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F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon

aka: F.E.A.R., FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon
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Description official descriptions

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon is a horror first person shooter (FPS) that resembles a cross between Doom 3, Half-Life, and the Ring horror movies. Demons are replaced by cloned soldiers and the element of horror revolves around an image of a spectral girl always appearing when least expected for a few fleeting moments.

The player sets out as a member of a specialized strike force dealing with unknown threats. Initially, the player starts with mundane weapons, which are well presented, and progress gradually towards more sci-fi ones as the danger increases. The player can also call upon a bullet-time ability which slows down time around the player and is realised with impressive visual and aural effects by the game engine.

The game takes place in a certain multi-billion aerospace installation which has been hijacked by an elite team of cloned soldiers gone rogue and an unknown supernatural force (which is likely controlling or affecting them in some way). Both threats must be identified and countered.

Spellings

  • 恐惧 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

310 People (251 developers, 59 thanks) · View all

Senior Artist, World
Senior Artist/Animator
Artist, World
Art Director, 3D Coordinator
Art Lead
Senior Artist, Characters/Weapons
Artist/Animator
Lead Motion Capture Technician
Director of Audio/Sound Designer
Composer
Sound Designer
Level Designer
Creative Director/Lead Game Designer (and Script Writer)
Lead Level Designer
Software Engineer (and Additional Level Design)
Senior Software Engineer, AI
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 83% (based on 78 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 145 ratings with 7 reviews)

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.

Windows · by MichaelPalin (1414) · 2006

Once upon a time, a girl named Alma...

The Good
After 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 Bad
It'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 Line
I 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!

Windows · by vicrabb (7272) · 2008

F.E.A.R. = Fulfilling Expectations And Revolutionizing

The Good
Notice: This is long, but this game made so many fundamental advancements in the genre, I feel the need to explain why it deserves praise as one of the best FPS's of all time

Welcome to every one of your boyhood fantasies regarding guns, explosions and armed combat being represented in a video game.

Every fire fight in this game, no matter how insignificant, has more bullets flying, shell casings ejecting, bodies dropping, blood spraying, debris zooming, sparks raining, concrete dust clouds floating and highly-flammable objects exploding than every single Jerry Bruckheimer film combined. It’s just a wonderful blend of destructive power and kinetic forces that leaves a very satisfying taste in your mouth. Especially post-battle, when you stroll through a typical office floor after you’ve slugged it out with Replica forces, and find it littered with enemy corpses, blood splatters all over the place, chunks of concrete literally dug out of the walls and clouds of pulverized building materials hanging in the air. There’s no better feeling in a first-person shooter than simply enjoying the results of your handiwork and F.E.A.R. really does give you an atmosphere to bask in that’ll make you feel like a real-life Ninja.

There’s no way to describe the combat in F.E.A.R. without using the words visceral, chaotic and intense. The game’s battles have all the ingredients casual and hard-core FPS gamers need: enough explosive energy to orbit the USS Nimitz, a varied arsenal of tactically-purposeful weaponry, plenty of opportunities to cater to your particular shooting style (e.g. Camper or Rambo) and enemies that’ll give you a run for your money (especially on the higher difficulties, where they’ll dish out just as much damage as you can; ouch.)

Much praise has to be given to the excellent Lithtech Jupiter EX engine which F.E.A.R. utilizes, and its incredible particle effects, volumetric lighting, soft shadows and physics simulation. It’s basically these 4 factors which make the combat sequences in F.E.A.R. so damned fun and cinematic.

Fellow FPS competitors in 2005 such as: Halo 2, Call of Duty 2 and Quake 4, were fairly “traditional” titles that didn’t stray outside of the box. Their only real innovations were more emphasis on vehicular-based combat, and enhanced multiplayer. Otherwise, they retold the formula of their predecessor titles.

