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F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate Review

F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate pack shot
Developer:TimeGate Studios
Publisher:Sierra Entertainment
Genre:First Person Shooter
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.whatisfear.com/
Release Date:November 16th, 2007 (UK)
Reviewer:Mike Jennings
 

There's a lot to be said for the phrase 'too much of a good thing.' When talking about the voluptuous talents of Kelly Brook on Strictly Come Dancing, I can't really contemplate there ever being an excess of her graceful moves. When it comes to expansion packs, however, some publishers often err on the side of profits as opposed to letting their franchises retire in their prime.

The latest F.E.A.R title, Perseus Mandate, hovers between worthwhile extension of game universe and cynical cash-in. The plot - instead of taking the traditional expansion pack route of, surprisingly enough, expanding - follows alongside the events of the previous titles in the series: the original and first expansion Extraction Point.

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Veterans of the Sierra-published series will be familiar with the story. You're a US secret service agent in the F.E.A.R team, who specialise in 'First Encounter Assault Recon' - hence the initials - with potential paranormal activity. The events of Perseus Mandate revolve around the sinister Armacham Technology Corporation and the mysterious Project Perseus - as well as the sinister Replica soldiers, Government corruption and a frightening new faction of super-enhanced, biologically-altered soldiers known as Nightcrawlers.

This intertwining of story with the existing F.E.A.R games is something of a double-edge sword. It does give the new expansion instant context and history but, at the same time, enables the game to tread over plenty of old ground - which feels worn out compared to new events that could have been crafted to sate the game's enthusiastic fans.

The gameplay is also instantly familiar to anyone with previous F.E.A.R experience. The mechanics are typical FPS, with the addition of the ability to slow time down - a decent gimmick but one that is rarely used, except when forced by the game - by pressing ctrl, giving you the edge in explosive battles that you might lose at regular pace. The rest of the game is typical of the series - dark corridors to be explored and spooky surroundings to get into your head, whizz around like a blender and extract the remains through your nose. Disappointingly, it's quite linear; you're funnelled through the various environments with doors being blocked and only one route and, in the days of Crysis letting the player largely craft their own solution, it's frustrating to consistently be offered only one choice.

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In terms of new, gameplay-altering features, you're hard pressed to find much: three new guns are a hit-and-miss affair with the grenade launcher being pretty useless - enemies, in a rare display of better-than-atrocious AI, just run away from any bombs - and the lightning gun and advanced sniper rifle being more effective. Also added are extra missions, unlocked when you complete the main story, that offer a deathmatch-style mode where waves of enemies are hurled at you. It should be noted that the new weaponry was actually first seen in the Extraction Point expansion, too - but Perseus Mandate does go beyond the first add-on by including an addictive and slick multiplayer component.

Graphically, it's not really moved on since the original F.E.A.R: the best PC's will be able to show off the visuals that, whilst not matching up to the latest FPS titles - it's a 2-year old engine, after all - are slick, creepy and evocative. The explosions are impressive and the firefights frenetic, and it's all very professional - but it should be, not much has changed and Perseus Mandate has such strong links to (or, if you're cynical, you could say it recycles) its predecessors.

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What about the F.E.A.R factor, though? Again, the game suffers from overfamiliarity - we're occasionally desensitised to the scare tactics that have been employed before, although Perseus Mandate does manage to cram in a fair few shocks as the developer, TimeGate Studios, are benefitting from their extensive practise. Bodies fall from the ceiling, lights flicking, walkways collapse and enemies leap out from corners and cupboards. The sound is also implemented well, with various creaks, cracks, voices and creepy, atmospheric sounds doing their best to freak you out.

There are two stand-out scare tactics employed throughout, though, that stand above everything else in Perseus Mandate: the frequent flashbacks that transport you to an odd, modern facility bathed in blood and dead bodies to scare you witless and the chilling appearances of new enemy the Nightcrawlers, a race of super-powerful soldiers who flit about the screen with the jerky speed of a fly. They can also disappear and come equipped with powerful weapons and the ability to absorb a frightening amount of punishment - so you never know when they're going to appear in front of you, screeching, their luminous orange eyes piercing your mind and waking you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

These moments - unlike the original game, that maintained a consistently high level of both original horror and stratospheric heart-rates in equal measure - merely raise the mediocre, occasionally, to the excellent. The graphics and visuals are professional and attractive in a dark, foreboding way, and these are used with the crossover story, game mechanics and frightening moments to create a decent, if unspectacular, horror adventure. Unfortunately, though, the game is overshadowed by the clinical nature of its creation: the story and environments have been re-used to save time, the pack has been created to make money. It lacks the spark of the first game because we've been here before and done it before and, as such, is only really necessary for those F.E.A.R aficionados who need to finish their collection before a full sequel arrives. For everyone else, though, you're better off going back to the original.

Summary

While Perseus Mandate will appeal to F.E.A.R die-hards, it offers little innovation to spark lapsed fans or draw in new admirers. The graphics and sound are polished - if ageing a little - and used to adequate effect to create a few proper, trouser-ruining scares, especially with the evocative flashbacks and terrifyingly unpredictable Nightcrawlers. It feels, though, like a bit of a lazy re-hash: instead of a new story, the game mixes with the plot of the last two titles and uses the same characters, story and environment rather than creating an entirely new experience. For devotees only.

The bottom line
7.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Solid gameplay mechanics
  • It'll still scare you, despite being done before
  • New Nightcrawler enemies are genuinely terrifying
  • Graphically, it's pretty impressive

Not so good stuff

  • The plot is revived from old F.E.A.R games rather than being brand new
  • Most of the scare tactics have also been seen before
  • The 'new' features - like weapons - aren't actually new


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