The Bottom Line: The Game of the year, simple as that.
Believe the hype, F.E.A.R. is the best game of the year hands down. It is enthralling mix of adventure, horror, and action not only makes it in a league with Half Life 2, it sets the bar high for future 3D shooters to aspire to. Players take on the persona of the point main for an elite team know as First Encounter Assault Recon or F.E.A.R. Tasked with locating and eliminating a dangerous killer know as Paxton Fettel who is controlling a very large force of clone super soldiers in an office complex.
With the assistance of your team leader via radio link, players enter an industrial complex and soon find themselves in a pitched and sustained series of encounters against the soldiers under Fettels command. Further complicating the mission is the appearance of a spectral vision of a young girl who often leaves a path of carnage in her wake. The eerie visions that appear only to vanish throughout the game only adds to the tension which really helps immerse players into the action. The weaponry of the game includes the standard machine guns, nailguns, shotgun, pistol, rocket launcher and energy weapon which are common in shooters, but F.E.A.R. decides to give it a nice twist. Aside from grenades and medkits, players can only carry three weapons at a time. So, while you may locate powerful weapons in game such as the energy weapon and rocket launcher, players must decide if they want to hold onto them when the ammo runs out, or forgo other weapons in the hope of locating more ammunition. I addressed this by saving two powerful weapons and swapping out my other weapon as was needed. For example, when my machine gun ran dry, I dropped it in favor of the shotgun or other class of machine gun that was plentiful. This was often determined by what my enemies were armed with as after dispatching them, I found it a good idea to stock up with whichever ammunition and weapons were most plentiful. While your array of weaponry is impressive, it is your ability to briefly slow down time and move at an increased rate of speed that is often vital to winning a battle against overwhelming odds. This is a very important feature as the game is at times a real challenge and the enemy A.I. is the best in any shooter to date. In one segment, I decided to bounce a grenade off the wall and take out a group of enemy soldiers.
This plan worked great until one of the soldiers pulled a metal cabinet from the wall and used it as a shield against the grenade blast. As the game continued, A.I. controlled soldiers knocked over desks and tables as shields, jumped through street level windows, as well as ducked behind walls to avoid incoming fire. As if this was not enough of a challenge, they would also reach their weapons over objects and fire without presenting a clear target for me to engage. As the game progressed, the enemy became increasingly crafty and the story became deeper and deeper. Various ethereal segments also arose where in the midst of a dream like state; I had to battle demons mid segment. This was a different touch as I am sure many players would be caught off guard watching the segments rather than preparing to fight. The game is broken down into 11 Intervals or chapters though certain intervals had more than one segment to them. The variety of locales was also impressive as everything from office complexes, to labs, parking lots, and apartments were present and the games physics engine allowed me to interact with numerous map objects from security gun mounts, power switches, valves, phones and much more. A nice touch were the news reports that came in as my players passed radios that informed him of what was happening in the world around him and how the media was covering the events that were occurring in game.
Graphically the game is amazing. From the most luxurious of offices to the slums of an abandoned building complex, the detail level was accurate giving the illusion of being in the game. The smoke and warping effects from grenades as well as the tracer rounds from weapons gave a nice sense of realism. It was tempting at times to just stop and look at the surroundings to take in the splendor. A nice touch was the spackle lines in a room under construction as well as the hardwood floors and artwork in a high end office complex as well as the lab complex.
The sound quality in the game shines as with my Creative X-FI card I was able to really enjoy the creepy sound effects and the surround sound features. It is unnerving to have a voice originate behind you only to vanish to be replaced by a sound elsewhere. The communication between the soldiers is also a key as good listening skills are key to successful engagements and being aware of potential dangers around the next corner.
As good as the solo play portion of the game is F.E.A.R. also shines in the multiplay arena. From Deathmatch to Capture the Flag to name but a few of the variations there are numerous servers where players will find an endless supply of options and opponents to play with and against. The game runs very smoothly online and the action is fast and furious.
F.E.A.R. is a winner and looks to be the first in a hopefully long line of titles in the series. The game has it all, and delivers on the hype and promise. Here is hoping the next segment is not to far off as legions of gamers will be waiting.
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About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach (garethvk)
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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EXPERIENCE AN ALL NEW TYPE OF F.E.A.R. The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.