F.E.A.R. (2005) Review
Be your own action movie star while dodging paranormal forces in this action-packed, horror-themed shooter.
A mysterious paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound, taking hostages but issuing no demands. The government responds by sending in a Special Forces team only to have them obliterated. Live footage of the massacre shows an inexplicable wave of destruction tearing the soldiers apart. With no other recourse, the elite F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) team is assembled to deal with the extraordinary circumstances. They are given one simple mission: Evaluate the threat and eliminate the intruders at any cost.
Turns out the invading paramilitary force is actually an army of manufactured replica clones under the control of Paxton Fettel, a rogue operative with psychic, mind-control abilities. The hunt for Pattel leads the F.E.A.R. team to a classified underground facility where research into psychic abilities for the purposes of warfare have been carried out. The player, the unnamed F.E.A.R. team’s point-man becomes stalked by an entity known as Alma – one of the test subjects of the facility with immense psychic powers who manifests as a little girl in a red dress and as a disfigured woman in psychic hallucinations throughout the story.
The gunplay is very fun and the mechanics here feel solid. Combat is fast and snappy and even though the game is quite old, I was impressed at the graphical and particle effects in use. The blood spray from enemies and gun smoke from walls and other surfaces does a great deal for the immersion factor. Everything works well together and the player is always provided with many options concerning combat.
In terms of weaponry, F.E.A.R provides a concise selection of guns, three of which the player can carry at once. From a selection of machine guns, a solid shotgun, dual pistols, and a variety of explosives, there’s plenty to mix and match with.
Also available for the player is the use of reflex mode – a brief ability to slow down time, similar to the gameplay of Max Payne. This is especially helpful when dealing with large groups of enemies and generally increases the awesomeness factor all round. The reflex bar recharges over time and can definitely be abused, making the game relatively easy even on harder difficulties, but the mechanic is so cool you won’t be able to resist.
There is a handful of enemy variations including your standard military grunt, heavily-armoured forces, combat mechs, and supernatural entities and even though the 6ish hour campaign is a fairly linear romp through dark and gritty industrial and office environments, there’s enough branching paths and set pieces so that it rarely gets stale.
Fun and fluid pretty much sums up the 1st person shooter gameplay of F.E.A.R. The expansive arsenal of weapons and explosives, the kung-fu melee attacks, and the slow-motion mechanic make for an engaging shooter experience that the developers nailed.
As mentioned earlier, throughout the course of the game the player experiences psychic hallucinations, partly as a means for Fettel to deliver cryptic exposition and to tie in much of the horror aesthetic in the form of scares and creepy scenery shifts. It blends into the gameplay nicely and gives the player the feeling of being on edge as they never know what to expect next.
Also noteworthy in building the horror aesthetic was the game’s soundtrack. It features many decent tracks to facilitate the intense firefights and the main menu theme (which also plays during the story) became an instant horror ambience favourite of mine. It perfectly embodies the high-tech, paranormal theme of the game and sends chills down your spine every time.
Expansion: Extraction Point Review
Set directly after the events of F.E.A.R, Extraction Point continues the story after the F.E.A.R team’s extraction helicopter crashes and they are tasked with escaping a city overrun with a clone paramilitary army, a supernatural force of high-speed monsters able to cloak, and the paranormal presence of Alma, who is still stalking the player, causing psychic hallucinations and many horror set-pieces throughout to keep players on their toes.
Extraction Point introduces new weapons to the game, including a laser repeater, deployable auto-turrets, and minigun. It also has a new door bash mechanic allowing the player to melee doors open in a satisfying breach action, this is especially useful to get the drop on unsuspecting enemies and when combined with the bullet-time mechanic, it makes for creating thrilling sequences straight from an action movie.
The 3ish hour long campaign expands upon the original story and provides more of the action-packed combat and spooky atmosphere that worked well for the original. There’s a noticeable focus more on the horror aspect with this expansion and it’s handled well, relying more so on creating a sense of dread and paranoia rather than jumpscares.
If you enjoyed the original F.E.A.R then I could easily recommend Extraction Point as it builds upon the gameplay and story while keeping the series’ action-horror theme intact.
Expansion: Perseus Mandate Review
F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate is a standalone expansion that coincides with the events of the original game and follows the story of a 2nd F.E.A.R. team tasked with investigating the motives of a secretive military force known as the “Nightcrawlers.” The second F.E.A.R. team must battle against the Nightcrawlers and the mind-controlled Replica Clone army in a race to acquire the DNA of both Paxton Fettel and Alma Wade, the paranormal antagonists of the original game.
The expansion provides a 5ish hour campaign and introduces weapons such as a grenade launcher and a new assault rifle to the expansive arsenal. The gameplay is identical to both the original game and the Extraction Point expansion. The first half of the expansion was bland, especially after playing the excellent Extraction Point, and focuses too much on firefight after firefight. Story and horror elements are under-utilized all-round in Perseus Mandate and it feels too much like filler for me to recommend unless you are craving more of the same.