F.E.A.R Xbox 360 Review
“Everything looks better in slow motion” they say but anyone that has ever watched the great Dave Chappelle at work on Chappelle’s Show will know that is not always necessarily true. You have to admit he was right though… along with him taking that trip to the loo there does seems to be to far too many games out there that overuse the feature. Thankfully there are a few games that know how to use it correctly and any PC gamer with a good rig will gladly sit you down and tell you how great F.E.A.R was upon its initial PC release. Now with the console release hitting store shelves we are sure 360 owners will soon be the one with the tale to tell.
Being a highly story driven game its best to not bring up anything about the script or talk about any of the levels in the game; I will however try and explain how the game flows and a little bit about the setting. F.E.A.R is all about psychology horror… the developers label it as a horror you cannot kill and as such it supposedly gets to you much more than just having monsters continually running at you in the likes of Doom3. Of course the little girl you see on the box art is only the start of these scare tactics and seeing her out of the corner of your eye at points throughout the game is only the beginning of the developers’ trying to mess with your mind. In the game you play a rookie soldier who has recently joined a team called First Encounter Assault Recon – hence the game’s name! However, even though you are part of this team you spend your whole time in the game fighting the hoard of enemies alone.
The game puts a lot of emphases on weapons – although, as is the case with a lot of shooters these days it only allows you to carry a limited amount (three) of them at once. It does however choose to stay with the old health pack method to heal yourself instead of the regenerative health approach. Although you are limited to holding three guns at one time there is always lots of ammo to pick up so you will never be without a three digit number sitting in the corner of your screen ready to take your foes apart with. The selection of weapons is your standard FPS affair with shotguns, machineguns, rifles, rail-guns, grenades and more appearing… none of the guns match up to the real life versions of the weapons though and all have their own little twists to make them unique to the game.
Smart enemy movement is one of the game’s selling points and even on the lower difficulty settings you will need to think before you take on a group on enemies. If you dive straight in a room with a run-and-gun approach you will most likely die as the game’s AI has been designed so the enemies think as a team. As such they will try their best to flank you and lay down covering fire to keep you pinned down. Of course you have the ability to slow down time which will keep the odds tilted slightly in your favour, but tactics are still needed to outwit groups of bad guys.
All multiplayer options for the game are only playable online which means you have got to be subscribed to Xbox Live Gold to take part in multiplayer fun. Should you choose to jump online you have the option to play eight modes such as Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Elimination. To differentiate itself from other shooters the slow-mo mechanics of the main game are also on show in three separate multiplayer modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and CTF) which aid in making it a unique experience. The slow mo works differently than in the main game as when it is activated by a player, everyone else’s time slows down while they carry on as normal. That means the player that has activated has the jump on everyone else on the map as he/she is now much quicker. However, when they activate slow mo they light up like a beacon on everyone else’s HUD meaning they are easy to find. If the slow mo player then dies, he drops the item which lets him do the slow mo, letting someone else pick it up and the whole process begins again. All in all it is a nice unique mode that should offer some fun once there is an online company to support it.
The game also makes excellent use of Gamerpoints and Achievements, giving them out fairly as you advance through the game on multiple difficulties. One Achievement which I found particularly interesting was labelled “Real-Time.” You are only awarded it if you play though a whole campaign without using the game’s trademark slow-mo feature. It is probably not an Achievement most will take the time to unlock but it is the smart use of Achievements like this that infinitely adds to the game’s replay value.
Despite this 360 release coming well over a year on from its PC counterpart F.E.A.R is still every bit the eye catching title it was this time last year. However, it is not the character models and textures that are a treat to the eyes – although a high amount of polygons used on them – it is instead the multitude of amazing particle effect included that liven up battles. This is particularly evident when you switch into the slow motion mode and see all those little extras dazzlingly emblazoned across your screen. The game’s lighting it also a big step up from the PC release making everything look that bit better. Very little colour is used in the environments and you could get bored of seeing concrete wall after concrete wall, if it was not for partially destructive environments on show which aid in helping everything look believable. The game’s framerate seems to remain stable at almost all times only slowing down slightly when you are manically shooting at a massive, unrelenting hoard of enemies.
Audio is also another huge plus point for the game. It may be a weird thing to say but everything in the game seems to have a sound. Let me explain… in many other FPS’s you get the sound of the gun being fired and the sound of an impact but in F.E.A.R is seems like you get so much more. Instead of just shooting glass and hearing it shatter you also hear it hit the ground. You also hear spent cartridges hit the ground as you unload a round into enemies nearby with each bullet that misses him possibly blowing a lump of wood to pieces that sat behind him. If you go into slow-mo then all the above is heard with a slower echo-filled heavy bass sound which is highly engrossing; also while in slow-mo the bad guy’s bullets zooming by you is another particularly nice feature. Another great touch is that the game has many points where it purposely slows down the pace, making you walk through corridors without anyone to shoot thus quieting everything down. As you then turn corner after corner you get an unnerving feeling in the pit of your stomach as you know something is just about to happen until BAM everything kicks of again. Thankfully this technique is not overused and really does catch you off guard every time.
All in all, F.E.A.R is a fantastic title and a great edition to the 360’s growing collection of first person shooters. A sign of a great game is one that has many memorable moments that stay with you long after the credits roll and F.E.A.R is literally filled to the brim with those. When you accompany this with the fact that the game is genuinely scary – particularly when connected to a good sound system – you really have got something very special. The only reason not to add this to your 360 collection is if you already played it on PC during the course of the last year. But if you did play it already we bet you had one hell of a great time and now thanks to this 360 release many more people have a chance to do the same.
It may be a year-old game but that does not stop it from being one of the 360’s best shooters.
8.5 out of 10