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Brendan
24 Nov, 2005

F.E.A.R Review

PC Review | How can a game with an oxymoron in the title possibly be good?
First-person shooters are not exactly an endangered species on the PC, so new franchises entering the arena can find it pretty tough to stand out. But, every once in a while, a real gem manages to pop its head above the rest of the pack. F.E.A.R. is one such game. While it’s not especially unique (it borrows quite lovingly from Half Life), it has an utterly captivating atmosphere that few games equal.

The story is somewhat creepy. The player takes control of the newest member of the F.E.A.R. team – an acronym for First Encounter Assault Recon. Yes, that is a blatant contradiction. Anyway, F.E.A.R. is a crack team of military types, specializing in dealing with those paranormal situations. Sort of like the Ghostbusters, expect with more guns. And less vacuum cleaners. And less humour. And much more violence. Ok, so nothing like the Ghostbusters, then. Digressing, an army of clone soldiers, led by a somewhat eccentric commander Fettel, have taken over a facility, searching for… Something. It’s up to F.E.A.R. to discover just what it is they are up to, and put a stop to it. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, but there’s no need to spoil it here.

Ok, you hide, and I’ll count to 10

Ok, you hide, and I’ll count to 10
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F.E.A.R. creates an atmosphere not like any game before it. ‘Horror’ elements have been employed – expect to see apparitions appear in the distance, mutter something, then crumble to dust. Alone, they aren’t especially scary – just a bit creepy, and help draw you into the story. Who are they? What do they want? But, there’s a lot more to it than just weird apparitions. Occasionally, the HUD starts to shudder in and out of view, usually accompanied by either an apparition or some vague message from an evil voice. Then there are the long periods of no fighting, which is more terrifying than actual combat – you just know there is going to be a bad guy around the next corner… And when there isn’t you just get a little more edgy. And then there’s the artificial intelligence.

The AI plays a huge role in F.E.A.R. – largely because it’s some of the best we’ve ever encountered. These soldiers actually think and communicate –quite effectively, too. Unlike most enemies these days, they are constantly on the move. They rarely hide behind the same cover for more than a few seconds, as they are always trying to find a better position. You think you might have one pinned down behind a box and attempt to ambush them – only to find they aren’t where you thought they were. They also do a great job of pinning you down, and attempting to flank – sometimes from BOTH sides, if the level design allows for it. The AI is extremely devious and intelligent, truly adding an awful lot to the experience.

The biggest new element F.E.A.R. brings to the FPS genre are somewhat advanced melee attacks. Right-clicking will produce the usual bash attack with your gun, but, impressively, jumping and right-clicking produces an impressive scissors kick – very useful when you run out of ammo up close. Crouching and right-clicking will also produce a sliding kick, which can also be used to dive behind cover in tight situations.

Like a deer in headlights

Like a deer in headlights
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But aside from the melee combat, as far as gameplay goes, F.E.A.R. controls just like pretty much every FPS game out there. WSAD controls movement, mouse the crosshair, blah, blah, blah. Notable is the Max Payne-style bullet-time that has been implemented – and it’s just as fun as it ever was here. In fact, it’s actually quite imperative – often you will be overwhelmed by hordes of clones, and the four or five you can shoot down while the bullet-time meter depletes can make the opposition manageable. Your weapons collection is limited to only three at a time, adding a nice element of strategy. Thankfully, most of the weapons are actually quite good, with the weakest being the initial machine gun the player starts the game with. Most players will quickly upgrade to the standard clone machine gun (far more accurate) the ever-present shotgun, and even the rather useful dual pistols, as well as some other goodies.

Despite all this though, F.E.A.R. does have a couple of issues. Most annoyingly is the level design. Time and time again you will find yourself battling through either a pseudo-industrial facility or an office building. As if these repetitive locations weren’t enough, each room inside them also seems exactly the same – same grey walls, bland desks, etc. Also adding to the been-there, done-that feel are the enemies. For the majority of the game, that’s all you will face, barring the odd super soldier or stealthy ninja. Yes, they are clones, but some sort of variety between them would have been much appreciated.

Typical of most shooters, F.E.A.R. clocks in at around the nine to twelve hour mark, depending on just how talented the player is, and the difficulty level chosen (which can be changed mid game should things get too hard, by the way). Then there’s the multiplayer. The usual game types are all present – deathmatch, team deathmatch, and so on. Bullet-time also surfaces in this multiplayer – one player can control it at a time, and the person who kills them gets to use it, and so on. Surprisingly, multiplayer manages to capture the same tension of the single player game, and will keep most players busy for quite a while. If there is a problem with the multiplayer, it’s that servers aren’t especially busy, unfortunately.

Bullet-holes, dust, blood – all staples of the F.E.A.R. visual experience. F.E.A.R. is gorgeous, especially in the effects department. Bullets create craters in walls, bullet-time shows the bullet spiral in the air, and some of the special weapons look absolutely stunning – even the mess they leave after use. But, the environments and character models are depressingly repetitive, putting a bit of a dampener on the visuals. On top of that, it requires a beast of a PC to run at anything resembling the high settings. A 9800pro is the absolute minimum you will want to run this with, and you’ll want a lot more.

How’s it hangin’?

How’s it hangin’?
Close
It was mentioned earlier that F.E.A.R. has a really thick atmosphere – and a lot of the credit for that should go right to the audio department. It is, in every sense of the world, stunning. The score is extraordinarily unnerving – as can be evidenced right from the first title screen. The slow, constant pace in areas with no enemies pushes the player right to the edge of the seat, making them more and more anxious with each passing moment. You can also hear everything the soldiers do, too – sudden sounds like cans on the ground being kicked will send you into a blind panic. Firefights too sound quite insane, with bullets rattling in every direction, breaking glass, walls and even bones – it really is intense stuff, and something the developer deserves recognition for.

