|Genre||First-person shooter, survival horror, puzzle|
|Free Download||Click here to download from Steam.|
It’s truly amazing when people have the passion to take an existing game and modify it to a point where it becomes an entirely different game.
And that’s Cry of Fear in a nutshell. It was a Half-Life mod and now a free standalone game available on Steam. And trust me, it’s one of the best free games you can ever play. I do not exaggerate when I say it’s one hell of a trip.
But because it is a mod, there are issues with running it as well as multiple glitches. Through Steam, there was a black screen when I started the game. I fixed the issue by right-clicking on Cry of Fear in my library, then Properties -> Local Files -> Verify Integrity of Game Cache. Works like a charm.
You also should make sure to change the game’s resolution so that you’re able to see everything. By default, I had a really small resolution so I wasn’t able to use the inventory menu properly. DON’T FORGET.
So without further ado, let’s take a look.
Where is Everybody?
You are Simon Henriksson, a troubled Swedish teenager who struggles with loneliness and depression. One night, you were involved in a car accident while assisting an injured man. After a trippy nightmare sequence, you found yourself mysteriously stranded in an alley. Despite that, you seem to be perfectly fine and you receive a text message from your mother, urging you to come home.
And then a nightmarish trip through a seemingly abandoned city begins…
Cry of Fear immediately draws you in with its atmosphere. Though the graphics are dated now (considering how old this mod is), the environments look stunning with a nice attention to detail. There are graffiti all over the walls, trash lying on the ground, some occasional wear-and-tear on objects, and excellent usage of lighting. There are even pre-rendered cutscenes! For a Half-Life mod. Damn.
You can tell a lot of modeling work went into this project. It definitely feels like you’re going through a gloomy European city at night with many claustrophobic areas and rooms that make you shout NOPE! NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE THAT’S A WHOLE LOTTA FUUUUCCCKKKIIIING NOOOOOOOPE!!!
The game is also heavily influenced by the Silent Hill series (particularly, the legendary Silent Hill 2): going through bloody, metallic corridors; experiencing horrifying hallucinations; and dealing with some of the most twisted, vile creatures of the dark that have a craving for your blood and flesh.
Cry of Fear relies a lot on silence and background noise. From the howling winds outside the building to some creepy moans coming from inside apartment rooms, you can’t sit still in this game. And when a monster appears at the corner of your eye, it lets out a piercing scream and slashes at you. While you can appreciate the beauty of the city and its outskirts, you just want to get the hell out immediately.
The soundtrack is also a lot of help. It’s dark, sullen, deranged, and beautiful.
I’m mixed on the voice acting, though. While I do think it’s decent for an indie development team, some of the voices sound way too quiet. As if the actors are mumbling some of the lines instead of speaking them at a normal volume.
Cry of Fear does a wonderful job in making you uncomfortable going through poorly lit corridors and dark city streets. In spite of the horrors that await, the city at night still remains gorgeous and foreboding.
So, what of the gameplay you ask? Since it’s a Half-Life mod, it’s probably going to be more or less the same thing, right?
Well, no. It’s actually more different than I expected. The game is very much a survival horror first-person shooter, but it isn’t as fast-paced as Half-Life. Your standard walking speed is more like the default walking speed of Half-Life 2. Using your weapons is also a bit slow in comparison, forcing you to be more tactful when dealing with multiple enemies.
You originally start the game with your knife and cell phone. There are two different ways you can hold the knife in order to change range and power of the attacks.
By double-tapping a direction, you can dodge enemy attacks. Doing so will deplete your stamina meter, so you should be careful and try not to overuse it.
The cell phone serves two functions: telling you your next objective and acting as a light source. By taking two small items together, you can dual-wield them. Most of the time, you would want to have a weapon on one hand and your cell phone on another. There are a lot of dark areas to go through.
There is also an inventory system, which got mixed responses out of players. Basically, you can carry three items in your pockets and three items in your backpack (really, just three for a backpack?). However, every single item takes only one space.
So if I want to carry a lighter, I may have to discard my glock pistol. Or if I want to carry a set of keys, I may have to discard my shotgun.
MAKES A WHOLE LOTTA SENSE.
On the other hand, this kind of inventory system calls for you to be wiser about how you use your weapons. Ammo is quite limited, so you would want to use your guns when you’re really against tough odds. Get good with using melee weapons and dodging, and conserving ammo will be a breeze for you.
A downside to the inventory system is that you use it in real time, meaning enemies can attack you while you’re accessing it. This is why it’s important for you to assign hotkeys to your weapons (and morphine syringes), so you can pull them out quickly. The nice thing is that you can press two hotkeys at the same time to dual-wield.
So I can assign a glock pistol to hotkey 1 and the cell phone to hotkey 2. I can press both 1 and 2 together to dual-wield. What a great thing. Come and get me, you damn monsters!
Good Luck Sleeping Tonight
And speaking of the monsters, the development team did a great job with their designs.
These monsters are a considerable threat, quickly attacking you with good accuracy and overwhelming you with great numbers. Some are even reasonably difficult to kill without using up a lot of ammo. Not to mention they’re actually pretty terrifying, with their disfigured bodies and twisted ways of attacking you.
