Expansion Packs...a relatively cost effective method of increasing the length and value of a popular game. Generally, expansion packs are limited to the PC since, up till recently, consoles weren't readily equipped with mammoth to store massive amounts of new information on. So when a game for the PC gets an Expansion Pack, it usually graces the console in the form of an independent game. F.E.A.R., being a popular title for the PC, was almost instantly granted not one, but TWO expansion packs to add on to the adventure. Since either of them was too short to release as a full priced standalone game, Sierra wisely decided to combine them together into one package for release on the Xbox360. So it was that F.E.A.R. FILES, a combination of the expansions "Extraction Point" and "Perseus Mandate" was released as a standalone collection. However, since these are two completely different chapters in the F.E.A.R. universe, they must be discussed separately.
F.E.A.R EXTRACTION POINT is the closest thing to a direct continuation of the original game, and has you once again assuming the role of Point Man, the silent super soldier protagonist from the first title. You start out directly from where the original game ended (a climax I will not spoil here) and spend the rest of the game piecing your team together so you can all head to the extraction point for escape. Just as you get started on this process, the main villain of the first game has a completely inexplicable resurrection and with him are revived all those angry clone soldiers. Here we go again... The narrative in "Extraction Point" is more fulfilling in some areas, but sparse in others. For example, you finally get to interact with NPC characters a lot more in this chapter than you did in the original, and they're actually given some character development this time around. On the other hand, you're not connected to a radio listening to your omniscient commander explain the current situation to you or bark orders at you, so you do feel a little more blind this time around.
Such isolation though is actually more effective in creating a bleak atmosphere conducive to well, FEAR. This is what I think "Extraction Point" does much better than in the first title. It successfully creates a sense of loneliness and confusion where support is unreliable and very limited, being ripped away from you the moment it is given. For instance, early on in the game, you hook up with one of your team members, who becomes an incredible asset in your fight against the endless wave of cloned soldiers. You get a real sense of reassurance having him at your side. But then, without cause and warning, he's killed in one of the most gruesome death scenes you'll see in the game. Your security is torn away from you, and the sense of isolation and, well, fear, deeply sinks in. THIS is how you would expect a horror plot to turn out. A rollercoaster ride where the unexpected turns out to be the worst situation possible. The original game evoked a strong sense of unease, but didn't pull the rug from under your feet like this one.
The dream/nightmare sequences are also improved from the original title. Here they're much more creative and wild. For example, there begin with you going into a barren room watching tiles slowly peeling off the roof. Without warning the ground opens up beneath you into a bottomless abyss, you fall miles down crashing into a pool of blood, swim to the bottom to find a gate that leads into an asylum chamber. I felt like in EXTRACTION POINT, FEAR was finally starting to live up to its title.
Anyways, to complement the increased madness, there are some new enemy types causing you trouble this time around. Unfortunately these aren't exactly terribly impressive, but they do add some diversity to an otherwise stale enemy lineup. The first ones are these phantom specters apparently summoned by Almawho go around invisible with these big yellow glowing eyes swiping their claws at you. At first glance, you might mistaken them for the "ninja" enemy replica soldiers from the original game (who, thankfully, do make a return here). However upon defeating them, you realize they have no physical form as they just…dissolve into smoke. Boo. The other enemy type is a mammoth bipedal mech with a larger oval shaped torso, which resembles the granddaddy (or should I say "mother"?) of those mech suits you fought in the original game. And actually they function pretty much the same, except they're more frightening due to their increased girth which allows them to trample over practically every object in the environment. Where does Fettel stock all this equipment anyways? Anyways, you deal with them the same way you dealt with those other mech suits…by picking up a rocker launcher and having at it.
The other Expansion Pack is "Perseus Mandate". Much like Half-Life's expansion packs, "Perseus Mandate"just has the player revisiting the exact same events of the main game, but doing it from a completely different perspective. You play as a team member of Delta Force, a sort of backup designed to assist the main group in completing their objectives when things begin spiraling out of control. The plot begins about mid-point through the original game, and ends just before "Extraction Point" does. You're introduced to a completely new cast of characters as well as a new opponent, a bunch of shady hi-tech mercenary ninjas led by some gray-haired commando guy who looks like a Metal Gear Solid reject. It's great to finally see some new characters in the story since the same old cast will have felt kind of stale by the time you hit the end of "Extraction Point". But I still was not able to gather (either from the game or instruction) how the character you're playing is blessed with super fast reflexes (he can also slow down time too) since his backstory has nothing to do with Point man.
Anyways, "Perseus Mandate" plays pretty much the same as the other titles. The new mercenary force you're pitted up again do make for some rather new interesting and challenging opponents (thank goodness). The worst ones are these ninja commandos who warp around to dodge your bullets, and you can imagine you'll be spending lots of ammo just trying to hit them. There's only one new weapon I recall introduced in this expansion…and that's the VES Rifle, an moderately powerful automatic rifle with a scope. Nothing too ingenious and it certainly doesn't outdo the "Battle Rifle" style weapon in terms of accuracy. Whatever the case though, the expanded enemy roster and weapons set make this feel like the most complete single player "FEAR" experience yet. Too bad it's just a side story.
Oh, I also got to mention the instant action maps. Basically these are just standalone scenarios where your only objective is to kill everyone and get to the end of the level. I didn't mention these in my review of the first game because there were only four of them in there, and they were basically just recycled maps from the single player campaign. The instant action maps in FEAR Files were clearly built with some more imagination. For example one level has you as jumping back and forth between two speeding subway trains to fight enemies who come in through the roof. Another good example is the asylum level where you wake up in a padded cell amidst an institution infested with replica soldiers. While fighting these guys, you see creepy visions of Alma (the trademark "creepy girl" of the franchise) dancing around the empty halls. Clearly the developers put a little more work into making these somewhat entertaining standalone levels instead of just taking setpieces from the campaign and filling them up with random enemies. They're each worth at least one playthrough and are a very nice bonus to the collection.
Regarding the visuals and audio of FEAR FILES…they're pretty much the same as the original game. If you want more details about that, you can refer back to my review. I don't think FEAR was the best looking game of 2006 and FEAR Files (released a year later) was certainly not the best looking game of 2007 (not if HALO 3 had anything to say about it). Slow mo gunfights still look pretty wicked in action, but otherwise no improvement here.
There's really not much to say about FEAR FILES. Personally, I thought it realized the potential of the franchise better than the original game, but it still has many of the same drawbacks. Outdated technical specs (even for the time), redundant combat, etc. Bottom line...if you loved the first FEAR title, there's no reason you shouldn't at least like this. If you're playing FEAR 3, you should probably get this anyway since (from what I understand) "Extraction Point" directly ties into the plot of that game. If you found the first FEAR game a bore though, this might impress slightly more, but not much.
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