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SummaryBe scared. Be very scared
The GoodMy first glimpse of F.E.A.R. was from a friend's computer; and after I had a brief go at it, I realized how good it was. The following year I decided to download it via Steam and thought that I would try completing it myself. The game was developed by Monolith Productions, a company that previously released Blood and its sequel.
In this game, you take on the role of “Point Man”. Due to your superhuman reflexes, the government has enlisted you as a member of the F.E.A.R. team, dedicated to the investigation of paranormal threats. The Dark Horse comic that comes packaged with the game sets the scene up quite nicely, introducing a psychopath named Paxton Fettel. In the game's introduction, you see him commandeer a group of supersoldiers and use them to seize control of Armacham and killed its occupants, then see him next eating someone's face off. You also see Alma Wade, a troubled girl who bears a strong resemblance to Samara/Sadako in the Ring movies.
F.E.A.R.'s first mission is to track Fettel to an abandoned warehouse in the Auburn district. What makes F.E.A.R. shine the way it scares you. It isn't long in the game when you have your first hallucination. Throughout the game, there are various types of these. The most common is either ghostly appearances of Alma or Fettel walking and turning to ash. The hallucination that I like has you in a different place, such as you walking down a long corridor, to a door where you can see Alma giving birth. These hallucinations are accompanied mainly by slow breathing and a series of heartbeats. Also at the start of the game, you witness the crime scene of Charles Habegger, whose face is rather unpleasant to see, being cannibalized by Fettel earlier.
While searching for Fettel, someone kills your entire team and this is where the action begins. The supersoldiers known as Replicas start to appear out of nowhere, trying to stop you from completing your given mission. You have to kill them using one of three weapons. At the start of the game, the weapons you pick up are very basic, but as you progress further into the game, more advanced ones can be obtained and you can kill enemies with one shot with these weapons. Although you are limited to just three, you can steal the weapons from dead guards. I enjoyed using the advanced weapons; they look brilliant, some of them able to display the amount of ammo you have.
The artificial intelligence is amazing. The Replicas, as well as other enemies, can duck, travel under crawlspaces, jump through windows, vault over railings, climb ladders, and push over large objects to create cover. Yes, the enemies can be difficult to kill, but you have the upper hand in combat. You have a built-in Slow-Mo feature and this is another thing that makes F.E.A.R. shines. Time is slowed down, Matrix-style, and you can kill them with ease. You have a limited amount of time before everything turns to normal, but until it fills up again, the best thing to do is hurl a grenade at them or just use melee attacks. With Slow-Mo enabled, you get to see a lot of blood splatter as well. The game features some stunning views. On the rooftop of the Armacham building, I enjoyed looking out toward the lit buildings, as well as the ground and the mountains in the background. That is the only thing that I remember most of the game - this view. Inside Armacham, the offices are well designed, and I liked searching these offices for supplies and any phone messages I can eavesdrop on. There are also laptops that will give you more background on Alma, as well as frequent news bulletins about the explosion at the warehouse.
Everything else in the game looks amazing, including the appearance of the different enemies, the amount of lighting used, and the like. Unlike many first-person shooters of the past, you can see Point Man's shadow when you're up against a wall. You can even see him perform certain actions like getting out of the car at the start of the game and climbing up and down ladders.
When I finally completed the game, I have the urge to play Extraction Point due to the cliffhanger, which I won't explain here. It is supposed to continue where F.E.A.R. left off, so it is worth playing this expansion pack right after the original game.
The BadDue to so much detail and effort put into the game, F.E.A.R.'s system requirements are a bit steep. Not even a PC brought in 2000 can run this. So, anyone who read reviews and wanted to see what all the fuss was about was encouraged to buy a new PC. Also, I believe that the version of the game you're running does matter. I noticed some choppiness at the start of the game when I was still running Version 1.0.
Other than that, I did not find anything negative about the game.
The Bottom LineTechnologically superior for its time, F.E.A.R. tells the story of a team sent to neutralize a man named Paxton Fettel, only to be faced with strange paranormal activity that sees the entire team killed. Throughout the game, the main protagonist has hallucinations which range from glimpses of Alma Wade or Fettel, with major ones having the player moving a narrow hallway toward a door or through a dark area surrounded by fire and attacked by these things called “Nightmares”. These hallucinations are designed to scare the player, and I believe that the scare factor works here.
The player does battle mostly with soldiers known as Replicas, but also others, who are difficult to kill due to their fast artificial intelligence. Although you can use it for a limited amount of time, the Slow-Mo feature is useful for killing these enemies. The environments that the player walks through are detailed and look amazing. I recommend exploring the Armacham offices because there are things that allow you to do things that give you insight on what's happening around you.
I also recommend buying a retail version of F.E.A.R. so that you get a copy of the Dark Horse comic and the Alma interviews. They are worth checking out, because they set the scene for the actual game. If you used a download service, you can still read the comics. I'm sure that there are copies floating around the Internet.