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

aka: F.E.A.R., FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon
Moby ID: 19787

[ All ] [ PlayStation 3 ] [ Windows ] [ Xbox 360 ]

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 83% (based on 78 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 156 ratings with 7 reviews)

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

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

Blend of "Counter-Strike", "Metal Gear Solid", and "The Ring" is brilliantly mixed for greatest pleasure of Japanese horror fans

The Good
The game incorporates most popular and proven things of its time. They are: 1) military combat very popular thankfully to Counter-Strike franchise, 2) Japanese horror critically acclaimed in 'The Ring' movies and its American re-makes, and 3) the talents of the developers from Monolith. The blend of such things gave the "F.E.A.R.".

Horror in the game was raised to the very high point. The plot is composed by you mostly not based on the straight-forward story-telling, but on the phone calls and laptop data you've discovered along your way. Some of the dead bodies are cannibalized and shown to you to scare you, but some of them are hidden, and you may find them if you want tracking the blood spots. The game is very bloody and the plot was scary even for me.

The music and sound effects are very atmospheric. The action is very challenging. Since the very beginning, you should be ready to the full hard contact with different enemies as soldiers in real world as paranormal creatures in your hallucinations.

The Bad
The game is very straight-forward. You should run mostly on only one road and it doesn't give the freedom to the player. Too much questions were left after the game finish than the answers were taken. Sequel should cast the light on several issues, but not on all, I guess. But also I guess that it was a twist of the designers to make the game in such way. You will not replay the game to revive the memories, for sure. These memories are too terrific to revive them. Instead of it you have a multiplayer option, if you want to play this game once more.

Some of the weapons are useless during the game. The shotgun was almost not used by me as well as mini-guns, but it is personal preference. However, I've played Extraction Point (the game's add-on), where shotgun was my one of the best weapons during 2nd Interval instead, but I'll review the add-on later.

It is definitely, that the game is not NOLF2 with all its best parts, but it is solid (yeah, I've remembered Metal Gear Solid, it is also Japanese and also military and slightly paranormal based game) action. Some of the plot twist are not clear for me. For example, why you've killed Paxton Fettel so easily, and why you have killed him at all? Why Alma've killed her creator and Alice? I've guessed that answer will be that Paxton should be dead because it was your main mission goal during most of the Intervals and that Alma is a monster who should killed her creator, but who knows...

I wrote much letters in this section, but I didn't think that game is bad at all. It is great, instead.

The Bottom Line
The game is a solid horror military Delta Force-based shooter, where you as shoot the enemies in challenging combat as untwist the story (if you want to). It should be played for the FPS fans, for sure. It should be played by adventure game genre fans also, because the story is not so simple as it seems, and the plot will capture your imagination and put it in a real-life's nightmare.

Windows · by POMAH (66427) · 2008

Do You F.E.A.R. Me?

The Good
Uber developer, Monolith, has a long track record of high quality games. From the Doomesque, Lovecraft influenced FPS‘, Blood and Blood 2: The Chosen. To the zany spy shooters No One Lives Forever, and it’s sequel. Recently Monolith has gone back to it’s horror game roots, with the trailblazing horror series Condemned. And it’s “sister” franchise F.E.A.R.. Can Monolith strike gold yet again?

F.E.A.R., or First Encounter Assault Recon, is an elite group of soldiers trained to deal with the paranormal. You play as the newest member of the squad, a mysterious character with uncanny agility and strength, known only as the “pointman”.

“It is the way of men to create monsters. And it is the nature of monsters to destroy their creators.”

When the psycho killer, Paxton Fettel, escapes from his high security prison, F.E.A.R. is contacted to stop him. It seems that Fettel has some kind of psychic link with replica soldiers, these automatons will do anything to stop you. They feel no fear, no remorse, and cannot be reasoned with.

To make matters worse you keep seeing the ghost of a little girl in a red dress. And there is trouble at the arms manufacturer Armacham and something called project origin, can there be a connection?

F.E.A.R. is a first person shooter, with horror elements.(Like Half-life, or System Shock-MM-) And it can be quite creepy and unsettling, but it’s not quite as scary as say, Condemned. This is achieved largely by the great atmosphere.

There are lots of scripted scares. Including a really cool sequence with the pointman being haunted by a former F.E.A.R. agent. There is also the System Shock esque, use of messages you hear on answering machines, these help fill in the story and can be quite creepy.

I would like to now take the time to set the record strait on one of the biggest misconceptions of F.E.A.R. Every tom, dick, and harry, says that F.E.A.R. is like a Japanese horror movie. When it’s really not. The only element that is like a Japanese horror movie is the ghost of the little girl, but unlike crappy movies like “Dark Water” it actually makes sense in F.E.A.R. Furthermore this game is actually scary.

It also takes techniques from American horror films, namely John Carpenter films such as, Halloween. And even Italian and French horror films.

“You will be a god among men.”-Harlen Wade-

The graphics in F.E.A.R. are good. Not great, just good. Keep in mind that this game was released initially in 2005 for the PC, and a launch game for the 360. It looks better in HD, but it’s no Bioshock or Mass Effect.

