Scary Movie? Scary Game!
Recently I picked up a copy of F.E.A.R which is short for First Encounter Assault Recon. It is the newest installment from Sierra to the genre. Though I'm not one for online multiplayer shooter, I do enjoy a good plot to go with my explosions and heart pounding gun fire, and thus far, this title has yet to disappoint.
As the name of the title implies, F.E.A.R. plays on your human emotions and 'gut' reflexes. If any of you have played DOOM 3, you know what it is like to have something pop out at you from a dark corner and receive a hail of hot lead or plasma from your weapon, leaving a smoking husk of a lighting fixture that simply gave way and fell in front of you. Meanwhile the real threat is creeping up behind from you. F.E.A.R. puts you into the similar mindset of "If it moves, shoot it" and adds "If it's still moving shoot it again". Though not nearly as dark or nightmarish as Doom, F.E.A.R. gets you in more subtle ways. Sure, the room you're in right now is well lit and offers great visibility, but as you look down the next corridor, you can almost smell the dank stench of the old water piping you need to crawl under to get past an obstacle, knowing that if you were to be ambushed, you would have no where to go.
F.E.A.R. is a supernatural thriller, there is a very distinct spiritual presence tormenting you throughout the game. I don't want to give away details about the plot, but I'll say this; some spirit doesn't like you, and knows just how to mess with your mind. At a glance, most would say that the form of the spirit, that of a little girl, has been overdone with such releases as Resident Evil, The Ring and The Grudge, and I'm not going to argue, I thought the exact same thing, however, don't judge a book by its cover. The little girl is a perfect fit into this title and just because something like it has been done before, makes it no less creepy.
Not reinventing the genre
Gameplay in F.E.A.R. produced a mixed reaction in me. The gameplay is fast and exciting, very smooth and the few puzzles along the way were enough to slow you down, but not so complicated to put the game down because of it. Gameplay also offers seamless cinematics. If a scripted scene takes place, it is rendered with in game graphics instead of CGI, so the only time you are actually taken out of the action or the role of your F.E.A.R. operative, is during the loading screens between stages. Otherwise, you are always looking through your operatives' point of view.
F.E.A.R. also makes use of slow motion or "Bullet Time" as it is commonly known throughout the FPS world. This at first seems very out of place in a game where you are supposed to be playing the role of GI Grunt Operative who is nothing special. As you advance through the game however, you start to learn more about yourself as well as the plot that is unfolding around you. Although I cannot fault the gameplay in F.E.A.R., I must point out that the game simply rehashed old tricks. It does not bring anything new to the FPS genre or break traditional feel that almost all FPS games have, which is run through a map, and shoot things. They did expand a little bit on melee combat, but only by adding a few different melee options besides hitting your target with the butt of your weapon. With a few button combinations, you can execute a jump kick or a sliding kick to dispatch targets when you need to stay quiet, but those occasions are few and far between and very underplayed. So while the implementation of the standard FPS conventions was well done, it feels like a missed opportunity to not elevate the game to higher standards by trying something new here and there.
They're smart alright
If you are familiar with First Person Shooters, the game will not introduce many new aspects for you. That is not to say it is a cookie cutter of previous shooters. F.E.A.R. has an amazing AI system for its opposing forces. As the story progresses, you find yourself pitted against squads of troopers which display a range of emotions, thought, and reactive aggression that can be found creepy in its own way. The AI squad leader keeps in constant contact with his troops barking out orders that include flanking, taking cover and even flushing you out of your hiding spot with some well placed grenades. When the AI squad is in trouble, the squad leader has no problem calling for backup from what seems to be other areas of the map. If more games are to come out with this display of AI level, PC gaming is about to get very interesting for all of us. The AI troopers have also proven to be very capable marksmen, often deploying the same array of weapons as yourself and using them just as effectively. They sneak, they hide, they use squad tactics and they should not be underestimated, especially on the higher difficulty levels.
Replayability of F.E.A.R. is limited since the single player mode is a linear plot driven story. The best you can do in single player is perhaps turning up the difficulty levels to add challenge. The real replay factor of the title is in its multiplayer mode. Multiplayer offers the typical mix of game modes such as Death Match, Capture the Flag and Team Elimination. In addition to the old favorites, they also offer a "SloMo" version of each mode. A "SloMo" match is when you pick up the SloMo power up, you must hold on to it and stay in SloMo (Bullet Time) as long as possible before the other players take you out. It is a bit weak compared to the dedicated multiplayer shooter titles, but its better then no multiplayer at all.
No Pros and Cons at this time