Retroview: F.E.A.R

A look back at a FPS classic


 

The 17th of October marked the 10 year anniversary for horror first person shooter, F.E.AR. Upon its release it received high reviews across all formats, praising its atmosphere, horror aspects and immersion. It wasn’t quite the pillar in the genre changing FPS world that Half Life 2 was, but it known well by gamers all around. I recently replayed the game in an attempt to see how it compares to games today, and what it’s like looking back on it.

 

The game begins with a super soldier named Fettle telepathically taking control of a battalion of tropes to seize the headquarters of the technology giant Armacham Technology Corporation, otherwise known as ATC. Throughout the game the player is in pershute of Fettle, who is linked to physically to a girl called Alma. The player has recurring hallucinations, in which Fettel and Alma feature heavily. The game leads the character to discover what Project Origin is, who Alma is and how they are connected to it.

 

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The atmosphere on this game was something that was always struck you while playing. This was a combination of amazing set pieces, sound design and narrative. The game starts with a cut scene, but from then on out is seen purely from the viewpoint of the player. Sometimes, nothing takes you out of a game quite like a cut scene.

 

Horror games have always been renowned for their excellent sound work, with some even arguing that there is more space available to experiment it than in other genres of gaming. This game does an amazing job leaving the player feel uneasy about their situation with the use of sound. After a few turns and a drop in background noise, you are thrown into a spooky encounter, sometimes hearing it before you can see it.

 

This game doesn’t rely upon jump scares to get at the character. Although you come across a couple of them during the play through, there is a focus on trying to unnerve the character more than anything. This is normally done in small little ways with distant whispers being heard, or lights flickering down a corridor. It’s also the kind of game that doesn’t let you forget it. Even a well lit, seemingly safe area can be turned into a paranormal hot spot. All of these events are driven by Alma or Fettle (although you could just say Alma, really) and they range from lights flickering everywhere to bodies being torn apart in front of you.

 

Like most games of old this one doesn’t isn’t afraid to make things difficult. The AI provides quite a challenge, even on the lower settings. The way the soldiers behave is quite reminiscent of the original, with both of them very military based.  Soldiers will move around the map, taking cover, throwing grenades and rarely missing you with shots. This is where the use of the slow-motion controls really come in handy. A situation up against 3/4 of the controlled soldiers becomes a lot more manageable, especially when one of them is where heavy armor. This game really makes you try, but then leaves plenty of health and ammo around, not really making it the survival horror some have claimed it to be.

 

Adding to the incredible sound design in the guns. There isn’t a weapon that doesn’t pack a punch. This is further amplified when you’re in reflex time. The thundering sound of bullets flying is made all the more impressive by being able to see them. The game even goes beyond that so that it shows the sparks of bullets as they hit surfaces, and you can almost the feel the puncture as they fly into the soldiers. The intensity of a gun fight is really improved when you’re going slow-mo, against 4 or 5 soldier, in a confined space.

 

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While the rest of the gameplay elements work well together, the game seems to fall short with it’s level design. Walking through areas doesn’t take much navigation, and you can almost guess where to go at an apparently dead end by looking for an air vent. At times it almost seems like a link of corridors between gun fights, just zig zagging between the two. There are a few objectives to follow: open different doors, find a server to reset, find laptops. None of these are particularly genre breaking but they break up the pace between the corridor runs.

 

One thing can be said for the bigger fights. When you first come across an armored soldier wielding what can only be described as concrete bolt canon, the set piece is incredible. And so it is again the first time you fight a mech. The set pieces for things like this are few and far between, especially in the beginning, but they are real stand out point. Set pieces have always been a way of having the player at the center of what’s happening, without disengaging them from play. This is something heavily used by Valve in the Half Life series.

 

All in all, the game has aged better than some decade old games. graphically it leaves a fair bit to desire, but you can make up for that with certain mods on the PC. Having been released just a year after Half Life 2, you can see a lot of influences in the game play. It still stands well enough on it’s own, however. The use of paranormal horror and ability to get under the player’s skin really work to it’s advantage. This is still a game that can be enjoyed years on, and one that shouldn’t be forgotten!

 


 

Genre: FPS / Horror

Age Rating: N/A

Developer: Monolith Productions

Publisher: Sierra Entertainment

Platforms: PC / Xbox 360 / PS3

Player Modes: Single Player / Multiplayer


 

 – Bean 

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