that here.

What makes FEAR even more unique is the ability to slow down time. The effects here are excellent, although unrealistic. When you blast a guy with a shotgun in slowmo, he just explodes, and it’s really cool. Your slowmo bar recharges frequently, and it’s a tactic you’ll use plenty.

Every level is very similar, and poorly designed. You’ll be running around aimlessly plenty of times (HL 2 syndrome, as I called it in my Dark Sector review). All the missions are very similar, with poorly planned out objectives that are kind of stupid in some situations. FEAR gets horrifyingly repetitive, as every mission is almost exactly the same. I understand that 90% of the game takes place in the same building, but some variety would be enjoyed. The enemies, although vary a little, are similar with their weapons and tactics. Every firefight feels exactly the same.

The very best part of FEAR is its sound design. Aside from the voice acting, and phone messages, the sound here is very well done. Guns sound excellent and realistic, and enemies getting hit sound like real. It’s almost as if the developer recorded people getting shot. The girl’s laugh is also presented quite good, and it’s the signature of the game.

The 360 and PC versions of the game looked good. It’s a pity the Ps3 version doesn’t look good at all. Textures are bland, edges are jaggy, the framerate drops, faces look odd, and animations are poor. Nothing looks relatively like a Ps3 game here. It’s one of the worst looking shooters this generation, and it would only be acceptable on the original Xbox or the Ps2.

The flashlight plays a huge part of FEAR. You will need to illuminate dark areas, enemies will know you are there if they see your light, and it’s your only real companion in the game. If it’s so important, why are the lighting effects so bad? Nothing creates shadows, all lights are the same color, and it makes everything look very ugly and bland.

The single player campaign is of good length. It will take you anywhere from 7 – 10 hours. The replay value really just depends on how much you enjoyed it. Instant action is just an arcade mode that pits you against bots, with great AI, and it can be fun when you aren’t in the mood to be scared.

Multiplayer is a bit of a mixed bag. Weapons are fun to use, but slo motion can’t be used. The map selection is slim, and so are the game modes. It can be fun, but after a few hours, you’ll have done everything you want to do. There is no voice chat, and the graphics are even of worse quality.

FEAR is scary, and can be fun at times. However, this terrible port’s fun is very slim at times. The story is bad and laughable, enemies repeat, as do levels and objectives. Why spend your time on this, when Monolith’s Condemned 2 is much more scary and unique, and Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4 is much more fun. FEAR for the Ps3 isn’t bad, but it isn’t very good.

~ by smithbubbajones on June 1, 2008.

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