FEAR: a suggestive horror FPS
F.E.A.R. stands for First Encounter Assault Recon, but also for the name of the feeling you will have when playing this game.y
It is an Horror FPS developed in 2005 by Monolith Production and published by Sierra. If you like good storylines and the horror genre, this game is for you.
Don't expect jumpscares every two steps because it's an FPS after all, not ad Adventure. It doesn't just "jumpscare" you, but its atmosphere and effects make this game really unique in its kind. Ambients are really suggestive, like the typical abandoned hospital, or the half-destroyed factory, and effects bound to the story are really intriguing, because they throw you inside a psychic world made of hallucinations putting you inside rooms that change on their own, or they make you walk a path where everything transforms and is filled with blood and flames. What make this game stand out is Alma, the spirit of the child that you will encounter several times.
You will find at the bottom a gallery of images to get an idea.
Characters and Story
Fighting and A.I.
Graphics and Audio
FEAR - Prefaction
F.E.A.R. is special squad of the U.S. Army taking care of very singular cases regarding paranormal stuff. You will be in the shoes of a mysterious character, his history it not well known. He posseses particular abilities because he passed all the tests in the best way possible and in a short amount of time. He has enhanced reflexes, giving you the chance to use SlowMo, the mode in which you can slow down time to analyze the situation and kill your foes. He is the new forerunner of the team, this is the name given to him by his teammates, with no other specifications about his name nor his origin.
F.E.A.R. will have to take care of some soldiers, actually military clones, called Replicants, that took control of the area. Their commander is Paxton Fettel, and we will know him better during the telepathic dialogues that we will see: he has psychic powers to communicate with us and to conrol Replicants. In the story we will learn how ATC, Armachan Technology Corporation, selling weapons to the American Ministery of Defense, conducted experiments on unknown subjects, in secret, which will then be the cause of all this problem about Replicants, as well as the cause of our Forerunner hallucinations, and other events.
Characters and Story
Initially our team is composed of Commander Rowdy Betters, veteran Spen Jankowski and the Medic Jin Sun-Kwon, which we won't see much around because the game is mainly stand-alone, we will be alone in the different scenarios.
Most interesting characters are surely Alma, the ghost child, we will see her often as a child with her red dress, but also as a grown up naked woman. This particular is linked to her death in the laboratory.
This is a spoiler, it might ruin your experience. Proceed forward if you prefer.
You will discover that Alma has been taken to conduct laboratory tests about inducted psychical abilities, she was only 8 at that time and she was uses to give birth to children (two of which are the Forerunner, so the player, and Paxton Fettel). These children should have used their powers to control the Replicants soldiers. So we play as one of Alma's children and we fight against our brother Fettel. In the game expansions, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate, we will find more developments of this story. In the second one we can encounter Harlan Wade, the fater of Alma. In F.E.A.R. 2, the second chapter of the saga, the playable character is different and is part of another FEAR squad.
From what we can understand, it seems like the Forerunner from the first chapter also has psychical powers like his mother, this would explain visions and enhanced reflexes allowing Slow Motion. In the 2nd FEAR it seems the player is actually a clone of the Forerunner (which makes sense) or maybe his abilities were modified in the laboratory. It is not very clear from the story because it isn't explained in details. Anyway there must be an explanation for the enhanced reflexes of the character, and this is why the hypotesis of the clone is the most believable. In FEAR 2 the player's name is Sgt. Beckett and this doesn't seem to fit with the first game.
Paxton Fettel is the "evil guy" of the game, not the only one but the most "fear"-some, he controls Replicants and he comes more times in our visions. Some times also phisically, but we never fight him directly in the game.
As mentioned, ambients are dark and rooms don't have much light. We have a torch that we can use for a while before having to wait for it to recharge, this will help us find items and alternative paths. The game is mainly in closed spaces like hospitals, factories, houses, laboratories. Some times we have fights in the streets or at a square. Buildings will be claustrophic with small dark places, big rooms are not missing, but of course they are not the common place in a horror game.
We have some clichès like blocked elevators, our allies splitting or dying, enemies or vision with a gruesome background music.
If you love horrors, you must play FEAR without lights in your room and without other ambient sounds, so you can enjoy the most immersive experience. Do not worry, some parts will scare you out a little bit.
We get classical weapons like machineguns, shotguns, and normal guns. I would suggest normal guns which are almost sniper rifles because of their power and precision, and the shotgun for large fights, it will be devastating if you know how to use it. As an example, in the 2nd FEAR those weapons where nerfed and machineguns were enchanced.
We can take up to 10 medkits, and if we look around we find boosters for health points and reflexes: first ones gives 5 more health point each, second ones give increase the duration of our enhanced reflexes (Slow Motion).
There is also armor, a kevlar one, giving us better resistance during fights. We can't sprint up when running.
In FEAR 2 we have similar weapons, only 3 medkits, no health boosters but we have instant medkits that heal us when picked up. We have reflexes boosters, but fewer than the first chapter. The sprint while running has been added. In both games we have different granates, mines and turrets.
Fights and A.I.
Probably the best part of this old style FPS is fighting. The game puts us in front of heavy and sometimes difficult fights, every one will have its own style. Some enemies will seek a repaired spot to shoot from, some will just come at you directly using SlowMo. Even at the second difficulty level (out of 4 total) fights are interesting and enjoyable, and not so easy like you might think. Enemies are fast and without SlowMo we might have some problems. They are smart, and this puts a light on A.I. in this game, well developed and well reviewed in other papers and websites. For sure it is a good race with Call of Duty and Battlefield A.I.s (at that time). Sometimes we will see enemies repairing behind sofas or tables, shoot from above their heads, fake their deaths, they will try to surround us and follow us, they can climb or jump from high ground. Yea, their moves are not so easy to guess, like other games where enemies just stand still behind a spot until you kill them. You can often find yourself shooting a Replicant, you go behind something to reload and heal, and he already moved away and you have to look for where he is.
It is a valid FPS from this point of view, and it's real fun!
Graphics and Audio
Graphics of course is old style, it's a 2005 game. Very similar to SWAT 4 (developed by Irrational Games and published by Sierra again) and Counter Strike. It is still acceptable today though. Visual effects are very good, expecially during psychic visions, even if it's clear we can find missing textures, but nothing disturbing. Better to have a good game than just good graphics!
Sound and soundtracks are good, we often face gruesome situations with gruesome melodies, so the horror side is filled up this way.
In general, F.E.A.R. is an excellent FPS that deserves being played for his story, and even if you don't like to follow storylines or you don't enjoy horrors, you will have fun with the fights. So, play this title which is also followed by FEAR 2, with a slight different story, and FEAR 3 which has been developed by another company, so it's not like the 1st one.
Give it a try!
Here is a gallery of images from FEAR Extraction Point, the first expansion of the game.