10 November 2006 | MovieAddict2016
Frightening and rewarding gameplay
I don't often play videogames these days, but I felt compelled to test out my new PC with this game after reading rave reviews. When it came out in 2005 it seemed to be an underdog - it received glowing comments from critics but didn't make a huge splash like Halo or Half-Life. Now, with its debut on XBox 360, it seems to be making more of a fuss; but this game is almost a year old (in its PC form) and I hadn't heard a thing about it until a few weeks ago.
I found it at Circuit City and brought it home. The packaging didn't look too promising because I'm not really into tactical shooters or Army combat games, but after installing the five discs (!) onto my hard drive and running the game I immediately realized it wasn't anything like what I had expected.
The storyline is effective even if it's a rip-off of the whole Asian horror cinema influence of recent years. It's basically just "The Grudge" with combat action as far as the story is concerned (although the actual gameplay differs from most combat shooters). You're a member of an elite squadron of marines known as "F.E.A.R." (it stands for something like First Encounter Action Recon, which is kind of contradictory since recon doesn't usually involve much action, but oh well).
FEAR traces supernatural occurrences and your first mission is to assassinate a man who has become possessed by the spirit of a young girl who is causing him to kill and cannibalize people.
The game moves through different terrain but I was surprised by how well it sets everything up. If this were a film no doubt its plot line would be sabotaged by critics but as an interactive game it works very well. It's a cinematic experience and the cut-scenes and dramatic action sequences work well - you can tell many of the high-profile action set-ups were developed extensively for the player to experience the full benefit of the "cinematic gameplay" advertised on the back of the box. This is the first time I've played a game and felt like almost every single level had been designed to flow in a very specific, cinematic way - Half-Life 2 was similar but a bit also enabled more free-range. FEAR kind of manipulates you into following a specific path to complete levels, but it works to this game's benefit because there are some spectacular sequences. When there's an explosion you don't just get the same effects used over and over. When you shoot someone they don't fall down the same way as every other person who falls does.
It's also the creepiest game I've ever played. "Doom 3" wasn't scary because there were too many monsters and it became too repetitive. But FEAR works well because you never know what to expect and they don't over-do the occurrences of the supernatural. One part of the game in particular that freaked me out was when I was crouching in a ventilation shaft, and as a pipe burst and steam hissed in front of the character, the ghost-girl appears out of nowhere scurrying towards you through the dark like the creatures at the end of "Aliens" (I think it was a purposeful reference to the film). Very nicely done.
The shift between action and supernatural works most of the time, although I think sometimes the balance is thrown off a bit. On one level in particular you spend about thirty minutes walking around an office building shooting at enemies, and suddenly the last ten minutes of the level turn into a supernatural thriller and suddenly it seems like all the "regular" villains have completely disappeared. And just as soon as the supernatural stuff vanishes the bad guys are back again. I think in the next game they should develop a better mix of action with supernatural in regards to integrating the enemies into the supernatural sequences as well; otherwise, it feels a bit wishy-washy.
This is a small complaint. The game kept me riveted. It also features some of the best gameplay and special effects I've ever seen in a game. It takes the cinematic integration of Half-Life 2 and takes it up a notch. The cut-scenes make it feel more like an actual movie at times and the enemy AI is the best I've seen in a game since Half-Life 2 - they react realistically to what you do in the game, and interact with each other over their radios.
Overall this is one of the most memorable games I've ever played and certainly following suit of Half-Life 2 as being one of the most revolutionary FPS games of the new millennium. These new game engines are changing the face of their genre and integrating cinema into the game universe in a way unlike ever before.