F.E.A.R. not only scared you psychologically, instead of reflexively (e.g. Doom 3’s predictable “Monster Closets”), with its blend of Japanese-influenced horror and lucid hallucination sequences, but gave you incredibly well-programmed A.I. that battled like a professional fighting force. I would go so far as to say that as of 2010, F.E.A.R.’s A.I. still only has a few rivals in mainstream FPS games. Instead of meat shields standing around waiting to have their heads popped off, the Replica brought the fight to you. They flanked you whenever you decided to camp for a few seconds, they threw objects like tables or shelves around to create makeshift cover, they sprayed suppressive fire from behind walls and corners without peaking their heads over them, grenades were lobbed right into your lap to flush you out when you took shelter and they always, ALWAYS advanced towards you. Not to mention, their situational awareness rivals anything seen in previous FPS games; remember how in Battlefield 1942 or Star Wars: Battlefront, you could snipe a bot standing right next to another one who wouldn’t even blink? You’ll think twice before approaching a group of Replica with your flashlight turned on, as they’ll see the beam from a mile away. Just when you think you’ve gotten the drop on one of their team mates who’s hidden from their view, you’ll hear an electronically-distorted voice go: “Not getting a response, check it out!” and the rest of the squad will search for their missing member whom they’ve lost radio contact with. Their individual movement animations are even more eye-catching, and totally out of context for most FPS’s. Like something right out of Jet Li film, they’ll vault over ledges or railings and fling themselves through windows, climb up and down ladders or even duck out of the way of incoming rockets, showcasing their incredible flexibility to adapt to any environment. They are a frighteningly competent fighting force in a genre that for the most part, has been dominated by A.I. that has the tactical prowess of orangutans with guns. At several points in the single player campaign, it honestly felt as though I was playing online with actual humans; the A.I. really was that surprising and well scripted.

Speaking of fighting, hand-to-hand combat in F.E.A.R. is no longer just clobbering people with a rifle butt (although just to be familiar, you can still do that). You can execute three, Tae Kwon Do-style, acrobatic kicks (that are not just there to look flashy, they will kill most enemies with one blow), you can also literally power slide into your enemy’s legs and bowl them over and you can slow down time. Yes, “Reflex Time” as it’s referred to in F.E.A.R., is the unnamed, undescribed protagonist’s most overwhelming advantage against the Replica forces (the reason he possesses these almost psychic reflexes will become abundantly clear to you near the end of the game). It functions exactly like “Bullet Time” in Max Payne or The Matrix, but by collecting numerous reflex boosters scattered throughout the game, you can enhance the duration of the effect. Wonderfully useful in side-stepping out of the way of incoming rockets, sniping moving targets or just going on a melee frenzy and kicking heads left, right and center.

The distortion and blur effects during “Reflex Time”, especially the rippling shock waves created by explosions or bullets whizzing past your head, really give a cinematic feel to the action, making you feel exactly like The Matrix’s Neo bum-rushing a couple of Agent Smiths.

The “movie-like” feel is further emphasized by a wonderful cacophony of destructive sound effects. Sound design and effects are particularly crucial in transporting a gamer from his swivel-back computer chair into a world of ballistic brutality. F.E.A.R. does not fall short in this aspect either, all of the guns from the humble sub-machinegun, to the token, pump-action shotgun right up to the wacky and futuristic “Type-7 Particle Weapon”, which is basically a vaporizing death ray with a scope, sound just like you’d expect them to: mean and powerful. I especially loved the high-pitched, rapid shriek of the sub-machinegun, the metallic “KA-CHUNK” noise of the Repeating Cannon rotating it’s barrels and the remotely detonated mines, which when combined with a couple of explosive barrels, just create an orgasmic mixture of fiery explosion noises that really do feel like you’re standing 30ft away from a blast (not to mention the sound of Replica flesh being liquefied by blast waves… it gets more satisfying each time you hear it). It’s not just the sound of the arsenal that’ll have you feeling like you’re in a Michael Mann film, there’s also wonderfully apt environmental ambiance and sound effects from physics-enabled objects that’ll also add to the mayhem of fire fights. For example, shooting different surfaces in this game produces different noises. If you fire a round into wood, you’ll hear a dull, muffled “thud” but fire a round into a cardboard box and it’ll rip right through with a big “WHOOSH”. Better yet, try shooting an electrical fuse box and watch the cover blow several feet off and electrical sparks rain down in the vicinity, complete with very nice sounding “crackling” noises. Blowing chunks of concrete out of office walls I never grew tired of, the earthy crumbling and bouncing rocks accompanying anything explosive hitting a wall was music to my ears. There are so many subtle niceties in the game’s sound effects that just add up in conjunction with all the visual eye-candy this game offers during gun battles to create a very believable and realistic representation of close-quarters combat.

