Release Date: April 24, 2007
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Day 1 Studios
Metacrtic Score: 72 (PS3)
F.E.A.R. is a game that fails miserably at what it wants to be. It wants to be this scary tactical shooter, but it’s really neither of those. Normally when a game misses the mark this badly it would be hard to call it anything but a failure, but I can’t really say that about fear. It is a really good game, just not in the ways it was trying to be. If you play this more as a retro shooter that a survival horror game, I think you’ll love the hell out of it.
I can think of one FPS (first person shooter) that actually seemed to care about telling an interesting story, and this is not it. For what it’s worth: you play as “Point Man”, a member of an elite military unit called “First Encounter Assault Recon” or “F.E.A.R.”. (Apparently no one at Day 1 Studios knew that “Assault” and “Recon” are vastly different and wouldn’t be part of the same team.). You are sent in to apprehend a man named Paxton Fettel, who is the psychic commander of a battalion of telepathic super solider clones. The sheer ridiculousness of this set up is actually the but end of a joke early in the game.
Yeah, the story here really isn’t good, not even in a “B movie” kind of way. It’s worse still when you look at the few really good ideas that just don’t pan out. For example, there really aren’t any cut scenes. Most of the game’s back story is told through missed messages you listen to as well PC’s your support staff hack into. That seems like a good idea, but then you realize that there isn’t anyone in the offices most of the game takes place in are vacant and don’t seem like they’ve ever really been used. So when did these calls come in? Why were they missed? There aren’t bodies strewn around and it doesn’t look like people have been running for their lives, so why is this stuff just lying around?
It also really doesn’t help how bad the script is. Hearing well trained Military men call popel “the bad guys” unironicly just seems to scream out the fact that none of the writers had any idea how people in these positions really talked.
The worse part of the story is that it’s just not scary. It tries really hard to be, but it just never works. Sure there are a few jump scares that work…sometimes…occasionally. It would help if the ghosts you see could do something instead of walking around in the distance. Sure there are moments, but we’ll get to those later.
There are so many antiquated ideas and mechanics in this game that i’m almost surprised that you can find it on “Antiques Roadshow”. Like I said, this works really well as a retro-shooter. The main two mechanics that invoke this feeling are both “Health pic-ups” and “Body armor”. Throughout the game you find not only Heath kits to bring your HP back up, but also stimulants that rises your overall health. On top of that, you are almost always alone, dealing with multiple waves of enemies. This brings back memory’s of the old “Doom” games. Honestly, this game is retro that the fact that “finding the red card” isn’t a mission objective almost upsets me.
While the game may never be scary, it can be quite stressful when you’re low on health and ammo and have just run into a heavily armored foe. Luckily the checkpoints are paced well enough that when you die you’re usually brought back not too far off. Another great throwback is that you’re not limited to only two guns. Granted, your arsenal aren’t as it is in most classic shooters, or even Insomniac’s “Resistance” 1 and 3, but knowing that you can go into battle with duel pistols, an assault rifle and a gun that literally turns your enemy’s into bloody bones, you feel an overwhelming sense of empowerment.
That empowerment is part of why the horror just doesn’t work. Horror comes from feeling weak and vulnerable. But when you have this much fire power and the ability to slow down time, you can never really feel scared. Sure, you can get stressed when near death, but never scared. You never slow down worried what may be around the next corner, because you know it’s either a fight you can probably handle or a ghost that can’t hurt you.
So, again, if you go into this expecting a lesser version of “Half Life 2” or a better version “Doom”, then your sure to have a lot of fun.
Game Play: 4/5
Music and Sound.
The voice acting ranges from bad to “thank god It’s inaudible”. You will hear the same few quips from the enemy’s repeated ad nauseum and the things your comrades say is either boring or annoying. It also doesn’t help the “horror” aspirations the game has that you hear the enemy’s before you see them and they only shut up once they are all dead. This is like a black hole for tension or subtalty.
The guns type sounds the same, but you’ll never confuse one type for another. The real downer here is the score however. The music takes a page out of Akira Yamaoka’s playbook. None of the music is very good on its own, but with the game play it does help to create a tense environment. However, it’s only really effective when you know you’re heading in the right direction, and that’s not a guarantee. When you do find that you’re aimlessly wandering and then know that nothing is going to happen until you find your way back to where the game wants you too be, all the tension the soundtrack creates is gone.
Music and sound: 2/5
Overall Score: 2.3/5
Who is this game for:
This is for people who like shooters, but are sick of the whole “realistic, modern war” type shooter that has infested the 7th generation of gaming consoles. If you’re looking for something truly scary, you’d do better some where else.