F.E.A.R. does not revolutionize the stagnant FPS genre – it doesn’t try to – but, it is an incredibly intense experience. The artificial intelligence is right out of the top draw. It is one of the best examples of an audio experience on the PC. The graphical effects are quite stellar. And, the atmosphere is indescribable – the creepy apparitions and story make the game a somewhat disturbing experience. Then there’s the multiplayer, which manages to be just as intense as the main game. Its faults – namely extremely repetitive environments and enemies, and fact it’s a resource hog, to name the important ones – are few, and don’t effect the game too much. All in all, F.E.A.R. is arguably the best single-player shooter this year.
The Score
Arguably the strongest single-player FPS this year. It is the total package – great graphics, great sound, great multiplayer and captivating single player. If your PC can handle it, you really should play this game.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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18 Comments
8 years ago
fair review. up to the point i've played it i would probably have given it another 0.5 marks, but then i don't know how the game pans out.

IMO it's one of the 3 FPS games that every PC owner should own (the others being FarCry and HalfLife 2).
8 years ago
Dam if this review was posted last week i would of got it. meh

Got any scary pics?
8 years ago
it's very hard to be scared by pictures of the scary bits in this game, because by and large, they are quite normal.

the scare is very much a collaboration of the tension build-up immediately before, the sounds, the music and then the actual trigger.

there are very few (well, so far) scares that purely shock-scares, like those in Doom 3. the scares are more "shivers up you spine" rather than "sh!t yourself".

there is a demo though, play this and you'll see what i mean.
8 years ago
oh i thought you sh!t yourself because i've read that the game it scary and the main 2 keys is alt+f4.

whats the site for the demo?
8 years ago
Good Review. I'd personally give it the extra 0.5, but that's me.

It's true about the resource hogging. 1GB of DDR2 RAM and my 9800 Pro, running at 8 by 6 res max detail, and it lags only a bit. That's still devastating compared to my Hl2, which runs at 10 by 7 res, max detail, 4xAA, nearly lagless. But IMO this is the game that you should upgrade for, it's really an unmissable fps experience.

Also, I agree about the sound. The firefights are just insane, you hear the bullets zip past your ears, empty shell casings hitting the ground, slo-mo cussing of the AI, bullets plunging into walls and tearing chunks out...it's just subliminal.
8 years ago
Hmmm... is the game more resource hungry than the demo? I could run the demo on my laptop fine, but there's a big warning saying that the game does not run on laptops on the site I was going to buy it from icon_neutral.gif
8 years ago
Excellent review.
8 years ago
James wrote
Hmmm... is the game more resource hungry than the demo? I could run the demo on my laptop fine, but there's a big warning saying that the game does not run on laptops on the site I was going to buy it from icon_neutral.gif
yeah, i can't run the full game at the same specs as the demo. the demo runs fine at maximum everything, the full game requires medium-high specs.

it's also weird that it went from an ATI backed game (the demo) to an nVidia backed game (end product).

ReD3yE:
i don't know offhand, but google 3dgamers or Gamershell, they should both have it.
8 years ago
excellent review. i agree with other people that the rating should probably be a bit higher but that is only what i think. i thought it was good to ad the slow-mo in it as well.
8 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
yeah, i can't run the full game at the same specs as the demo. the demo runs fine at maximum everything, the full game requires medium-high specs.
Bugger.
8 years ago
well, apparently, it's reeeaaaallll scary. And so, BP bought it. He never tried it. He lent it to sQuIrT.
end of story.
8 years ago
Got this in my schoolbag right now, should be able to play it this afternoon. icon_smile.gif
8 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
James wrote
Hmmm... is the game more resource hungry than the demo? I could run the demo on my laptop fine, but there's a big warning saying that the game does not run on laptops on the site I was going to buy it from icon_neutral.gif
yeah, i can't run the full game at the same specs as the demo. the demo runs fine at maximum everything, the full game requires medium-high specs.

it's also weird that it went from an ATI backed game (the demo) to an nVidia backed game (end product).
I noticed that too. It sort of pissed me off as well, considering that I expected ATI support, and just when I get my 9800 Pro for free (My uncle gave it away, he bought himself a new card), the full game comes nVidia supported.

Btw, here's a tweak tip from me to owners of ATI X card series (X800 and above I think, X1000 series included):

I believe if you turn off Catalyst AI, you'll get a large boost in performance. It's a bug ATI are working on atm. I'm not sure if it works with 5.11 drivers, because I've heard that it doesn't, but give it a try anyway. Also if that doesn't work, try renaming the FEAR.exe to something like FEAR2, and you should get the boost. I know it sounds odd, but I've seen some really nice boosts in performance from this. Hasn't worked for everyone, but it's worth a try for the extra oomph in the game.
8 years ago
As much as I want to play this, I couldn't be assed forking out for all the computer upgrades that I need. I actually need brand new everything to play this (including D drive)....which is quite sad.

A 360 port could happen (with a few adjustments), but I'm not holding my breath.

Maybe when if I get a new computer....
8 years ago
*mugs GTPod*
Won't be getting it as I don't have a PC that can run that type of stuff.
8 years ago
Dunno what's up with all this spec. worry, I'm playing the game on fairly low settings and the game's still totally enjoyable. icon_confused.gif

Pretty good game though, and damn weird. icon_eek.gif Doesn't come anywhere near HL2 for gameplay though, but I suppose that was to be expected.
8 years ago
^ sif play games on low settings.

and sif play FPS on console.
7 years ago
Nice review Brendan - Entertaining. PS3 port available at launch. Not a huge fan of FPS myself but F.E.A.R. will certainly get the once over.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Vivendi Universal
Developer:
  Monolith

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