F.E.A.R. somehow managed to add in elements of Japanese horror into a military shooter, which surprisingly results in a fun, spooky first-person shooter.
|Console||PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3|
|Developer||Monolith Productions, TimeGate Studios (Extraction Point/Perseus Mandate)|
|Genre||First-person shooter, survival horror|
|Release Year||2005 – 2007|
|Purchase (PC Steam)||Purchase from Humble Store.|
|Purchase (PS3)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (Xbox 360)||Purchase from Amazon.|
Full name: F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon.
Status: A pretty cool game.
The F.E.A.R. series can be considered among Monolith’s key horror titles, even though they had nothing to do with F.E.A.R. 3 and F.E.A.R. Online. These games are what you get when someone sat down in a meeting room and shouted, “Hey! We should go make a game about clone supersoldiers, robots with rocket launchers, psychic military leaders, and a little ghost girl lifted straight from a Japanese horror flick!”
…I wasn’t kidding around. Make no mistake. That is pretty much F.E.A.R.’s premise in a nutshell.
Yeah. The first thing I would like to bring up about this game is the unusual premise. You have what seems like the foundation for a sci-fi first-person shooter, but then decide to throw in Samara Morgan from The Ring for good measure. The presence of a Japanese onryou in what seems like a rehashed Call of Duty plot, brought to you by an American developer.
But as odd as it sounds, the execution actually turned out okay. Well, kinda. I’ll explain in a sec.
Going Against Adversity
You are a Point Man with no known name and you are a low-ranking soldier in the First Encounter Assault Recon special forces under the command of Rowdy Betters. Your job is to apprehend Paxton Fettel, a recently escaped convict who commands a whole battalion of cloned supersoldiers known as the Replica Forces. Along the way, you learn about Paxton Fettel’s connection to a deceased girl named Alma Wade and how her death sets off a chain of events that could doom the world.
F.E.A.R. looks and plays like your typical first-person shooter. You have your pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, combat shotguns, etc. But there is one distinctive mechanic that sets the series apart: the Slow-Mo ability.
Generally, the characters you play as have extremely powerful reflexes, allowing them to dodge bullets and increase weapon accuracy. You can only use the Slow-Mo ability for short bursts, but the payoff is big. The weapons you use in this game have a pretty nasty kickback, throwing off your aim. Furthermore, your enemies are very competent and efficient in fighting you so you need to use Slow-Mo quite often to turn the tables on them.
While you can easily kill most Replica soldiers with the usual weaponry, there are also specialized soldiers known as Heavy Armors. These guys are basically the tanks of the battalion, being able to absorb a tremendous amount of firepower (even damage from grenades) without staggering. In this case, fighting them is much easier if you have weapons that specialize in breaking through tough armor like the 10mm HV Pentrator, the MP-50 Repeating Cannon or the MOD-3 Multi-Rocket Launcher. There is also an enemy known as the REV6 Powered Armor, a mech that functions like a boss in this game. Most of the time, you will find a rocket launcher nearby wherever these guys spawn so you shouldn’t have too much problem against them.
As you go along through each level, you may find blue Health Boosters and green Reflex Boosters that will permanently boost your stats. Most of them are not very hard to find as long as you search your environment carefully, since all of the levels are linear and you can only reach the end through one path.
Because F.E.A.R. as a whole is very involved with the story, you will often witness horrific events throughout each level. You will see visions of Paxton Fettel and the little girl known as Alma Wade, as well as visions of corpses, pools of blood, and destruction.
A Snail’s Pace
While F.E.A.R. is dialogue-heavy and does a lot of world-building, the story still remains its weakest aspect. It’s really too bad since the actual background information is quite fascinating. Your main character, the Point Man, has no background, known history, or anything that really explains who he is. Unsurprisingly, he is a silent protagonist. My guess is that this decision is intentional since it theoretically allows you to fill the character’s shoes and pretend that the events happening in the game are really happening to you, the player.
Nearly every support character, including your fellow F.E.A.R. officers and the hostages you save, aren’t very memorable—with the exception of Alice Wade, who’s best known as a complete imbecile.
No, because there are armed supersoldiers with mechs everywhere… you dumbass.
The game doesn’t really give them a chance to make them likable either.
There are also quite a few things about the plot that make no sense. My questions concerning it are spoilers, so view them at your own risk.
- If Alma Wade had been dead for over 20 years, how come the events of this game suddenly occur now?
- If Alma was dead to begin with, how come is she still “alive?” To what extent does her bullshit psychic powers allow her to do?
- What was the point of locking Alma’s body inside Armacham if she could easily project herself in the real world anyway?
- Why did Paxton Fettel allow himself to get killed at the end of the game?
- Though it was implied that Alma wanted to see her son, the Point Man, how come she spent the whole game trying to kill him? How come Paxton Fettel, who was under her control, was trying to kill him?
- What the hell happened to Sergeant Jankowski anyway? He mysteriously vanished early in the game and sometimes you see a phantom of him walking around. Is his ghost following you?
But I will say this: the villains are freakin’ cool.
To begin with, the Replica Soldiers are legitimately threatening enemies. They’re not just some mooks to be sacrificed to Rambo. They can kill you in a few seconds if you’re not careful. The enemy A.I. is actually good in this game. Your enemies actually react depending on what you do. Example: if you open fire, they will take cover until they find an opportunity to fire back at you.
And what do these guys really look like under the armor?
Oh god, that’s BEEYUTIFULL!
But yeah, these guys will fuck you up if you’re not careful. It won’t take long before you look worse than them.
