Halloween Mini-Review: F.E.A.R.

There are many games that have a genre attached to them by marketing people such as “survival horror” (which is actually the result of a poorly translated synopsis which managed to achieve wide spread recognition, much like the perennial favourite “All your base are belong to us”.) which do little to describe the actual emotions and tone of the game. A staple of this survival horror genre is a scarcity of ammunition and strong, bullet sponge-like enemies which swarm the player.

While that style of game does create a kind of tension within the player, it is not scary as such. There have been precious few games which can mess with the player’s psyche and provide a truly frightening experience. The contender for your Halloween attention today does not come from the survival horror genre, but instead from the world of first person shooters (otherwise known as FPS).

F.E.A.R. stands for First Encounter Assault and Recon. As the point man of a team of specialists, you are asked to investigate a bizarre and bloody incident, and neutralise the instigator of the threat: one Paxton Fettel. Things very, very quickly take on a much more sinister cast as massive psychic energies are unleashed by the mysterious Alma, and Fettel  begins feasting on corpses to gain their power and memories.

F.E.A.R. is a little old now, but is still a one of a kind game. Parts of the game are genuinely scary, making you jump in your seat and swear at your monitor. The enemies are intelligent; they seek cover, call for reinforcements or retreat when outclassed or flanked. There are also some novel systems in play: the heightened reflex mode basically slows time down so that the perfect shot can be lined up or a bullet or grenade can be dodged. This is hardly an innovation in shooting games, but is used to good effect as a plot device on several occasions. Another mechanic of interest is the melee system. Rather than just pistol whipping an enemy to death, you can perform a combination of flying kicks, punches and sliding tackles to take down opponents. When this is combined with the reflex ability, true joy can be experienced.

Imagine running in slow motion down a corridor, avoiding bullets raining all around you, to slam bodily in to an opponent, flinging them away. Rising, you shoot an enemy in the face as you turn, then deal with the final adversary by kicking him in the head as he is reloading. Time returns to normal, and you stand triumphant over your foes.

That mix of exhilaration, combined with the creepy settings, grisly visuals and a large scare factor make F.E.A.R. a game that should be experienced. Admittedly, once the game is done and the scares have played out, a second run through will not be as frightening. The enemies will still be unpredictable and the level design conducive to attempting different strategies. There may also be more clues to the back story to find, scattered throughout the world.

F.E.A.R. is available in Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. The PC version in this case is the version of choice for the discerning connoisseur. The responsiveness of the mouse and keyboard controls is superior to the control pad. The visuals are of higher quality and the keys to perform various feats are easier to manage. Also, there are fewer loading points and enemies seem to act slightly more realistically on the PC, due to superior animations and slightly more sophisticated AI. Being so close to the monitor also heightens the feeling of claustrophobia and tension.

If you are looking for ghostly interactive terror this Halloween, F.E.A.R .may just be your ticket.

  • Genre: Horror-FPS
  • Demographic: Adult
  • Rating Out of Five: 5
  • Format: PC-Xbox 360-Playstation 3
  • Find At: Steam
  • Published: October, 2005

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