Something particularly never-before-seen, and very overlooked, that F.E.A.R pioneered and got absolutely no credit for (but which has since become commonplace) is the TRUE first-person perspective. No longer do you feel like you’re simply controlling a levitating gun with a pair of hands grasping it. All of your limbs are clearly visible when you look downward at your own body and animate when you walk, run, jump, execute kicks, reload, or crouch. In several scripted sequences, you’ll even witness your own body being tossed around like a ragdoll through the air from the first person perspective, complete with your arms and legs flailing wildly. Not only that, but the game puts a significant emphasis on keeping you in first-person perspective throughout the whole ordeal to suck you into the atmosphere. There are no real cinematics to break the ambiance (apart from the intro), no big, unwieldy HUD interfaces or inventory management menus, only some short hallucinations (which are still in-game) and pre-rendered flashbacks to the F.E.A.R. Point Man’s past. F.E.A.R. really does insist on eliminating the sense of “detachedness” and definitely upped the ante with the immersion factor more so than any other previous FPS with the exception of Half-Life 2.

Moving on to the story, well it’s nowhere near as ground-breaking as the actual gameplay but it deserves praise in that, while it quite freely plagiarizes John Woo’s directing style, Hollywood blockbusters, Japanese horror films like The Ring/The Grudge and bits and pieces of the Survival Horror genre, it’s sufficiently unique in the realm of the FPS to pretty much stand out (to this day) from any other title. Although the premise of a Special Forces unit dedicated to investigating paranormal phenomena (hence, First Encounter Assault Recon) is quite obviously a lame mixture of the X-Files and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, there’s a very humane and emotional tale of suffering and abuse at the heart of the storyline with regards to Alma, the little girl who is basically the centrepiece of what transpires in the single player campaign. Very few FPS’s, and again Half-Life 2 is the only one that quickly springs to mind, manage to successfully give the player at least some sense of sympathy and understanding in what motivates the game’s adversaries the act the way do. Usually it’s just: this is the bad guy, he’s certifiably insane, kill him and ask questions later. Alma’s background is pretty revolutionary because of the fact she is just a child and yet your primary source of conflict in the game, and this does take the storyline into some pretty deep waters (particularly concerning her forced impregnation and torturous captivity at the hands of Armacham). Such a serious shift is completely out of character for an FPS, let alone most other genres but a pretty brave step I felt and a welcomed one, instead of the traditional Humans Vs. Inhuman mantra (e.g. Aliens, Nazis, Terrorists, etc.). Alma’s actions seem inexplicably hell-bent at first, but later are revealed to be a product of her twisted childhood as part of Armacham’s research into psychically-enhanced soldiers. Armacham Technology Corporation (ATC) is the stereotypical, ruthlessly unethical, mega-corporation that will pursue its own radical goals at any cost, that includes life and limb.

Mid-way through the game Alma turns out to be increasingly supportive of you as you progress, even helping rescue you from danger; this sudden change of heart is later revealed to be no mere accident or coincidence (don’t want to reveal too much here). On top of that, Paxton Fettel, the second primary antagonist, fulfils of the role of the “evil-for-the-sake-of-evil” arch-nemesis who telepathically controls the Replica forces (cloned, psychically-enhanced, “Super Soldiers”). He was part of secretive US military programs to develop cloned soldiers who could be remotely commanded. His menacing threats and demented rantings throughout the game (experienced via hallucinations) don’t really help explain his motivations in breaking free from the shackles of Armacham and but he does make a stunning revelation at the end of the game which will have you going “Oooooh, I should have guessed that”. The rest of the F.E.A.R. team who you sporadically encounter at the start of some levels are a pretty forgettable host of characters, aside from Rowdy Betters (Really? Rowdy as a first name?), the F.E.A.R. team’s leader who will talk to you via radio continually, giving you intelligence & reconnaissance updates; his voice acting and delivery I found very convincing for the “veteran, career military officer” type. Other stand-outs in the story were the unseen characters (another FPS rarity) of Genevieve Aristide, the lady with a fittingly pompous name at the head of Armacham, whom you only familiarize yourself with through a few phone message recordings and Harlan Wade, the bitter, old scientist at the head of the research efforts for Project Origin & Perseus (the above mentioned secret military programs) who is in continual conflict with Genevieve over her carelessness (revealed through a series of rather hilarious, and very hostile voice-mail messages). Although hardly fleshed out, Genevieve was very well integrated into the story as a continual source of blame for the events that allowed the Replica forces under Fettel’s command to break free from the “Origin Facility” and wreak havoc, despite the numerous warnings other characters gave her. The ending was brilliantly done and basically ties in all the themes that were briefly touched upon throughout the story, to form a cohesive timeline of what really happened, as well as revealing the surprising, hidden past of the F.E.A.R. “Point Man” that was the focal point of the game’s events. A few holes and questions will abound at the end of the game, but hey, I don't like to be spoon fed monologues; I'd much rather leave the unanswered questions as building blocks for an even better sequel.