For example, the Drowned enemy (pale lady in white) has the ability to influence you to commit suicide by putting a loaded pistol right next to your head. She also has a knife-wielding fetus that bursts out of her stomach if you come too close to her.
So as you can probably tell, this game is pretty challenging. Even if your heart can take the scares, you need to be pretty apt in first-person shooters to get through a game like this. It’s pretty easy to die in Cry of Fear, whether it’s through regular enemy encounters or tough sequences.
To add yet another depth of challenge, there is also puzzle-solving. GAAAAAAAHHHH!!!
Fortunately, the puzzle-solving isn’t too bad. Most of the time, you’re required to explore the maps to find out how to move to the next area. Sometimes, you just need to find a key. Sometimes, you need to find a number code to open a combination lock. Or you just may need to play out a particular cutscene.
Still, there are times when the game can be relentlessly difficult.
For example, the infamous hallway of hands scene. To get past this part, you need at least one syringe on you since the hands drain your health very fast.
But when I first got to this part, there were no syringes. There was supposed to be one right before you go through the hallway, but I was unable to find any. And my health was less than half, too, so imagine the sheer frustration I had to experience.
But after I reached this point a second time, I found the syringe and I was finally able to get past this part. What the hell happened? Was that a glitch? Did I use that syringe already?
Oh, but that’s not all. Some puzzle solutions can get ridiculous at times.
There’s a point in the game where you start encountering a giant enemy called a Taller. I don’t really have much of an issue with the enemy itself, but it’s what comes after that annoys me. Basically, you’re backtracking to areas you’ve visited already in order to collect two fuses. Most areas you’ve been to before are still accessible too, which makes it a little more confusing on what the development team wants you to do.
For me, this is easily the most frustrating part of the game because you have no idea where the hell you’re supposed to go.
To get to one fuse, you have to go back to this park area you’ve already passed and follow this trail of enemies on a walkway, which will lead you to a spot where you previously used a fuse.
But what about the other fuse? Oh, that’s simple.
First, you need to go through this easily overlooked window.
The hell of it is that it’s hard to tell that you can even go through this window in the first place since it doesn’t stand out in particular. At one point, an enemy may break through the window as a subtle hint. The only other hint is this sign, which is inclined against the inside of the train. Then through a tricky crouching jump, NOW you can get through the window.
Damn, what the hell.
Then you need to backtrack to the apartments area from earlier in the game. Yeah, really.
And if this isn’t bad enough, guess what you have to do after getting those two fuses to progress forward? Get two fuses again!
I love Cry of Fear, but this part is so damn tedious and frustrating. It’s so easy to get lost and I wouldn’t have gotten past this part without looking up a walkthrough.
But with all that said, playing through this game is a joy. There’s some depth to the gameplay and the atmosphere is wonderfully melancholic. There are even different game modes you can play, mostly miniature scenarios to challenge yourself and gain some more backstory. There is even co-op, which is pretty damn cool.
But I have yet to address the story.
Actually, it’s not too bad. I like it. It’s a well-executed psychological horror plot that relies mostly on the subtext rather than exposition.
While the dialogue can be simplistic at times, you can feel Simon’s pain as he battles these horrific trials. Cry of Fear has a balance of action and silent moments, not only to build up suspense but to also provide a sense of relief from the scares.
Some props throughout the environment and the enemies themselves seem symbolic, which you can pretty much read up on through Cry of Fear’s wikia site. Drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, therapy. Simon’s relationship to his mother, doctor, and love interest. The seemingly random scares do end up making some sense after you gain some understanding on how the monsters appear and Simon’s limited chemistry with the other human characters.
While I can’t really say much on the story, it’s best experienced when you play it. That way, you’ll understand better on what I mean by relying more on subtext. It’s really more about the emotional impact of the journey than the sequence of events alone.
This game is pretty damn depressing in a multitude of ways, especially when you get to the ending. While there are four different endings depending on certain decisions you make during important cutscenes, there is one ending with a true final boss and a more satisfying conclusion.
Cry of Fear is more or less a metaphor for undergoing depression and confronting your inner demons. It’s not at all pleasant and it can be really difficult to stomach. But below its surface, it’s a heartfelt game with some scary ideas and a mind-blowing execution. And the true ending has a nice, but depressing, message to it.
You may have to go through harsh trials in your life that may take away your will to live, but there will always be people who will help you through those times. And when you come closer to accepting your situation, then you may find peace with yourself. You only have one life, so let go of the pain and reach out for your happiness.
If you have Steam installed on your PC and you love horror games, then this one is on the house.
Cry of FearFree
- The gameplay is pretty solid, giving you a good fighting chance in melee combat with the dodging mechanic and forcing you to budget your ammo.
- Enemy designs are delightfully twisted and horrific.
- Has an amazing atmosphere, with some well done models, textures, and original soundtrack.
- The story is both depressing and heartbreaking, addressing Simon's cold reality and how he copes with it.
- Somewhat glitchy and may take some extra work for it to work properly.
- Voices are sometimes too quiet to hear.
- The inventory system is pretty restrictive.
- The open-ended nature of the second half of the game, where puzzles are spread out into hard to find areas.