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F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon (PC) artwork

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon (PC) review

"Rather than delivering an outstanding first-person shooter with plenty of chills and psychological taunts, it seems like the developers just copied and pasted the same battle repeatedly and tacked on a scary girl."

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon asset

F.E.A.R. is, as of this review's publish date, eight years old. By now the game and its concepts should be dated enough that I shouldn't find any part of it jaw-dropping. Yet there I was: awestruck with my jaw well ajar. For as I engaged in the first bona fide firefight of the campaign, I witnessed a kind of unexpected realism. Stray shots fired from my rifle hit a wall just to my opponent's left, kicking up dust and plaster. My target fell back through the fog of wall particles, eventually ragdolling over a rail. Most impressive of all was that this event transpired within five seconds, and yet didn't occur so quickly that I couldn't process what had happened before me.

My foe's allies rushed just as quickly to his aid, firing rounds, lobbing grenades, and some even sneaking towards me via alternate routes. These terrorists weren't idiots, as they always seemed to be one step ahead of me. Suffice to say that I made good use of the quick save button throughout F.E.A.R.'s campaign.

Fierce enemy AI wasn't always enough to save my adversaries from doom, though. When I decided that I'd put up with enough of their crap, I would reload my game and instantly enter bullet time mode. Much like Max Payne, I was able to slow time and carefully take my shots. However, bullet time here was more effective than in Max Payne. It lasted longer in F.E.A.R. and was much easier to control. Better yet was that I could easily slip in and out of it, provided that my bullet time bar still had some juice.

It was all so exhilarating and empowering that I never realized how much of a pissant my character truly was...

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon asset

Now and then the corridors would grow silent and the surrounding darkness would become denser, seemingly palpable. Strange visions would plague me during these moments, in which demonic apparitions would dance their way into reality, only to phase back into their hellish domain before dealing any physical damage. Worst of all of them was a certain little girl who I spied walking through the halls, sometimes playing with corpses or appreciating the blood-spattered walls. I thought of her as nothing more than a typical creepy child until I encountered her at the climax of a mission. There I saw her walking toward me, her face alight with a profound fury that was more terrifying than anything I had experienced up to that point. Reality itself seemed to ignite around her and explode, and I feared that I would be blown to pieces next. As images of my character suffering a "Scanners" fate entered my head, the girl sent me flying through a window. Luckily my head was still in one piece.

The opening hours of F.E.A.R. were a fantastic experience. As I entered the middle stages, I thought that the game would grow fiercer as I advanced. I envisioned a game rife with challenging, heart-pounding battles and horror so furious that I would regret playing this game late at night.

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon asset

Unfortunately, if you've experienced one firefight in F.E.A.R., you've experienced a vast portion of them. Rarely did I find myself utilizing any divergent strategies or battling many different enemies. For the most part, I was at the mercy of the same adversaries. Now and then I might encounter a different kind of foe, like a flying robot or a mech, but such variance doesn't occur often enough. Mostly, F.E.A.R. is a wash, rinse, repeat sort of first-person shooter.

The game's horror elements also took a nosedive around the middle. Sadly, the further I advanced, the more tacked-on the game's horror elements felt. Although the plot slowly built towards a huge revelation, the game's horror elements felt more like a subplot than an active part of the narrative. More than anything, the game's apparent reluctance to feature much in the way of supernatural horror was disappointing, especially since that was the game's selling point.

It also doesn't help that there were plenty of segments in the campaign where I accomplished nothing. I ran through an office building, unabated by enemies or specters, merely searching for the pathway that advances the storyline. Segments like these sometimes carried on for several minutes, sometimes much longer than any instance of downtime in a video game ought to. Sure, Half-Life did the same thing, but at least "doing nothing" in that game usually meant that you had to solve a puzzle or carefully reveal that path to the next storyline event by analyzing the environment. In F.E.A.R., running afoul of downtime was a pace killer rather than a mood builder.

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon asset

When playing mediocre shooters these days, I tend to abandon ship before I can reach the closing segments. I made an exception in F.E.A.R.'s case, as I hoped against all hope that the conclusion would trump the rest of the game. And it did...

F.E.A.R. stepped up its difficulty and added more variety near the end of its campaign. Memorable battles began to manifest in a title that I once considered forgettable. I recall one moment in which I warred with snipers armed with particle rifles. These weren't your typical sniper rifles, mind, as they fired energy shots that disintegrated their targets. I'd gotten my hands one a few of those puppies and let the snipers have a taste of their own medicine. My favorite segment of the game, though, involved penetrating the core of a top secret vault and unraveling the truth behind the storyline's mystery. After that point, the once dream-like demonic manifestations became real. They'd phase into reality through rifts in space and time, charging at me as they uttered ungodly caws. Although I unloaded whole clips and made the scary monsters go away, they managed take their toll on my sanity. I will admit that I tend to look over my shoulder when playing first-person shooters, thanks to this game.

F.E.A.R. cranked up the awesome towards the end, and then concluded abruptly. Just as I was enjoying the game, it cut itself short and seemed to shrug at me. "I've got nothing else. Go play my sequel now," it seemed to say.

"So that's it, huh?" I said back.

"Yeah, sorry."

"Not half as sorry as I am..."

I don't hate F.E.A.R., but I do find it disappointing. Rather than delivering an outstanding first-person shooter with plenty of chills and psychological taunts, it seems like the developers just copied and pasted the same battle repeatedly and tacked on a scary girl. Sorry, Alma. You're creepy and all, but you've got nothing on Sadako.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 25, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Linkamoto posted October 29, 2013:

I remember the first time I played this when it was new, and the graphics were just incredible. I agree that the Alma thing got tired, but it was a fairly new idea for the time in regards to creepiness. I enjoyed the heck out of the game, but agree with you for the most part about the battles. Nice review.

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