User review spotlight: Carmageddon (DOS). Released in 1997.

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon (Windows)

Mature
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
88
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  MichaelPalin (1195)
Written on  :  Feb 13, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.71 Stars3.71 Stars3.71 Stars3.71 Stars3.71 Stars

14 out of 18 people found this review helpful

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Summary

Go buy a new PC, then enjoy

The Good

About F.E.A.R. you can say without any doubt, that it is the best FPS of its year. Yet this is not only a FPS, but also a very capable terror game. With the excessive proliferation of videogames in the FPS genre, it is always welcome when, at least, they try to do a thematic FPS, rather than just design another FPS based on killing aliens or soldiers from WWII till nowadays soldiers. F.E.A.R., FEAR for friends, is not specially original, as you kill nowadays soldiers, but, at least, the gameplay is surprisingly good and the terror script helps making you forget that you are playing another repetitive FPS.

This game places you in the role of a SWAT-like police of some paranormal division, called F.E.A.R.. As silly as most of the FPS game are, you seem to be the best of all in the department and everyone knows that you can do this alone and with a hand tied to your back. There are actually a couple of coop missions, and both remain coop for less than a minute. Of course, as a division specialized in paranormal incidents, you should expect more than just fighting some criminals...

What makes this game so playable is that action scenes are very intense. The key to this is based in a powerful AI engine, very spectacular explosion and shooting graphics, a great amount of well designed gore, a very useful slow-mo mode (sound slows in real time, enjoy it) and a voice acting that couldn't be better.

Every time you breaks into some fight, you are about to enjoy probably the more realistic close shooting combat simulation that you will find in any videogame. For every hit in the attrezzo, there will be some reaction and after some shots from both directions, the screen will be full of floating dust, and paper and cardboard pieces, and wait until you see the super cool explosion effect. After everything is finished you will see all kind of boxes and objects lying on the ground, walls filled with very realistic bullet hits and a lot of blood scattered all over the room. If you do things with more cold blood, you can hear how the soldiers communicate as a well prepared commando, explaining to the others how is the situation in their post and what is the intruder (you) doing in that moment if they have already noticed you. And wait to hear these guys screaming every time you hit them, I would really develop moral problems playing this game if they weren't clones created just to kill -as some side note, you will kill like 200 soldiers that look exactly the same; the "clone excuse" makes it a bit less silly than in the average videogame-; they also receive bullets in realistic movements and even limp if you hit them in the legs. They also shoot backwards while escaping from you, they shoot blindly without exposing themselves, they jump through windows and they have phrases for every kind of situation like "he is trying to flank us" or "he is behind that pipe".

Yes, the AI is superb (there is a trailer about it, very recommendable), the voice acting can't be better, the levels react very realistically to all shooting and explosions and you will feel every hit you make to your enemies. It is, of course, a difficult game, and if you don't use cleverly the surprise factor you will be in some difficulties. But what turns the advantage to your side is the slow-mo bar, that works pretty much like in Max Payne, except that you have no special movements and you are not faster than the others, it's just that everything goes slower. Actually you will do most of the killings in slow-mo, as you have more than enough slow-mo bar.

And yes, there is more than frenetic combat in this game, there is terror too. If you have seen the trailer you know what this is about, while wandering through different scenarios there will be some poltergeist and some events of ghostly nature that I wont spoil, as this is the second biggest feature of this game. To enjoy the best, raise the volume and turn off the light.

And the final scene (not the one in the helicopter, the previous one) is awesome. I wont tell you what it is, but I think it's the first time you can experience this in a videogame, at least in first person.

Oh!, I almost forget, and how cool is to kill an enemy with a flying double kick? Answer: Awesome cool!!, XD. That reminds me that the game has a multiplayer mode too.

The Bad

The bad points in this game are basically two: its length and the super-duper graphics.

It's too long, and this fact ruins greatly its better features. As I said, the combat is very intense for many reasons. You will fight group after group of soldiers without finding it repetitive at all during a large percentage of the game, and when you get bored of the soldiers, you will fight some other kind of enemies (well, nearly 90% of the enemies are soldiers). And I must remark the good work they've done with the lines of the soldiers, you will barely find them repetitive. But the game is so long, that by the middle of the game you will scream "no more soldiers please", and from them on, you will start hating more and more the combat scenes.

The length of the game also affects the horror mood of the game. It is easy to realize that during many levels after the introduction ones, the terror part of the game nearly disappears, and you barely get scared until the last part of the game. And about the creepy moments, the more you experience the less terrifying they are. This is a very endemic feature of FPS games and particularly of terror games, the lack of detailed design after the introductory levels. It happens too in Doom 3, very detailed at the beginning and with a lot of scripted action around the main character (remember the mirror scene?) and suddenly the game transforms into an average and repetitive FPS, and becomes no more terrifying. As a counter example, if you don't understand what I mean, there would be Max Payne, where most of the combats have some short of context and story around them, from the beginning to the end of the game.

Going on with the terror factor of the game, you must know, that you better don't play this game because of it. It works very well at the beginning and at the end, but you will begin not feeling terrified at all and predicting where the creepy moments will happen. I also must advice you that this is another rip off of the "era of terror" of "the ring", yes, there is this typical little creepy girl with black long hair that is a constant in Hollywood terror films in the last three years.

About the graphics. Yes, about the graphics! Following the tradition, a hardcore FPS needs a graphics card melting engine. The graphics are so good that you will enjoy each and every frame as you will have time to enjoy them, if you know what I mean. I played it in a 3700+ with a Radeon 9700 Pro mobile (in a laptop), and I must be thankful to the slow-mo mode which made the game playable. You better play in a last generation Graphic card if you want to enjoy it with shadows, and the last of the last if dare to use high quality shadows or lighting. With less than that it doesn't worth it, particularly, you can't play a terror game without shadows (in the second part is not a big loss).

Still there are some other minor things you may find bad done. For example, the soldiers seem to through grenades randomly, and eventually they'll kill themselves with them. The physics (mechanics, better said) engine is very annoying, too, you will find yourself hitting every object of every desk in the game (maybe is a part of the terror factor, ;)), and after they are out of their zero position they'll start jumping randomly. And don't try fixing it in computer settings, I didn't find any difference changing computer settings through its 5 levels.

Oh!, and you'll hate that fat bastard NPC, you'll see what I mean.

The Bottom Line

If this game were 5-10 level shorter it would be the perfect FPS experience. If you are planing to play to enjoy a good terror experience, you can play the first 10 levels and then use some save game of a friend to play the last 10. In any case, this game is technically a number one and you should try it if you are not to saturated of FPS games and if your video card can take it.