You are a First Encounter Assault Recon, an elite soldier trained to deal with unusual situations others can’t even imagine. When an escaped convict gets a little hungry, the government sends in a Special Forces team, but after they are mysteriously obliterated they have no choice other than to send you in to investigate. Get ready to delve into a world full of furious gunfights, massive explosions, ravenous cannibals, heavily equipped robots and freakishly violent monsters.
The graphics in F.E.A.R. are incredible to say the least. The amount of detail that has gone into this game is incredible, but bare in mind that all great things come at a cost. You will need an extremely high-end machine to be able to run this game on anything better than medium settings, and your computer will still have to be very good to run on the lower settings. Monolith has been rather nice to put in a large amount of options so you can make the game look as good (or bad) as you like.
The physics in this game are amazing; pretty much anything can be knocked over, and the enemies all have rag doll physics, which is great fun when you get in close with a strong weapon. The lighting (Or absence of it) is equally impressive and really helps set the tone of the game, and also really forces you to use the flashlight often, which isn’t at all tedious like you would think. Did I mention that this game was incredibly gory? Given that you are holding a powerful enough weapon, you are able to shoot entire limbs off the people who you don’t like and watch the blood splatter realistically all over the floor and walls. I even managed to blast one guy clean in half with the shotgun.
I’m saving the best ’till last here- the character models. I’ll leave it at that, because they really have to be seen to be believed. Just look out for Norman Mapes. Oh and by the way, realistic blood splatter + rag doll physics + the nail gun is one hell of a combination.
F.E.A.R. is a first person shooter, and a cracking one at that. You start off with a pistol in your hands; ready to find out what is exactly going on at a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. It seems a paramilitary force of some kind has taken hostages, but has issued no demands, so you work your way through metallic corridors not knowing what you might find. The story is quite confusing when you start, and doesn’t really improve until the very end, and even then there are a few plot holes. But still, the story is not the main focus of the game, as you will soon find out.
The military-esque force will start attacking you with no remorse as soon as they see you, so you have no choice but to fight back. Luckily by then you will have picked up an SMG, and will soon come across more powerful and devastating weapons, which will leave your opponent in a large bloody mess. The A.I. in this game is very impressive; they will call for backup, issue commands, swear, negotiate tactics and even remark on how powerful you are. (All of which you can hear.) They are very aware of the environment around them, and will use it to their advantage. Often when you think you have wiped out the entire squad you will find more waiting to ambush you behind a corner. They will throw grenades at you if you try to snipe them off from a distance or wait for them to come and find you, but you will die a quick death if you just run into the middle of the room guns blazing as the damage is semi-realistic and you will go down after a few hits. In fact, if it weren’t for the reflex meter then it would be next to impossible to take down more than one enemy at a time.
What’s the reflex meter? Why it’s F.E.A.R.’s excuse for adding slow motion into the mix. When activated, you will move faster than usual, but the enemies and your surroundings will not be altered. This makes it much easier to take on larger groups of enemies or get out of tough situations. You only have a limited amount of reflex however, (Although you can upgrade the amount you can hold, as well as increase your maximum health by finding well hidden upgrades across the levels) so you will have to wait until it recharges before taking on any more bad guys. As a result of the intelligent A.I., a wide variety of weapons and slo-mo, the battles are tremendously fun and action packed, and will keep you coming back for more.
Speaking of bad guys, while there may not be much variety when you first begin, you will soon be spoiled with choice on which type of enemy you want to take out. Some of these foes will also be on opposite teams, which means you can sometimes find yourself in a three-way battle. There is a fair assortment of weapons to choose from, but you can only hold three at any one time, not including the three types of grenades, (Frag, Proximity and remote) obviously though you won’t have access to the more powerful weapons such as the Plasma Gun, a weapon capable of burning the flesh right off a victim leaving only his or her skeleton behind, until later on in the game.
As well as the fire fights featured in the game, there are also some mild, and some severe scares throughout the missions. Turning a corner in a darkly lit room is no longer the walk in the park it used to be in previous first person shooters as there could be literally anything hidden behind it, waiting for you. You’ll soon become familiar with the little girl who resembles the one from The Ring, and know that she is not a force to be reckoned with. Sometimes you can even scare yourself by knocking something over without realising and spinning around to see where the noise came from, only to find nothing there. Unfortunately though, some of the more subtle scares aren’t really frightful, probably because you know you could take it down with ease if it were a normal enemy, which is different to other horror games such as Resident Evil, where you are scared of every monster in the game and thus take extreme caution, which just sets you up for an even bigger scare when something jumps through a window. Another let down, although it was partially my fault was that sometimes you could completely miss a scare just by looking in the wrong direction, and despite not looking at it the sound affect will still play. Fortunately though the bigger scares do pay off and will often leave you on the edge of your seat… or off it completely.
The audio in a horror game can easily make or break the mood, and you’ll be pleased to know that it’s up to scratch in F.E.A.R. More than up to scratch actually- perfect. The voice acting is superb and is 100% believable, but the real prize goes to the soundtrack. The eerie music when walking down a dark corridor will send a shiver down your spine and the fast paced music when you stumble into a room of bad guys really gets you pumped up and ready for action. When entering into slo-mo everything is given a deeper sound with a slight echo and when sped back up to a normal pace after using your reflexes for a long time it sounds like everything is much more high pitched than usual. Each weapon has it’s own firing and reloading sound and the bullets give a realistic sound when ricocheting off metal or brick walls. Finally, nothing can beat the calls of an enemy proclaiming how you are just too powerful to handle.
Possibly F.E.A.R.’s weakest point is its lifespan. It will take most people around 15 hours to beat the game on normal on their first play through, but much more time could be spent searching for the health and reflex boosters if they wanted to. Multiplayer-wise the game is fun; it has three different game types to choose from; death match, team death match and capture the flag, all with the option to have slo-mo in them or not. How does the slo-mo work in multiplayer? It’s quite simple really. There is one reflex booster on the map (You can choose whether to have a navigator to show you where it is or not.) and whoever picks it up has to wait for it to charge. When complete, the player can activate it, sending everyone into slow motion. The difference however, is that the person who activated it moves at a greater speed than the other players. I’m glad to say that it works quite well and is a nice feature to set it apart from other multiplayer games.
Apart from the disappointing scares and the fact that it’s not very long I can’t find anything wrong with this game. The audio is perfect, the graphics are stunning (providing you have the right PC) and the gameplay is outstanding. Fighting the extremely smart A.I. is a joy and the Slo-Mo feature works like a charm. The difficulty of the game is never too hard or too easy and the story, while a bit confusing and not the most original is still above average. The entire game is an exceptional thing to behold and even if you cannot run it, you should buy it anyway just so you can brag to your friends that you own one of, if not the, best game of the year.