Now, this point has had me stumped ever since I finished the game. The last big plus I’m going to discuss about the game was hardly ever mentioned in any serious reviews, and why it was overlooked is beyond me as it’s hard to play through more than a few battle sequences in F.E.A.R. without nodding your head in sync to the wonderfully intense, dramatic, militarily-austere soundtrack blaring in the background that just makes you feel as if you’re recreating every Hollywood action-film cliché. This is one of the best composed, videogame soundtracks I have heard in a game, period. Only The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Command & Conquer Series, Half-Life 2, Halo, Mechwarrior 2, Age of Empires II and perhaps Rome Total War are on the same level, but they were composed by much larger, well-off developers who hired the services of top-level, professional composers and famed orchestras (including some who’d done Hollywood film scores). F.E.A.R.’s entire soundtrack, which is on the order of 2 hours long, was composed by someone called Nathan Grigg (good luck Googling anything about him), who’s only sound design experience prior to F.E.A.R. was Alien Vs. Predator 2 (which to be fair had a very good soundtrack similar to the Alien films) and Condemned: Criminal Origins. More surprising is the fact that he hasn’t composed a videogame soundtrack since F.E.A.R. Extraction Point in 2006, and yet he somehow managed to produce this truly epic, melodic blend of military drum beats, haunting and dark electronic ambient music and action-film inspired electronic guitar riffs; which really is impossible to describe but which will nevertheless have you hooked from that hauntingly beautiful song that accompanies the introductory cinematic. You have to listen to it for yourself, in my opinion the man would easily get an Oscar nomination in another line of work that got more commercial recognition. His soundtrack fits in seamlessly with every single level, it gives every fire fight, every tense hallucination/nightmare sequence and every disconcerting recon walk through dark, foreboding corridors the perfect atmosphere. I can’t overstate enough how good this soundtrack is. Nathan Grigg has a knack for timing and attention to detail that is uncanny. He knows how to put you into the shoes of a one-man army a la The Terminator and how to put you into the mood to just go all gung-ho like a 12-year old Counter-Strike player and lose any impulse control. He can take you on an acoustical roller-coaster from Almighty to Zombie-film terror in a matter of seconds.

The Bad
Let’s get this out of the way: Level design is not this game’s forte. This will become abundantly clear to you by even half-way through the game; as you’ll feel like you’ve walked along those abandoned office cubicles, warehouse aisles and industrial catwalks for the umpteenth time. The game will take place in one of three locales (for the most part): an abandoned warehouse complex located in a dock, an abandoned office complex located in a skyscraper and an abandoned apartment complex. See a pattern here? It’s hard to think of the endless, gray-walled corridors and ridiculously identical workplaces (seriously, the same desks, furniture, shelves, chairs, doors, floor tiles, etc…) as being anything else than claustrophobic, repetitive and boring.

Occasionally you’ll stumble upon some wide open spaces, like perhaps an office courtyard or a big loading dock, which are primarily used to trigger big set-piece battles with lots of Replica, but aside from that it’s just a never-ending grind of corridor mazes, run-of-the-mill offices, cubicles and cramped service/maintenance areas or shafts.

I can’t fault Monolith for choosing these particular settings as part of their storyline (indeed many other FPSs have used these kinds of generic settings with great success) , but I do criticize them for not breaking up the monotony. There are an infinite number of ways F.E.A.R.’s levels could be made more interesting: the rooftop and garage battles at the Armacham Headquarters were novel but far too short, they could have been expanded to give the player a chance to spend more time outside of the office labyrinths. The dilapidated Auburn apartment complex provided a great opportunity to allow the player to use non-linear approaches and hidden paths to reach objectives and outsmart his enemies (after all, it was a crumbling apartment block); a sort of urban-warfare feel to F.E.A.R. instead of just cramped room-to-room combat, but this was rarely emphasised (aside from a section of this level involving Replica snipers in apartment windows).

