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F.E.A.R. Review

F.E.A.R. Box art
Developer:Monolith
Publisher:Sierra (Vivendi Universal)
Genre:FPS
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.whatisfear.com/us/
Release Date:October 18th (UK)
Reviewer:Ryan Sayce (Stan)
Buy now at Amazon.co.uk

Having played the demo I have to admit I wasn’t on the edge of my seat at the prospect of the full release. It was, however, quickly apparent that the demo does not do justice to this game. The demo was just parts of levels stuck together and as such didn’t have the flow or level design of the retail release. As you will have probably guessed from the title of 'Fear' this is as close to a horror film as you can get in a first person game, and as such it draws lots of inspiration from Japanese horror films like 'The Ring' and 'Darkwater', even including the obligatory evil little girl who goes out of her way to scare you.

Graphics

This is truly a next generation game; the graphics are never anything less than impressive. Seeing as this is a horror game it’s no surprise to find that the lighting in this game is nothing other than superb, with HDR lighting enabled and all the other fancy options this game has some of the best lighting and shadows in any game I have seen. All of these next generation features, however, come at a price. You need a state of the art computer to run this game at a solid fps with all the fancy trimmings on at 1280 by 1024.

When bullet time is in use everything is slowed down, you can now see the bullets from the enemy gun’s coming towards you and the air that is dissipated behind them, a feature very reminiscent of the same effect in the film matrix. When there is an explosion you can see the air wave radiating out and picking up and carrying anything it encounters on its way, it is really stunning stuff that you have to see in action to believe.

The physics in this game are the most realistic I have yet seen in a first person shooter. If you happen to shoot a soldier in the chest with a shotgun while he is jumping off a ledge, he goes flying backwards like he has been hit in the chest by a sledge hammer swung by the world’s strongest man. No matter what gun you use the enemy bodies seem to react in a lifelike manner, slumping on walls or being pinned to a wall with the nail gun.

All the items and textures in this game are of a high quality, especially things like a tft monitor which can be smashed to show the motherboard behind the screen, little things like this put to shame the ones in Half Life 2, that seemed so unbelievable when it came out. The only problem I have with the textures is that they are reused allot, for example every phone is the same as is every tft. It would also be nice to have a lot more detail in the characters faces. I know this sounds like nitpicking but the graphics on this are just so universally good that if I want to find any fault with them I have to nitpick.

F.E.A.R. screenshot 1 F.E.A.R. screenshot 2 F.E.A.R. screenshot 4 F.E.A.R. screenshot 4

Sound

Right from the offset you can tell the people over at Monolith have spent a large amount of time and effort on the sound in Fear and this is the best sounding first person shooter I have ever heard. There is never really a quiet moment in this game and there is always something subtle working in the background, be it an answering machine or an air conditioning machine. This really helps to immerse you that much more in the atmosphere this game creates. The music is very well done and reminds me of the Japanese horror films I mentioned earlier, giving the perfect mood and yet seeming subtle, only coming in when needed and not overpowering the other sounds. The guns sound realistic and weighty, while the characters voices are well done for a game and of a high quality.

This is one of the new games to support creative labs new soundcard the X-Fi, however sadly I do not own one of these so can only inform you that on my audigy 4 it was stunning and I can only imagine it will sound even better if you are a X-Fi owner.

Gameplay

I am going to break this to you now, fear breaks no new ground. However, what it does it does very well and it all blends together to make one of the better first person shooters of the year.

F.E.A.R. screenshot 5 F.E.A.R. screenshot 6 F.E.A.R. screenshot 7 F.E.A.R. screenshot 8

You are a new member of 'FEAR' [First Encounter Assault Recon], a government department made for dealing with supernatural threats just like the one that Alma [the little girl] makes by going around killing everyone. Most of your time is taken up by filling the enemy soldiers full of lead from one of the many different weapons in the game, however it limits you to carrying only 3 different guns at any one time. This means you have to think very carefully on what type of gun you are going to need, as there is no point swapping a shotgun for a sniper rifle if you are going to be involved with lots of close combat fighting and vice versa. The weapons have an intuitive and solid feel to them; they somehow manage to feel weighty and realistic.

The A.I. in this game is fantastic with the enemy soldiers behaving in as close to a life like way we have seen in a game so far, so much so it reminds me of playing squads of people online. One soldier will put down suppressing fire while another two will flank round behind you, keeping to the shadows only letting you see them when they open up a can of whoop ass on you. They instinctively use cover and never just stand out in the open and let you shoot at them, for example if the only cover is behind them then they will run towards the cover, but stick their arm and gun out behind them and lay down an array of bullets to cover their escape.

F.E.A.R. screenshot 9 F.E.A.R. screenshot 10 F.E.A.R. screenshot 11 F.E.A.R. screenshot 12

You crouch down and enter the small vent, everything goes dark so you turn your flash light on and carry on down the cramped vent. As you get to the end of the vent you see that you are high up overlooking two levels of office space. You instinctively look for enemy soldiers and spot four patrolling, and during the same second it occurs to you to turn off your flashlight incase it gives away your position, one of the soldiers points to you and shouts “he is in the ceiling”. You manage to take him down with a headshot from the nail gun but its too late, you have been spotted. As you are falling back into the vent a small voice in your head argues that if you were one of these soldiers, you would throw a grenade in the vent. At that same second you see a grenade being tossed into the vent; you instinctively hit bullet time and manage to get out the other end just before the grenade explodes. You stand there thinking how that was a close call, when two of the soldiers who have flanked you are now busy filling your soon to be dead body full of lead. Fear is full of moments just like these and they are the main reason it’s as good a game as it is.

For most of the game you have been saving all the ammo for your best guns just incase you need them or you meet a really big boss, you use your worst guns to take out all the bad guys you encounter. By the time you start to reach the later levels of the game you have enough ammo to invade a small country let alone kill any boss you should encounter, but just as you think you have enough they take away all your guns and make you start saving ammo again. This happens in most first person games I have played in the past few years and it annoys the hell out of me, why do they do it, is it to make the later stages of the games harder or just to piss me off?

Fear’s worst aspect is the level design; it’s just so repetitive and for the most part bland and unoriginal. Most of the games levels take place in a large office complex that seems to be just full of so many identical looking hallways and office’s that you quickly find yourself getting tired of just looking at the same things level after level. You never really get to fight with your squad mates either, with them always turning up just after a large battle or leaving you just before you encounter the enemies; I found this disappointing as it's nice to have more interaction in first person shooters.

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Summary

Fear suffers from a fair few problems; the level’s are your standard first person affair, taking part in the obligatory sewers and office block. The office block in particular really starts to grate on you quite quickly, which is a pity as they consist of a large portion of the short time span it takes you to complete the game. There are only a few different types of enemy you encounter and each type of enemy shares the same skin. You do see other characters, but for the most part they are not interactive. Despite the name this game just isn’t that scary, it suffers from the same problem as horror films which almost always tell you that they are going to scare you. Be it with a change or music or any other subtle effects, this means that you know the scary moment is coming, so it just loses it's effect.

So knowing all this would I recommend you to purchase fear? Yes I would but I would also advise you to wait till it has become a bit cheaper, although the action is fantastic and its technically very impressive, it just isn’t long enough and the multiplayer isn’t good enough to warrant the full price tag.

Good stuff

  • The best sound in a first person to date
  • Impressive physics engine
  • Impressive graphics
  • Fantastic A.I
  • Visceral Action

Not so good stuff

  • Pretty Short
  • Repetitive level design
  • Scarier than most games, but didn't scare me
  • Multiplayer is only fun for five minutes


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