FEAR Xbox 360 Review
|Genre:||First Person Shooter|
|Release Date:||October 31st, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||James Barlow (Malis)|
F.E.A.R. was originally a PC game, and was released to some success in 2005. A spectacular action-packed FPS, F.E.A.R. artfully blended brutal combat with unsettling horror to produce a respectable addition to any shooter fan's collection. Now, a year later and we have an Xbox 360 port, bringing the suspense from the PC to the living room.
There's been no changes story-wise since we were first sucked into F.E.A.R.'s spooky world last year. You play as an elite agent in team F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) who specialise in paranormal threats. At the start of the game a man telepathically takes control of an army of cloned super-soldiers, and all hell breaks loose. Predictably it's up to you to sort things out; discover just what's going on, who needs to be shot, and which gun is best to do it with. It's worth noting that from my hazy memory of the PC original, I didn't notice any additional content to the game bar one short added mission.
When I first approached this game, I was unsure of what to expect. While I had played the original on the PC, and enjoyed it, I was unsure just how well it would translate to a console with joypad controls. As anticipated, control was a mixed bag. While mouse and keyboard are undoubtedly still the FPS controls of choice, F.E.A.R. 360 makes a solid stab at allowing for smooth console play. Making use of just about every button on the pad, it takes a while to familiarize yourself with the set-up. Once you've got it nailed though, navigating through the game becomes relatively smooth. Aiming with the right analogue stick just about works, but at times it's just simply not accurate enough, especially when faced with strafing enemies. On more than one occasion I was left frustrated by missing enemies from sliding the cross-hair too far over, all the while knowing that on the PC I'd be moving on to blast the next squad of enemies by now.
This perhaps wouldn't matter so much if it wasn't for the fact that the enemies in F.E.A.R. are frighteningly effective. Much was made of the AI back in 2005 and it continues to impress today. Enemies talk to each other, will scatter and flank you, take and make cover (by tipping over objects), use grenades to flush you out, and generally make life a pain. This isn't a FPS that can be rushed through, but one that requires some concentration, cunning and method to the madness you'll undoubtedly inflict.
But why would you rush through a game that makes use liberal use of bullet-time slow-motion gun battles anyway? Yes slow-mo became old the instant Max Payne came out, but nobody can deny it's still enormous fun in a cheesy way. Stab a button and you'll make use of your 'superior reflexes' which turn out to be the ability to dodge bullets. This charges up when you're not using so you'll generally have access to bullet-time for most encounters - a good job as when it's coupled with explosive sound and impressive ragdoll physics, it makes for some cinematic and visceral action that simply can't be bettered anywhere else on the 360 at the moment. F.E.A.R. Has a weak, flimsy story but all that goes out the window the minute you whip out that nailgun and impale some soldier against the wall in glorious slow-motion. Who cares why you're killing them when it's this explosive? Truly, battles in F.E.A.R. need to be experienced to be fully appreciated - these incredibly sweet slices of chaos can't really be expressed fully in words.
With Gears Of War and Rainbow 6: Vegas, the bar for graphics is now high for shooters on the 360. While F.E.A.R. made most PC's tremble, these days the engine is looking slightly dated. Slow-motion looks cool, the lighting is great and the physics satisfying, but there's just some spark missing from the game now that makes me sit back and go 'wow.' Perhaps it's the blurry textures in places, but more likely it's down to the level and environmental design. Much of the game takes place in the same sorts of offices or warehouses against the same enemy (clones tend to be fairly samey). To be frank it's somewhat irritating and does lead to a feel of repetition. Even the combat can suffer eventually as you start to go through the motions against the same soldiers. A touch more variety to the levels would really do this game some favours.
Some of the repetition is broken up by the much talked-about horror elements to the game. They're still here, and still spooky. F.E.A.R. makes good use of fairly long stretches of silence and non-combat exploration, which racks up the tension. You can normally tell when things are about to get spooky though as lights will flicker or static will briefly burst. When it all boils down to the scares, they're mostly of the haunted house variety - a rattling door, dodgy lights, shapes in the shadows and ghostly giggling. It's all executed very well, and there's definitely a few moments that will make the most hardcore jump, but it just doesn't seem as scary on the Xbox 360 as the PC. There's just something essentially non-frightening about sitting on my sofa, a good distance from the TV and playing a game while my house-mate reads a magazine. Give me a dark room, my PC and some headphones and things get a little more tense. Still, overall it's an entertaining aspect of the game that helps break-up the game nicely.
When you're done with the somewhat short single-player there's still plenty to sink your teeth into. New to the Xbox 360 is Instant Action mode which immediately thrusts you into fire-fights from the game and awards you points on how well you get through them. This is definitely great for a quick blast, and something I found to be unusually popular in a multi-player situation as you pass the controller around for some explosive action. Combat in F.E.A.R. is almost as entertaining to watch as it is to play.
And a full multi-player caps off the package. While essentially the same as the PC F.E.A.R. online component, battles on the Xbox 360 remain entertaining diversions. It's quick and painless to step into a game, and I experienced absolutely no lag while I played. All the standard modes are present, with deathmatch and capture the flag. Slow-motion team deathmatch remains my personal favourite, where teams must battle for possession of a device that, once used, plunges everyone into slow-motion. It's all good fun and you'll definitely come back to the game just for the online play once the single-player is through.
F.E.A.R. 360 is a port, but an extremely good one. People can, and indeed may, argue all day about whether the PC version is superior but ultimately they're missing the point. On the Xbox 360, F.E.A.R. is a FPS that adapts well to the restrictions of the joypad and offers a compelling and brutal slice of gaming that any shooter fan will enjoy. The graphics aren't mind-blowing, and the level design is slightly repetitive, but the overall package is hard to fault. An enjoyable and painless online component is the icing on a bullet-riddled cake.
- Wonderful, explosive action
- Nice horror elements
- Great enemy AI
- Well implemented multi-player
Not so good stuff
- Graphics not as amazing as they used to be
- Some uninspired level design
- Single-player perhaps slightly too short