FEAR Review

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Graphics: 9.5
Sound : 9.5
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : 9.0
Overall : 9.3
Review by Dan Friedman
F.E.A.R. is one of 2005’s most anticipated releases. The developer Monolith is well known for fantastic games such as the No One Lives Forever series, while F.E.A.R. is their first horror first-person shooter, which was developed only for the PC. The title of the game—besides obviously wanting to scare you—is also an acronym for ‘First Encounter Assault Recon’ task force. F.E.A.R. are a secret force that deals with paranormal phenomena. In this first-person shooter, you become the new point man (what else?) who’s tasked with stopping a military experiment that’s gone bad. Your mission is to stop an army of cloned soldiers, controlled by a psychic commander named Paxton Fettel, who used to be an army officer.

In the very first level of the game (the levels in F.E.A.R. are called ‘intervals’), you only find a body and a few ghosts—it’s sort of a tutorial that shows you the basic moves within the game. Then, after this, you are accompanied by a swat team called SFOD-D team, only to see them die very early in the stage, leaving you alone to finish the job at hand. After that you meet some of the soldiers you will be fighting alongside during the game. The game’s story progresses from there, but ultimately it offers a somewhat basic plot, although the developers had promised a great, new, and intriguing storyline.

In the game, as the plot suggests, there are a lot of psychic phenomena you can encounter as you progress. F.E.A.R. is inspired by Japanese horror movies (mainly The Ring.), and it is presented through creepy sound effects and music, and abrupt noises and lights that tend to spook you at times, along with mysterious characters who suddenly walk out in front of you, only to disappear swiftly behind a corner—or even right before your eyes. Every now and then, a spine-chilling little girl named Alma appears. At first she just wants to scare you, but later on she shows you her strengths; Alma can mess with people’s heads or even cause them to explode—using only her mind. The scarier parts of the game are portrayed effectively, and some players will certainly react to the game’s eerie atmosphere.

You can save the game whenever you want, but there are also plenty of checkpoints where the game is automatically saved. During the game’s 11 sections, you can collect up to 10 medkits, and use them whenever you need to restore 50 points of your health (from each kit). The in-game weaponry is rather basic, and includes a pistol, a submachine gun, a shotgun, and a rocket launcher. The most appealing gun is the ‘penetrator’ (also known as the nailgun), which fires high-velocity nails into enemies and can even pin them to walls. You can also kick enemies, as well as punch them or hit them with your rifle butt. You can only carry three weapons at a time, which forces you to choose the best ones for you. Another feature that can help you in the game is called ‘Slowmo’, which is similar to Max Payne’s infamous ‘bullet time’ feature. It basically slows down time for other on-screen characters, allowing you quicker movement than them, which obviously gives you a huge temporary advantage. During Slowmo, you can outwit the enemy’s A.I., while also taking a few seconds to enjoy the great scenery and explosions that the game engine provides.

After finishing the single-player mode, which is about 10-12 hours long, you can dive straight into the multiplayer part of F.E.A.R., which is also a lot of fun; it supports up to 16 players, in which you can play the regular Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. The good news is that the players can also use Slowmo, which is a worthy addition. You can also use the opportunity granted by physically punching, kicking, and pistol-whipping your enemies. The multiplayer component is extremely fast, which means you can kill and be killed in equal amounts.

The enemy A.I. in F.E.A.R. is great and, along with the excellent graphics engine and wonderful sound, you can play through many intensely enjoyable combat scenes. Most of the scenery explodes around you when impacted by bullets (like shattering wood, breaking windows, and parts of walls splatter all over), and the sound is certainly complementary to the general feeling of the battle scenes. The game’s central narrative is a little disappointing, and in no way as good as had been promised; it’s delivered, as it is, via predictable plot routes like in-game movies, voicemail messages, and laptop downloads. But the fantastic graphics, sound, and firefights all blend to make F.E.A.R. an excellent game, though in order to enjoy the graphics and the game to its fullest, you must have a high-end computer system. In closing, F.E.A.R. is definitely one of this year’s best games.