The sound department is really were it’s at in F.E.A.R. The voice acting is all top notch. And the music is eerie and helps establish the mood. The gun effects are all accurate and sound great. But it is the creepy sound effects that steal the show, from the cues when you see something strange, to the screams and cries of the damned.

The Bad
The difficulty settings seem to be a bit askew. Easy offers almost no challenge, Medium is oft to hard, and the other two settings are just about impossible.

The auto aiming is dubious at best, and unnecessary. The critical attacks are very cool however.

Sometimes you can get stuck in walls. And even worse there is a bug where your guns disappear, and you must load to correct it.

I am also not a fan of the checkpoint save system. I prefer the good old days when you could save whenever you wanted. Or at least meet me halfway and have manual and autosaves. With this checkpoint nonsense, you can only quit when you get a checkpoint.(Thanks a lot Halo.-MM-)

The Bottom Line
“He deserved to die, they all deserve to die.”-Paxton Fettel-

Overall F.E.A.R. is a great game. And one of my favorite FPS games. It has the perfect mix of action and horror. Now I’m off to play the two expansions Extraction Point, and Perseus Mandate. And I am already looking forward to 2009’s Fear 2: Project Origin.

Xbox 360 · by MasterMegid (723) · 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

True love

The Good
The story in this game is very interesting to me and mostly because the back of the box gives the impression you are just going to play a generic shooter with a very flimsy (perhaps nationalistic) story-line tagged unto it, the kind of game that would only be remembered as "another multi-player shooter", but actually explodes almost immediately. After wrapping your head around all the psychic stuff (I admit that it can be quite confusing) you'll find yourself playing as the silent Pointman who discovers the dark truth behind the Armacham's corporations military research as he tries to stop psychic commander Paxton Fettel from taking over the city with an army of cloned soldiers.

The graphics were amazing for 2005 and most of the people who actually gave this game a negative score on sites like Metacritic (bless Mobygames) were just angry because the game wouldn't run on their dated computers. While Monolith designed gray corridor after gray corridor and made sure there were lots of flickering lights, they decided to make it the most sophisticated gray-corridor shooter to date with great effects and lots of blood to add a little color to the grayness.

I wasn't really scared while playing this game, but I still like the horror part of this horror/fps a lot. One of my favorite moments was when Alma Wade appeared briefly and jumped into a small pool of water that I had to cross, you can't believe how quick I ran through that water, fearing that she might jump up and instant kill me if I lingered. There is little to no repetition as well, which is always good because seeing the same thing over and over again is going to lose it's touch really fast.

I can't seem to stop thinking about the main antagonist. without wishing to spoil anything: I can't seem to decide if he/she was in the wrong or if the unit I am working for is helping the people who deserved to be punished for their deeds. This feeling is well played on by Monolith because the story tends to be very neutral as well, not picking any sides or telling you who you should like and dislike. Alma is there to scare you, but she never physically harms you and often shows you the way to go, Genevieve and her servant where both the reason why stuff's gone wrong, but they also tried to solve it and in the end did tell you how to continue your journey and of course Harlan Wade did some horrible things, but he also sincerely tried to make up for what he has done and start over.

Graphics eventually date, unless you go with an animated style your realistic graphics will be topped by every game that will be made just two years later, so the graphics in F.E.A.R. are no longer a good argument when trying to discuss this game with a Call of Duty fan. What is a good argument, you ask?, well the AI is. In F.E.A.R. the enemies respond to your every move; they yell when they see your flashlight or hear you walk, they take cover when you suppress them and they flank you every chance they get. Enemies also take more damage then they do in most recent games and they aim pretty damn well.

The Bad
The weapons are all uninspired and simple. They don't have any special or secondary functions. This makes it hard to understand the difference between two guns, which only makes it weirder that they got so many of them. Just take one weapon from all the different weapon types and roll with that.

The level design is pretty much corridor after corridor, with two corridors often meaning there is a fight up ahead and that you can get the drop on the enemy. I can understand that though, if the battlefields were more open and non-linear it would be very hard to also have the strong AI, but it's still a flaw.

The Bottom Line
I really, really, REALLY love this game and because of that it's easy to look past the flaws I mentioned. The story is very interesting and even after so many years I still can't stop thinking about certain things that happened in it and who was "in the right". The AI is a lot of fun to fight and the horror is actually scary which were the two big selling points of this game.

You will notice the flaws, they affect gameplay and trouble you, but it never got so bad that I wanted to stop playing for a few days. This is a game I can recommend without any doubts, if you are old enough to play it then you should really check this game out and perhaps laugh at how easy we were impressed by graphics in 2005.

Windows · by Asinine (956) · 2011

Be scared. Be very scared

The Good
My 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 Bad
Due 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 Line
Technologically 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.

Windows · by Katakis | カタキス (43087) · 2011

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by chirinea, Riamus, tarmo888, Jeanne, Wizo, Sciere, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, Marko Poutiainen, Alsy, Big John WV, lights out party, CalaisianMindthief, Cavalary, Xoleras, COBRA-COBRETTI, jaXen, Kyle Bell, RhYnoECfnW, Tim Janssen, Kabushi, Emmanuel de Chezelles, vicrabb, bobthewookiee, Yearman, GTramp, PCGamer77, Spenot, Alaka, DreinIX, jumpropeman.