The linearity in this game isn’t all consuming though, as F.E.A.R. quite often gave the player a choice of 2 or sometimes 3 approaches to a particular problem (much like Far Cry): the direct way, which usually involved taking Replica head-on, and thus the most difficult solution but yet the fastest. Or the indirect way, in which you might sneak through an air-conditioning duct or inside ceilings and end up right in the enemy’s flank, or climb a hidden ladder to reach a high vantage point from which you could snipe. These were really needed breaths of fresh air in the later levels, as the combat did get fairly tedious, especially when you started facing large numbers of the more heavily armored Replica. However, when the game wanted to force you into a scripted sequence or a difficult, unfair skirmish with the odds stacked against you, it always would, which I hated. Particularly the way doors, elevators or previously accessible walkways would magically block themselves off, thus alerting you to the fact that some serious crap was about to go down and it was time to engage “Duke Nukem mode”.

I won’t complain about the steep system requirements (at the time of release), which was a common theme in reviews, as that’s really up to the consumer to be fully aware of his system’s performance before he buys any game for which he doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, as well as the fact that F.E.A.R. set a pretty high standard to follow which only helps the industry in the long-term. One last thing I would like throw in though is that this story and the succession of expansions/sequels could have been so much more; they really could have rivalled the Half-Life or the Call of Duty series as one of the greatest FPS franchises of all time. Unfortunately, every single sequel to F.E.A.R. (Extraction Point, Perseus Mandate and F.E.A.R. Project Origin 2) as of 2010 has fallen far short of the original game’s depth and intensity. Most seem extremely rushed, unpolished and a regurgitation of previously explored ideas and yes, I have played through all of them, being the die-hard fan the first game turned me into. I’ll leave it at that, but sufficed to say, this is another example of where a small-time developer like Monolith, who toiled in obscurity for most of its lifetime and had only released 2 noticeable titles before F.E.A.R. (Blood & AVP:2), entered the big leagues too soon, and were wholly unprepared for the level of attention and the fanbase they received. Being inexperienced with managing the production budgets, razor-thin schedules and large human resources that an industry leading software developer needs to have, they sold themselves out and bowed down to the commercializing requests from the larger, more cunning Warner Bros & Vivendi (in exchange for bigger profit margins), who drastically changed the direction of development after F.E.A.R. was released. Now, Monolith have simply resorted to mimicking the established, greedy heavyweights like Electronic Arts and sunk to that familiar routine in the gaming industry of milking a cash cow for all it’s worth with horrible sequel after horrible sequel (giving false hopes of achieving what the original game did) because they’re just glad to have finally “made it” and now want to bask in the profits of a 5 year old game forever. It’s a disturbing trend that’s repeating itself with teams like Crytek and Infinity Ward.

The Bottom Line
With a very commendable 12 “intervals” of game play totalling some 12 to 15 hours of solid playing time, this is just a shooter you cannot pass up or refuse to indulge in. If you consider yourself an FPS fan who wants to have the privilege of saying he’s experienced all of the classics, all of the ground-breakers that set precedents for every successive developer to follow: YOU MUST PLAY THIS GAME. It’s so good you can almost smell the gun-smoke in the air, you can feel the violent concussive effects of grenade explosions and with a decent sound card/speakers combination, your ears will come as close as near as makes no difference to actually listening to a high-calibre assault rifle or shotgun being fired inches away from your face and bullets ricocheting off walls and ceilings.

If we boil first-person shooters down to their basic elements, it’s all about guns. Yes, guns. How guns look on your screen, how they work, how they interact with the objects or entities they destroy, how they sound, how purposeful they are to your fire-power requirements, how much learning time you need to become proficient with them, how their strengths and weaknesses relate to the different enemies you’ll face and how they fit into the atmosphere the player resides in. Firing a gun, in real-life, is a loud, violent, mesmerizing experience and what F.E.A.R. has done is concentrated on bringing that home to you.

Guns, explosions, violence, tactical strategy, triumphant military music, urban warfare, The Matrix, all-out, no holds-barred aggression and wiping the floor with your enemies. If any of these preceding adjectives or statements takes your fancy… just play the damn game and enjoy the heck out of it.

Windows · by Sharafciger (34) · 2011

[ View all 7 player reviews ]

Trivia

1001 Video Games

The PC version of F.E.A.R. appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

ATC

Armacham first appeared in the SHOGO universe, and it might be that the F.E.A.R. universe is somehow connected to that series. In SHOGO, Armacham manufactures the Ordog Advanced Series 7 Mobile Combat Armor.

Console version

In the console versions blood textures on killed characters and the environment were removed. For the Xbox 360 version this was later revoked by patch.

Development

The game was originally going to have a car chase scene and even had extensive drafting during the development. However, it was removed during further development, as in the words of Craig Hubbard, "It didn't work out the way we hoped it would." The car originally used for the chase sequence did make it into the final game, though in limited capacity: it is the same vehicle that the character Rowdey Betters drives the protagonist into the first level with.

