First Encounter Assault Recon
First Person shooters are still pretty much a big thing, what with the likes of Far Cry
, Half Life 2
, Doom 3
and many others that have hit the shops recently. The genre has never been stronger but with that strength is its greatest weakness, innovation. It can be said that once you’ve played two or three of the latest you’ve played them all.
So I wasn’t expecting much from F.E.A.R to be brutally honest, since I am a bit sick of FPS.
I can tell you now however that I was wrong.Story
It would be a true shame for me to spoil the story of F.E.A.R so I am saying nothing, except that it begins with you as a Special Forces operative of the recently commissioned First Encounter Assault Recon force, a group of soldiers created to fight the paranormal and supernatural in a near-future Earth.
You are somewhat special however and have reflexes that Neo would be proud of.
The story is a twisted one and it’s told throughout the game with first person immersion and you don’t really get a feeling of being disconnected from your main character, if you’re going to encounter a cut-scene you’ll do so with it viewed from your main viewpoint.Gameplay
If you read my Far Cry: Instincts
review for the Xbox you’ll have noticed that one of my big problems with FPS games are: ladders, well, let me get this off my chest right away. F.E.A.R handles ladders properly, it handles ladders in a gorgeous ladder handling way that every other game should emulate – F.E.A.R has got ladders down to a T or should that be an L.
All interaction in the game is based off the default F key and with it you can pick up spare ammo, weapons, activate objects such as doors and so forth. You can also quickly get onto a ladder, and then you’ll be able to climb up and down properly and not look like you’re sliding up the darn things like a ghost with no hands.
Gameplay in F.E.A.R is based off a standard FPS style system; you enter a level and have to find your way without a MAP to the next part. Now this might seem nothing special and in truth it’s been done before, but F.E.A.R does it with style, it does it better than the competition and provides interesting challenges along the way.Monolith
, the developer have been looking for a big hit since a lot of their games appeal to a specific fan-base. I think they might just have found it with F.E.A.R because while it runs on rails, and there’s nothing wrong with a linear game – it doesn’t feel all that linear because you’re sucked into the story/world and it never lets go.
You’re able to see your character’s hands/feet and this adds a dimension to the gameplay, spatial awareness is a quarter of the battle when you’re trying to immerse a player into a world. F.E.A.R’s world is a highly violent one and some people have said it’s scary; personally I wasn’t scared at all. I would put F.E.A.R into the creepy bracket, which works much better than scary.
F.E.A.R generates several kinds of gameplay: frenetic battles between you and the highly aggressive military/security forces, exploration of the massive levels. It is during these explorations where you are left to wander corridors/rooms and given a few pointers here and there from your F.E.A.R coordinator over the com-link that the ‘creepy’ nature of the game often plays out. There are some downright disturbing moments in the game that will jump out at you when you’re least expecting it, and when you’re expecting something dire to happen – nothing will.
The way Monolith
have kept these sections interwoven makes for a very exhilarating experience indeed. One moment you’re pitched head-on with soldiers and the next you’re in underground subsection tunnels chasing apparitions, hearing strange voices in your head or face to face with creepy girl.
To help against the shadows you do have a flashlight, which lasts only a short while before it needs a recharge (ala Half Life
) usually cutting out at a critical moment, or failing to work when something supernatural kicks in. It might flicker for a few seconds as a strange signal flickers across your com-link.
The soldiers in the game however will spot your flashlight if you use it while they’re around, so it’s best to quickly put it on, move, and turn it off and so on. You will want to explore thoroughly because some of the stranger moments of the game are hidden away in unlikely places and you’ll miss out on health and reflexes pickups/weapons/ammo/armour if you don’t scavenge every place in the game
You have health/armour in the game as per most FPS. You also have something called, reflexes – this represents your operatives’ unique special ability. He can slow down time or rather move so fast to his enemies they hardly see him, while to him they appear in slow motion.
Nothing new there, you might say, we’ve seen it all in Max Payne
and the Matrix
plus several other clones. True, but again F.E.A.R does the whole reflexes thing with style. Being able to use that slow motion trick actually enhances the gameplay and makes you feel like you’re a super-soldier trained in combat.
Talking of combat, F.E.A.R features a nice armoury and even allows you to mix it up hand to hand, but the hand to hand system isn’t as good as the The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
. It is still a nice/useful feature to use when you’re out of ammo or in need to conserve what ammo you do have.
You can also use your pistol or a rifle to gun-butt slam and enemy, allowing you to conserve ammo that way and sometimes take them down silently. You can’t carry an arsenal of weapons however; in F.E.A.R you have a pistol, and up to two rifle type weapons at any given time.
Ammo pickups and weapons/armour are fairly plentiful on some of the levels and new weapons are introduced, often in the hands of your adversaries – so bagging them adds an extra cool award when you finally get your paws on a new piece of kit.
A word of warning, the developers put in a weight system so if you pick up a heavy cannon – it will slow you down. Bonus points to them for that one.
You have access to several explosive weapons, grenades, sticky grenades, mines and pipe-bomb style remote explosives later on in the game. There are health kits/packs lying around and of course replacement armour suits/helmets.
In some of the levels you’ll encounter useful NPCs (Non Player Characters) that will offer information, or objects that have messages/info upon them. Some NPCs will need protection and you can, when instructed, pass them a com-link so they can talk to your coordinator.
On the surface F.E.A.R handles like any other FPS, but the small things such as tight controls, good quality weapons and immersive environments push the game beyond the core shooter and into something much more impressive. You’re going to be thinking a lot about where to go, what to do and some of the levels have several routes to your objective so going straight isn’t always the best idea.