Nothing to FEAR
May 2, 2007 – Children can be spooky. Movies like The Shining, The Grudge, The Ring, and Damien can attest to this sentiment. Perhaps it is the twisting and corrupting of a symbol of innocence and innocuousness that frightens us so much, but seeing children in the role of aggressor generally spooks audiences. F.E.A.R. knows that and exploits that, crafting a spooky but fun experience for the PlayStation 3.
F.E.A.R. is actually another one of the latest ports to PlayStation 3, although it is admittedly one of the better ones, at least in terms of gameplay. A lot of the elements that made the game great didn’t survive the transition to Sony’s system, but the fun is still intact, and for anyone who hasn’t played any of the other versions, it will be sufficient. However, if you’ve tried the other versions, prepare to be a little disappointed.
F.E.A.R. cleverly stands for the First Encounter Assault Recon team, a team of government soldiers that deal with paranormal encounters. The assignment of the game is to tackle a cannibalistic psychic that can control an army of clones with his mind. During gameplay, your character, which is a member of the F.E.A.R. team, will get flashes of unsettling imagery and will also be subject to apparent “hallucinations” that add to the disturbing feel of the game. The story is cleverly told through various means, mostly voicemails, answering machines, the aforementioned hallucinations, and dialogue from team members. However, the story quickly becomes an excuse for the gameplay and the majority of gamers won’t remember much of the narrative as much as the frenetic shooting.
The gameplay is a typical first person shooter, with an assortment of guns and grenades to dispatch your foes. However, a few things make F.E.A.R. stand out from the rest of the standard FPS games. The first and most obvious is the sprinkling of horror elements, which makes the game feel like a survival horror hybrid without the feeling of fear or desperation. The player never really feels as threatened as in the typical survival horror game, but that obviously the intent of the developers and not a shortcoming.
F.E.A.R. also makes use of the main character’s heightened reflexes, which works as the slow-down feature for the surrounding foes. This ability is limited in use by a meter which depletes as the reflexes are initiated, but swiftly refills when not in use. If anything, this decreases the game’s difficulty by bounds, although it is fun to rush a foe, blast him with a shotgun, and then continue on to slaughter more enemies even as the first one is still floating through the air.
The final and most commendable distinction is in the game’s A.I. The hordes of foes actually work as a team and will try to flank you and use a number of viable tactics to try to defeat you. You’ll see them using obstacles as cover, barking orders to one another, attempting to outmaneuver you, and even cursing in disbelief at your speed and durability. Each foe, from the moment you see them to the moment they’re lying at your feet, feels like a true human opponent, especially from the assorted comments that they make as they battle you.
There are some areas where F.E.A.R. falls short though, especially when compared to the PC and Xbox 36 versions. The first and most obvious flaw is in the graphics. F.E.A.R. doesn’t really look next-gen and actually pales in comparison to the previous versions. The main character’s arms seem like stiff boards that shift robotically when he leans and show no life signs at all. This lifeless stiffness extends to the other characters and environments as well, creating a lack of depth that hurts the game’s appeal. There are also long load times that weren’t as pronounced in previous versions.
The sound in the game is excellent, with superb voice acting, especially from the clones that you battle. Everything in the game has an appropriate and well done corresponding sound, from the weaponry to the beeping answering machines.
F.E.A.R. also has a multiplayer mode that allows you to take your game online with eleven playable maps and different modes including capture the flag and deathmatch. In addition to multiplayer, F.E.A.R. also includes the Instant Action mode, which is a sort of Time Trial to compete against others for the best time. Both of these modes are fun and extend the playtime greatly.
Overall, F.E.A.R. is a fun and great experience for anyone who hasn’t played the game before. Anyone who’s tried the game on the PC or Xbox 360 will immediately notice flaws and probably retreat to the previous versions, but the game still makes a nice addition to the PS3’s growing library of ported titles.