As a member of First Encounter Assault Recon, or F.E.A.R an elite military squad who were formed for the specific purpose of dealing with strange, unsolvable or supernatural case you have been sent on your first assignment. It seems that a cannibalistic psychopath has assembled an army of cloned super soldiers and you have been sent in to eliminate the threat and capture the leader. On the surface this seems like a generic, by the numbers FPS game but after playing for a couple of minutes you’ll realise that it is anything but. The thing that sets F.E.A.R apart from the plethora of other first person shooters on the market is all of the unnatural goings on you experience, during your campaign you realise that everything is not as it seems, and that the clones may not be the only thing you are fighting. F.E.A.R brings the scary element to the game really well, and can get pretty creepy at times. It does a lot to keep you feeling tense, you will see shadows, go to investigate and there will not be anything there. Sounds of people speaking emanate from other rooms but when you go in it is empty. Ghostly figures appear out of nowhere, and disappear just as quickly. During the game you feel paranoid, paranoid that you are being followed and paranoid that you are being watched. This leaves you on the edge of your seat throughout the campaign, and even when walking through an empty corridor you still feel a sense of urgency, knowing that at any second something could jump out of the shadows or grab you from behind.
When you are not fighting your fear you also have an army of clones to deal with, which is done by blasting away whatever moves. The shooting mechanics in the game are a real treat. The controls just feel right and allow you to easily select a weapon, navigate around and fire accurately.
Speaking of weapons the guns featured range from the generic FPS arsenal including pistols, machine guns, shotguns and rocket launchers to some more interesting selections such as proximity mines, cannons and my personal favourite, Particle gun. When this bad boy hits anything in its path is vaporised, leaving only the remains of your victims (Ouch sounds nasty – Ed). If you find yourself surrounded by enemies, or low on health you can give yourself an advantage in the form of SlowMo. By hitting the L1 button SlowMo is activated. Slowing down everything on the screen, allowing you to run and shoot faster than your enemies and dodge bullets to avoid harm. There is a downside to this however. The amount of SlowMo time that you have left is measure by a gauge, when the gauge runs out you everything returns to normal speed, so if you are amongst a group of enemies it will be easy for them to take you down. While not a particularly unique feature SlowMo is still fun to use, and gives you a much needed edge in an intense fire fight. And it is an advantage that you will need. It is all too common these days for FPS aficionados to blast through a game all guns blazing and the games AI will do nothing to stop them, and just let themselves get killed. If you were planning on doing that with F.E.A.R then I am afraid that you are out of luck. The AI in the game is, at times, brutal. Enemies will run for cover, try to ambush you and even communicate with each other. When one sees you coming that will inform the other members of their squad of your presence, and then they will prepare to take you down. Depending on the situation they will react differently, an unharmed squad will form up and shout your whereabouts and commands to each other. If you are hiding behind cover someone will flush you out with a grenade while the others lay in wait, ready to pounce as soon as you are in the open. If their numbers are smaller however they will try to call for back up, or panic and shoot aimlessly as they run to escape to cover. It is a refreshing change to be challenge by your digital opponents, you have to choose when to use which weapon, when you use SlowMo, prioritise targets and decide when you go on the offensive or when you should run for cover and re group. The enemies are smart, they know where you are and they know what to do so to beat them, you will need to play smart.
The Campaign of the game of the game is good, spanning over 11 chapters, each lasting roughly 30 minutes to an hour. However during these missions there is not a lot of variation; most of the game is you running down a narrow corridor, or through a dark office. This doesn’t hurt the game but it would have been nice to see some variation in the environments, or some different modes of play. The story is pretty forgettable, and at times downright confusing. After the first couple of missions it gets hard to follow what is going on. Instead of following any sort of coherent story line you will be more concerned with finding the next group of bad guys, or looking for the next supernatural scare. When you are done with the story of F.E.A.R and just want some baddie blasting goodness then you can jump in to an instant action mission. These missions allow you to enter a map filled with troopers and fight them. No story line, no creepiness. Just you, your guns and a level full of bots to kill. Depending on the amount of enemies you kill, and the time you manage to survive you will be entered on to the online leader boards, where you can pit your self against other players online. This is good if you need a break from the campaign mode, or just want a quick blast of action.
This is not the only way that the online is used though, F.E.A.R offers an online multiplayer mode that lets you test your skills against other online players in the usual Death match, team death match, elimination and capture the flag modes. The game tries to put its own spin on these game types by adding SlowMo versions of each one. Essentially allowing you to find a pickup that recharges your SlowMo gauge and use it against other people online, it is implemented well but doesn’t really do anything to change the game modes in any major way. A problem with the online is that there is no voice chat functionality, which may not affect the gameplay too much but for the more tactically minded player who likes to communicate with their team mates it is a big turn off. Especially in the capture the flag mode, where it is important to use some sort of strategy. Still, if you liked the shooting gameplay of the single player game then you will have a blast online.
The graphical side of the game, while good will not do anything that will blow you away. There are some great lighting effects and some nice character models and animation but everything else is pretty bad. The environments are repetitive, and the textures are blurred and objects in the environment look dated. Something that frustrated me during the game was that when you shoot at something like a wall or an object that your enemies are hiding behind a cloud of dust shoots in to the air. While this is a nice effect you are unable to see past it, making you blind to the whereabouts of your enemies. The flow of the gameplay is often ruined by load screens, which wouldn’t have been so bad had they not taken so long to pass. Every time the game needs to load something you are looking at any where up to a minute a time. The games audio on the other hand I though was superb. Eerie and atmospheric it really helped raise the tension and draw you in to the game. There were some great sound effects and the voices coming from the ghosts really made the game scarier.
Overall F.E.A.R is a game that shouldn’t be missed. While it is hampered by a weak story, long load times and less than great graphics it is likely that you will get tonnes of enjoyment out of playing it. The campaign is fun and atmospheric and the combat will make you fall in love with the online play. Giving you one of the best games available for the Playstation 3, and a title that will keep you playing for a long time.
Originally Written By: Liam Kenna