Paxton Fettel is the psychic commander of the Replica Forces and an unhinged man who speaks in cryptic warnings.
The voice and dialogue really make this character. That emotionless, grumbling voice full of gleeful confidence and unabated vengeance.
Fettel appears everywhere throughout the game, but only remains in the areas briefly. It’s like the man himself is a vengeful ghost, appearing before you just to warn you of terrible events to come.
A war is coming, I’ve seen it in my dreams. Fires sweeping over the Earth, bodies in the streets, cities turned to dust… retaliation.
And of course, the series mascot: Alma Wade.
Alma doesn’t have nearly as much dialogue, but you can feel her presence everywhere. Her vengeful spirit wanders about, brutally murdering anyone who stood in her way. And I mean she is very thorough about how she kills people. She would strip someone’s flesh away from the bones, leaving behind a skeleton lying in a pool of blood and crushed organs.
Yeah. Despite that the story being all over the map, the antagonists are honestly what makes the game worth playing for me.
While F.E.A.R. doesn’t really scare me—considering how often I play horror games, this shouldn’t be a shock—, it manages to create this mysterious horror atmosphere. Imagine being in large urban environments crawling with supersoldiers that function like a hivemind.
Civilians are either missing or brutally murdered. Because most of your fellow F.E.A.R. co-soldiers are not as powerful as you, you often have to go through much of the game all by yourself. It creates a feeling of isolation and nearly everyone you come across either wants you dead or have a disturbing fascination with you.
And let’s face it. The tracks are pretty awesome. They can be intense, weird, creepy and even calming.
But then, there is a major thing that ruins all that. Now, it’s a common thing for video games to have goofy stuff in them whether intentional or not. But I’ve just been wondering… WHO WAS THE TROLL THAT DECIDED TO THROW IN NORTON MAPES INTO THIS GAME?
If there ever was a video game that may succeed in making you hate fat people, then this might be it. This man is a disgusting coward and his obnoxiousness knows no bounds. It’s like Michael Bay suddenly got hired into the writing staff for a minute and he threw in a comically obese man for teh lulz.
I don’t know a single person who actually liked this character. This guy got some universal hate for being the most arrogant, thankless, dickless, worthless piece of shit in this game. Thankfully, this guy never reappears in a future F.E.A.R. title so all is forgiven. You only have to deal with this smarmy asshole for one game.
Overall, F.E.A.R. is a competent first-person shooter with a nice horror backdrop. The gameplay, though mindless and repetitive, is fun. The story, though sloppy, does at least have some good antagonists.
Extraction Point Expansion
Then comes the expansion pack: F.E.A.R.: Extraction Point. Instead of Monolith, this expansion was created by Timegate Studios (fun fact: this developer used to be close to where I lived). And this is where the canon of the series branches off.
The story continues off from the original game and you’re the Point Man once again. After your evac chopper has been shot down, you, Douglas Holiday and Jin Sun-Kwon are once again in a sticky situation and have to survive the aftermath of Project Origin.
Alma Wade returns as the main antagonist, as well as Paxton Fettel—which doesn’t make much sense if you remember the ending of F.E.A.R. But then again, the whole logic of spiritual powers in this series is never truly consistent. Somehow, death has no consequence where you have psychic powers and even allows you to pretty much attack people from beyond the grave.
However, this story is considered non-canon so it ultimately doesn’t matter.
The gameplay is mostly the same, but with minor changes. You can now break certain crates to get items (sort of like in Half-Life) and you can bust doors open with the melee attack. Some new weapons here, some new enemies there, and that’s about it.
Still, this little what-if scenario can be interesting since it allows us to see what would happen if Paxton Fettel and Alma Wade were still around. Even Douglas Holiday and Jin Sun-Kwon are slightly more interesting in this expansion since they’re exhibiting some human emotion (for once), though it’s pretty short-lived.
But we’re not finished just yet! There’s one more thing to discuss!
Perseus Mandate Expansion
Timegate Studios was at it again. Another F.E.A.R. expansion to extend the first game’s life. But this time, Perseus Mandate features a brand new campaign with brand new characters.
This time, you’re an unnamed Sergeant in the same F.E.A.R. team by Rowdy Betters. You’re assigned to a group alongside Captain David Rayne and Lieutenant Steve Chen. While investigating the shady Armacham Technology Corporation, you learn of a new threat: a mercenary unit known as the Nightcrawlers.
The Nightcrawlers use similar tactics as the Replica Forces, but they don’t have Heavy Armor soldiers. Instead, they have the much more difficult Nightcrawler Elites who are fast-moving assassins that can take a lot of hits. These guys are a pain in the ass to fight.
But at the very least, you can acquire the powerful VES Advanced Rifle from the Nightcrawlers. It’s one of the best weapons to get in the first F.E.A.R. so I would definitely rely heavily on it.
And of course, Perseus Mandate does a pretty good job in bringing out the horror visuals.
Generally speaking, F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon and its expansions make up a challenging first-person shooter with some neat visuals with an atmosphere that mixes up science fiction and horror. If that is right up your alley, then by all means take a nice vacation at Armacham.
F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault ReconPrice Varies
- The Slow-Mo adds an interesting depth to the usual FPS formula,, allowing you to take on numerous tough enemies without too much trouble.
- The antagonists are pretty awesome.
- The atmosphere is a wonderful mix of sci-fi and horror, with the horror aspect being emphasized.
- Graphically, the game is pretty good for its time and the cutscenes certainly help with that.
- The plot is a bit sloopy, though it does have some fascinating backstory.
- Norton Mapes.