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SummaryOnce upon a time, a girl named Alma...
The GoodAfter a brilliant career in the army, thanks to your special abilities (you can be very fast), you've joined the First Encounter Assault Recon or F.E.A.R., usually sent when things go wrong... but not in the way expected. If you prefer, the F.E.A.R. is used to interventions involving paranormal. Anyway, you're the rookie in the unit but not for so long as your first mission is to arrest a psychopath named Paxton Fettel, a psychic used as a lab rat since his birth for leading Replikas by the mind. Replikas are just genetically modified soldiers who can hear orders in their heads by the mind. Fettel escapes from his jail and uses this army to kill everyone involved in the project or everyone who will try to resist him. Unfortunately for you, a young girl named Alma seems to side with Fettel but you can kill her, she's like a ghost... You will try to solve the mystery behind Alma, Fettel and Armacham... And why do you keep to see your birth and your mother's scream when you're taken from her? Why the man is saying that you'll be a god among the humans? And why do you have the feeling that you're tied to Armacham, Fettel and Alma?
F.E.A.R. is a FPS released in 2005 who was a success, mainly because of its ambiance and plot. I mean, as you can see, you're a nameless soldier (nicknamed Pointman by the community) sent to arrest a psychic who has gone mad and killed a lot of people with his army. Well, the dead are from Armacham Technologies... When will the enterprises learn that playing with paranormal is dangerous?
Anyway, without revealing the end of the game (it's for the Extraction Point review - but in a game like FEAR, it's very difficult not to spoil everything), what looked like a simple mission will transform in a raging war between the Delta Force, the ATC guards, Fettel and his army and you. Fortunately, the Delta Force is siding with you but it seems that that Armacham wasn't really a clean corporation. Using a young girl named Alma, who appears in your mind when you don't expect it, to give birth to genetically babies (well, there are only two: the first prototype et Fettel) who can be psychic like her and imprisoning her in a sort of jail isn't very ethical, especially for Harlan Wade, the responsible of the project. Is it a mother's wrath? But why this little girl, Alma, seems to warn you sometimes about dangers?
As you can see, you will have a lot of questions in mind... and it will be in this context that you will learn more about yourself. Story is sad, hurtful and that's why it's one of the strongest points of the game.
With Half-Life and Doom 3, FEAR is one of my favorite games in terms of story. The results at the end are very interesting and even if Monolith wants to pretend that the expansion pack Extraction Point must be ignored, FEAR has one of the strongest universes for me but only if you count Extraction Point (and probably Perseus Mandate I didn't play).
Gameplay is simple. You have to shoot enemies, mainly Replikas and then ATC guards (Armacham has a lot of secrets). But shooting while running like a mad dog into enemies isn't the right solution here. You have to be careful, using the environment at your advantage. After all, you have a special power, a sort of bullet time: time is slowed while you have still the same speed. It's very useful when you're fighting against the EVE robots or a bunch of soldiers.
One of the features of this gameplay is the fact that you can only carry three weapons. So, you have to make some choices and you never know if it's right or not. It adds to the realistic part of the game but for me, it's not really a good point.
Your path is very linear but in the end, you forget about it. True, the passage in Armacham offices are long and somewhere boring but you'll find a lot of clues about the case and it's also strengthening the ambiance: you'll be scaried, oppressed by the small space and you will never know what will happened. You will never know when Paxton will trigger your memories or a vision, you will never know when Alma will appear.
Enemy AI is very good. The Replikas can duck, take cover or try to ambush you in order to kill you. Yes, everyone know that at the end, you'll be victorious (I hope) but having played games where the enemies do not see you even when you're in their eyesight or enemies running at you, making their death an easier task, I can assure you that FEAR can give some hard work to the hero.
Characters encountered are also very important: Jankowsky, your colleague, seems to have been killed in the beginning but you keep to encounter him, as if he was a ghost for example. Or Alice Wade, who prefers to escape because of her fear of flying and tries to find her father, leading you to him. Or Harlan Wade, the man who said to you that you'll be a god among the humans in your vision, who knew Alma, who was aware of what would happened, should the chamber opened (and Armacham PDG didn't seem to share his opinion). Or Paxton Fettel, your opponent, who doesn't kill you (even if he sent Replikas after you) and wants to explain to you everything. Or Alma, this young girl who seems to kill people (but you, you escape... well, you will understand why). Or Alma the Older who wants to kill you because she's angry and bitter.
Graphics are also very good. The engine is really performant and you can tell that the feeling of fear is coming primary from the game between light and shadow, between the old structures you're visiting and the technologies encountered. Enemies, despite being based on the same model, are very well designed, like the weapons (I love the futuristic sniper weapon for example, very efficient against Replikas). Your visions are also very well designed.
Soundtrack is excellent, I loved the beginning track during the sequence where Alma takes the control of Paxton's mind. You can sense the drama... like when Harlan will release Alma and is ready to pay the price of his sinful actions.
In terms of lifetime, a good replay value, difficulty modes and multiplayer justify a high thumb up from me. You know, that feature of carrying 3 weapons only will probably push some of the players to play the game but with different weapons. And then, it's also a long game, sometimes too long (Armacham is a good example). But it's worthy.
The BadIt's very difficult to find negative points when a game like that takes you really in a dark and coherent world. For example, I'm sure that I would have found some flaws in the multiplayer mode but being not interested in this feature, I can't speak about it.
Anyway, my first complaint is about the three-weapons things. I like having all my weaponry on me, just for having the right gun at the right time. Making a choice isn't for me. Making a choice when you have more than three favorite weapons is frustrating. Yes, there is a cheat code allowing you to carry everything. And well, sometimes, having all the weapons can be useful in some cases. Anyway, even if it's probably a good thing - Vietcong for example doesn't let you use more than your primary and secondary weapon and if you want to change it, you have to throw away what you're carrying and well, it wasn't bothering me -, I don't like this system in F.E.A.R..
I didn't like the design of Alma the Older - the adult Alma who died long ago. She seems so creepy and wants really to kill you... where Alma in her younger form seems not willing to do this task. The story will tell you why and Extraction Point, the add-on, will go further in this matter.
As I've stated, if you love open spaces and movement liberty, you will not love FEAR. It's very linear, rare are the open spaces as the rule here is small spaces for more "fear", I mean, strenghtening the plot and the ambiance. But the Armacham offices level is way too long.
The Bottom LineI wanted FEAR when I saw previews. It took one year after the buying act for playing it (remember that I've bought Painkiller when it was released and only play it two years later). And I enjoyed the game (minus the three weapons things). It's a very good game with a good ambiance, interesting weapons, a strong storyline and the emblem which is Alma, reminding the little girl from The Ring.
So, my bottom line is: buy it, you'll be not disappointed!