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Jeremy Jastrzab
14 Dec, 2007

F.E.A.R. Files Review

360 Review | More Alma then you can handle.
Back in 2005, the game that was meant to convince you to upgrade your PC was F.E.A.R, and it happened to be pretty good. Later, the military first person shooter with an Asian horror twist was ported onto the Xbox 360, and again, we were quite pleased with it. Since its debut, F.E.A.R has spawned two expansion packs on the PC, Extraction Point and the stand alone Perseus Mandate. So Xbox 360 owners don’t feel left out, they’ve been lovingly treated to a double pack, F.E.A.R. Files, that includes both these expansions packs.

By now, most would know that the original F.E.A.R. had players taking the role of a nameless mute that was sent in as part of the First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R.) squad, all to deal with a clone army that had taken over a facility searching for some nefarious item (phew!). Eventually, you find that you’re also going to deal with a fair bit of the paranormal – meaning ghosts and other unfriendly ghoulish happenings. It’s all presented in a manner directly out of an Asian horror film and some might find it a tad disturbing. Particularly when a room suddenly transforms, leads you down a path way and then drops you back where you came from or when lights start flashing and unknown beings start appearing.

It’s this aspect of F.E.A.R. that sets it apart from other shooters and in some places, is done quite well. Onto the expansions, and Extraction Point picks up where the original leaves off. Unfortunately, this leaves no time for an introduction into the paranormal happenings - rather, you’re thrown right into the thick of things. It continues the rather complex story with the usual 'all your work was in vein, start again'. Perseus Mandate actually puts you in the boots of another nameless mute from another F.E.A.R. team that has been sent on a mission that runs concurrently with the first game. Again, you’re left with no time to get acquainted with the strange happenings, but fans of the original may be fascinated with the numerous links that the games have.

Need a hand there?

Need a hand there?
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While it is hard to be too critical of F.E.A.R. Files, as it does offer essentially two games on the one disc, it’s not a package that will do it for everyone. Firstly, the story won’t make much sense to anyone who hasn’t played the original and there isn’t anything in the package to help with this. Furthermore, the games lack a crescendo, as there's no real time to build on what’s happening. Ideally, you'd play both these games after playing the original.

The other aspect to F.E.A.R. that somewhat sets it apart is the relatively unique approach to combat. While there is nothing new about plodding along through corridors, then getting to a room and clearing it out, F.E.A.R. at least puts you up against genuinely capable and intelligent enemies. The environments that you duel in are fairly well designed to allow you different ways of moving around, and most things can be destroyed or manipulated. Basically, you have to use your environments to avoid enemy fire, and then counter while their guard is down. Given the intelligence and amount of damage the enemies can do, you need to be quite vigilant.

What makes the enemies intelligent is that they not only act together, but they also act differently each time. You can’t memorise their patterns of movement or positions in a room. To help you out a bit, you have the ability to slow down time through 'heightened reflexes' (re: bullet time) in temporary bursts. While this is something of a tired mechanic, you won’t be complaining when the poo hits the fan. If there is one fault in the combat, it’s that you’ve got no good indicator that you’ve been hit, other than your health bar rapidly decreasing. Often, by the time you realise that you’ve been hit, it’s too late.

Well that's not too smart.

Well that's not too smart.
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The horror elements in the game probably aren’t enough to invoke genuine fear, but are none-the-less very creepy, and at times, they’re done really well. However, as mentioned above, what both Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate lack is the building of tension and both lack a degree of atmosphere. While scenes such as being thrown into random corridors then being spat back out do grow over the game, you are essentially thrown in the deep end. Perseus Mandate feels marginally more complete, but the addition of having things literally grab you by the goolies gets old the umpteenth time. The fright sequences take away from the otherwise good combat, because when you’re hit, you can get really disorientated.

Outside of the two story lines, you can partake in the Instant Action mode. Here, you have eight mini-scenarios ripped out of each story and you have fifteen or so minutes to clear through each level. They’re quite good if you’re after some quick bursts of combat. You’ve also got multiplayer modes with a decent twist (these were found on the free PC download, F.E.A.R. Combat). Each of the expansions is unlikely to take more then six or so hours to complete. However, anyone after a true challenge ought to try the game on the Extreme difficulty. If you think you’re good at shooters, this mode will surely test you out. While there is a decent amount to do here, it’s once again somewhat let down by the fact that this package does nothing to cater for new players.

You could argue either way with regards to which expansion is better. Extraction Point probably pips Perseus for atmosphere but the latter gives you new toys in an already robust line-up. However, both of them are just literal follow-ups to the original. Unless you’re a fan of the original, and don’t mind more of the same, both horror and combat elements get tired after playing for a while. Given the brevity of each title that doesn’t really bode well. On the flip-side, if you really dig the F.E.A.R. combat and story, you’re likely to get what you need out of this game. Just don’t expect too much more building on the actual story, as it seems that this is being saved for F.E.A.R. 2.

The Boogie man is coming.

The Boogie man is coming.
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Given that the PC game was only released two years ago, it’s disappointing to see how poorly the engine has aged. There are some aspects that are still done really well, such as the lighting, the destruction physics and action during slow-mo. It’s just that everything comes across as very low detail, and the frame rate isn’t as solid as it could be. It’s somewhat passable in enclosed places but really comes undone as the areas expand, and just doesn’t give the impression that this was the game PC’s were being upgraded for just two years ago.

Somewhere over the port, it also seems that a few of the sound bits went missing as well. This is a shame, as the audio presentation in F.E.A.R. is usually very strong. As mentioned above, the expansions don’t do as good a job conveying the atmosphere of the original, but the job done is still commendable. As any good shooter will do, you’ve got good audio queues, enemy banter and most weapons sound like they will do some damage. The audio holds up in slow mo as well. the actual soundtrack is a decent mix of being creepy and action-orientated. There’s not much to say about the voicing, as it gets the job done on most fronts.

Ultimately, F.E.A.R. Files is a package that will only be appreciated but someone who is both a fan of the F.E.A.R. world and a fan of the combat. The package does nothing to cater for those who didn’t play the original, and those who didn’t like it won’t be swayed here. Neither of the sequels has the same building of tension and horror, and the combat and horror elements can become tiresome for those who aren’t fond of them. Still, both games offer something a little bit different to the norm and a genuine challenge for the select few that like this sort of thing. Though if you’re after some real continuation, you’ll have to wait for F.E.A.R. 2.
The Score
As a package, F.E.A.R. Files is certainly a decent effort but it isn't going to appeal to anyone who isn't after more of the same. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related F.E.A.R. Files Content

F.E.A.R. Files demo available on Xbox Live
14 Oct, 2007 Get ready to be S.C.A.R.E.D. all over again.
F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate Review
22 Nov, 2007 She's baaa-aack.
E3 2007: Sierra announces two new F.E.A.R titles
12 Jul, 2007 New expansion for PC and Xbox 360.
1 Comment
6 years ago
The two expansion packs (in particular Perseus Mandate) look FAR worse than the original FEAR. The engine may have aged a fair bit by now, but looking at the screenshots, the level design is absolutely abysmal. Homogeneous coloured hallways with a sparse assortment of low-poly objects.

Stuff these rubbish FEAR expansions, I'm waiting for Project Origin thanks.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  15/11/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $89.95 AU
Publisher:
  Vivendi Universal
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  16

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