Released last year for PC, Monolith’s F.E.A.R
was warmly received. At the time, it was regarded as a high-quality FPS, deemed by some to be the best of the year. Xbox 360 owners will be pleased to know that the conversion to console is both technically faithful to the PC original, and has actually aged very well. It feels comfortably Next-Gen.
For those whose gaming radar didn’t pick up F.E.A.R.
on its original release, here’s the lowdown. You are a member of F.E.A.R.
, a government-controlled Special Forces team specialised in combatting violent, paranormal disturbances. From the beginning, you’re made aware that you are no normal soldier, being in the possession of a rather hackneyed gift: lightning-fast responses. However, this all-too-familiar gift conveniently opens up one of F.E.A.R.
’s key gameplay mechanics, which we'll discuss in more detail later.
An important mission has come up and you have been assigned as F.E.A.R.
’s ‘Point Man’, which basically means you’ll be going it alone, deep in enemy territory. The enemy in question is a rather disturbing, face-eating telepath called Paxton Fettel and his clone army of uber-soldiers, who have seized control of a shady organisation called Armacham Technology Corporation, killing (and nibbling) all the workers in the process. Why he does this, we can’t go into without spoiling the 'better-than-average-for-a-game' story, which unravels at a surprisingly suspenseful rate. Regardless, this guy needs to be stopped, and guess who’s the man for the job?
For the most part, F.E.A.R.
falls into the category of FPS. You walk around with weapons pointed at 12 o’clock, ready to take down Fettel’s patrolling henchmen throughout the relatively linear missions. The Halo-like controls work very well on the 360 pad (which already seems perfect for console first-person shooters) and aiming accurately is a breeze. Your movement is determined by several factors. Whilst patrolling normally, your movement is quick, but the crosshair widens, rendering it less accurate.
Enter an ‘Aim’ mode, however, and it will narrow, giving you the opportunity for juicy head-shots, but leaving you restricted to a slow walk. On top of this, the weight of the currently armed weapon also has a bearing on your speed. This offers a nice balance and gives the player food for thought regarding when to dart ‘n spray and when to pick off targets from cover.
However, on top of this, there’s definitely a faint whiff of survival-horror about the game. But instead of hideous, mutated beasts jumping out at you from the dark, the game uses intervals of subtle menace, where you appear to be targeted by spirits in some genuinely disturbing set-pieces. Are they really demented spirits? Is Fettel freaking you out with his telepathy, or are you hallucinating? And who’s the Ringu-like girl who visits you, the one you catch an occasional glimpse of in the corner of your eye, only for her to disappear?
These mind-f**k moments only feed your anxiety of another unnatural episode around the next corner. Claustrophobia; foreboding dread; shitting your pants – the classic hallmarks of survival horror.
As mentioned earlier, your reactions are ‘off the chart’, therefore you have a handy ‘bullet time’ mode which you can toggle on and off. Those aware of Max Payne already know this isn’t a feature unique to F.E.A.R.
, but its implementation is another cool facet to how you approach situations. At the bottom of your screen is your SlowMo gauge, which quickly empties when engaged, but only refills slowly when disabled. Using this mode efficiently is vital to success. The last thing you want is for it to run out mid-battle, leaving you exposed and surrounded.