An edge-of-your-seat FPS with horror elements
First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R) is one of the year’s most anticipated first-person shooters (FPS). It puts you in the shoes of the newest member of F.E.A.R, an elite team of soldiers trained to handle unusual situations.
The action begins as Paxton Fettel, one of F.E.A.R’s own members, mysteriously goes insane, develops a taste for human flesh and takes control of a battalion of cloned soldiers with whom he has developed a telepathic link.
It’s up to you to put an end to this behaviour but, unlike most FPSs, the action in F.E.A.R is hardly routine. From the off, you’ll notice that the game has been heavily influenced by Japanese action and horror flicks, with The Ring, and just about anything by famed director John Woo, springing immediately to mind.
The game uses a host of visual tricks to scare you when you least expect it. You’ll see split-second appearances of ghostly apparitions and objects falling mysteriously from shelves, while a creepy soundtrack of crying infants and the terrified screams of dying men create a genuinely unnerving environment.
We won’t spoil the surprise, but you’ll also encounter a creepy little girl named Alma, who when she isn’t using mysterious powers to mess with your head is ripping soldiers to shreds with just the power of thought.
When the game’s unbearable tension isn’t making you shudder, its outstanding and frequent combat sequences will have your nerves jangling even more. Unlike many FPSs, firing the weapons in F.E.A.R is a visceral experience they’re extremely convincing.
Bullets from the automatic weapons fire at an alarming rate, and will literally rip the environment to pieces. Dust, dirt and other particles are kicked up, chunks are torn from walls, and the game’s realistic physics engine means most objects you shoot or touch react as you’d expect them to for example, enemy soldiers twitching violently in the last throes of death.
When you’re not wielding twin pistols, rocket launchers, sub-machine guns, assault rifles and shotguns (plus a couple of extra surprise weapons), you can use some pretty cool combat techniques to dispose of your enemies. Momentarily run out of ammunition and you can use drop-kicks and a hugely impressive scissor kick to take down enemy soldiers.
Arguably your most important tool is your ultra-fast reflexes. If you find yourself flanked from all sides, pressing the Ctrl button slows the game down, creating a Matrix-like bullet-time effect. We’ve seen this technique used in numerous games, often to poor effect, but it works exceptionally well in F.E.A.R.
Far from being a throwaway feature that makes the game too easy, this slow-motion mode is an essential addition, as the enemy soldiers in F.E.A.R are extremely clever. They’ll hide behind objects while shooting, and will even push over tables or crates to create cover where none is available.
It’s not all positive, though. The environments in F.E.A.R can become rather repetitive, as can the occasional over-use of ‘psychological’ tricks to scare players.
Also of concern is the amount of processing power required to run the game. It is playable on mid-range PCs, but to see it in its full glory you’ll need the latest graphics card, plenty of Ram, and a fast CPU.
If you have the necessary hardware, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend F.E.A.R. It’s more intense than Far Cry, rivals Half-Life 2 for atmosphere, and is thoroughly engrossing from start to finish.
64MB video card with T&L (transform and lighting)
Overall: An atmospheric, enthralling and genuinely unnerving FPS that rivals the best in the genre
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