Douglas Holiday

The Delta Force operative Douglas Holiday was originally going to be a member of the F.E.A.R. Team. This can be seen in pre-release trailers and promotional pictures of the game.

German version

In the German version all gore effects and the skeleton after killing an enemy with the energy weapon were removed. Enemies still bleed when being shot, but the blood does not spray on the environment.

Inspiration

F.E.A.R. is heavily inspired by Japanese horror films like Ringu (The Ring) and Ju-on (The Grudge). For instance, the mysterious girl with long black hair is obviously channeling Samara from The Ring.

P.A.N.I.C.S.

To promote the game prior to the release, Vivendi Universal sponsored a machinima viral campaign called P.A.N.I.C.S. - produced by BeSeen Communications and Rooster Teeth Productions (famous for Red vs. Blue).

The title is short for People Acting Normal in Crazy-ass Situations and it was a series produced utilizing the machinima technique generated by the F.E.A.R. game engine. The story offers a humorous look at the escapades of Bravo Team as they face off against an unseen, supernatural opponent. In addition to the four installments released to the public, a fifth "prequel" episode was included as a bonus feature on F.E.A.R. - Director's Edition.

The series was awarded with the "IFCTM Award for Excellence in Machinima Screenwriting" sponsored by the Independent Film Channel and nominated for two other awards at the 2005 Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences Film Festival, including Best Series and Best Commercial Machinima.

References

  • During Interval 6, at a security checkpoint where you first encounter a particular enemy, look for a letter on the desk. The letter in question, is addressed to Monolith Productions, the developer of the game.
  • A long-running joke in the No One Lives Forever series was the fact that in neither game it was revealed what H.A.R.M. actually stood for, even though it was referred to plenty of times ("Remember what H.A.R.M. stands for!"). In F.E.A.R. one can see the H.A.R.M. logo on a sign on a warehouse wall early in the game, with the words "Heater And Refridgerator Manufacturing" printed on it.
  • The name of the character Jin Sun-Kwon may be a reference to the name of the Lost TV series characters Jin-Soo Kwon and Sun. It is also notable that both characters from the TV series and the one from the game are Koreans.
  • Throughout the labs in the Armacham HQ and the Origin facility, one can see many "8311 XHT" model fume hoods. This could be a reference to the 1971 science fiction film THX 1138.
  • A. Shephard, a Delta Force coordinator who is only heard through radio transmissions, was likely named so as a nod to Adrian Shephard, the protagonist of Half-Life: Opposing Force.

References to the game

In the sitcom The IT Crowd, the character Moss is playing F.E.A.R. on the computer.

Technology

F.E.A.R. is possibly the most graphically-intensive commercial game (as of November 2005) yet. It has replaced Doom 3 as a popular benchmarking tool for companies testing new graphics cards.

Of course, all this is to the chagrin of the ordinary gamer. Some people have suggested that "FEAR" stands for F***ed Engine and Requirements.

Vending machines

Some of the vending machines that appear in the game are the exact same ones that are used in Monolith's other games: No One Lives Forever, Condemned: Criminal Origins and Condemned 2: Bloodshot.

Weapons

Many firearms in the game have a real-life counterpart. The RPL SMG is based on the MP5, the VK12 Combat Shotgun is based on the SPAS-12, the AT-14 Pistol is based on a version of the HK USP, the G2A2 Assault Rifle is based on the HK SL8 and the ASP Rifle is an analogue of the Tavor TAR-21.

Awards

  • 4Players
    • 2005 – Best Action Game of the Year
    • 2005 – Most Impressive Boss of the Year (for Alma)
    • 2005 – Best AI of the Year
  • PC Powerplay (Germany)
    • Issue 04/2006 - #4 Action Game in 2005 (Readers' Vote)

Information also contributed by CaptainCanuck, dasfatso, Medicine Man, Neon Hammerite and Sciere

Related Games

F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate
Released 2007 on Windows
F.E.A.R.: Extraction Point
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F.E.A.R.: Gold Edition
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Encounter!
Released 1984 on Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST
F.E.A.R. Combat
Released 2006 on Windows
F.E.A.R. Files
Released 2007 on Xbox 360
F.E.A.R. Collection
Released 2012 on Windows

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Silverblade.

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 added by Sciere.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Sciere, Maw, Medicine Man, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, WONDERなパン.

Game added November 2nd, 2005. Last modified April 20th, 2023.