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Game Info:

F.E.A.R
Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Monolith Productions
Released: October 17, 2005
ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
Available on: PC (Version reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre: Horror First-Person Shooter
MSRP: $10 on Steam

System Requirements:  
Windows XP/2000
Pentium 4 1.7 GHz CPU
512 MB RAM
5 GB hard disk space
DirectX 9.0-compliant sound card
64 MB GeForce 4 Ti or Radeon 9000 or equivalent with Hardware T&L and Pixel Shaders
DirectX 9.0c

(Click here to jump to the moral content)

“In 2002, the U.S. Army formed a secret unit dedicated to combating paranormal threats to national security. The unit was named First Encounter Assault Recon.” F.E.A.R. is a horror first-person shooter from developer Monolith Productions. Monolith is known for making scary games, for example their horror classic Condemned: Criminal Origins. F.E.A.R. was an attempt to blend fast FPS action with the feeling of sheer terror that comes from Japanese horror films. In a lot of ways, they succeeded.

You play as a silent protagonist, a man referred to as the \'Point Man\' or the \'F.E.A.R. Operative.\' The game starts with a disturbing introductory movie, introducing you to the members of the F.E.A.R. team you are a member of, and the main antagonist, Paxton Fettel. Fettel is a seemingly insane telepath, and has resorted to cannibalistic methods of sustenance. He has taken control of an army of clone soldiers who can only be controlled by a telepath, like Fettel. They are systematically attacking buildings owned by Armacham Technology Corporation, looking for something. These buildings and surrounding locations are where you will be hunting Fettel. You will see a few warehouses, service tunnels, and lots and lots of offices along the way.

However there\'s an additional element in the form of what appears to be a little girl: Alma, a psychic who has it in for anyone who gets in her way. Alma will have more relevance as the story progresses, but I won\'t spoil it for you here. I will say however, that towards the end of the game we start seeing an older Alma, one who appears naked but for conveniently placed shadows. Personally, I found this to be more of a distraction than something really necessary for the game. One highlight to F.E.A.R.\'s method of storytelling is that it usually does not reveal everything to you through cutscenes. Often, you will have to piece it together yourself from overhead conversations, phone messages, and encrypted data on laptops to get the whole story. There are several different story threads, and some are only explained by utilizing the above methods.

Highlights:

 

Strong Points: Creates a tense and unnerving atmosphere; has very solid gunplay mechanics and combat; will make you feel terror at least once; the artificial intelligence can confuse and flank you if you aren\'t careful.

Weak Points: The combat gets tedious after repeating the same scenario over and over again; the enemies become easier to predict when you realize they follow the same patterns; some scare tactics are repeated too often.

Moral Warnings: Gruesome scenes include dead and mutilated bodies, gallons upon gallons of blood, people disintegrating; there are decapitations, scenes of cannibalism, and even more disturbing elements; combat is very bloody, ending with blood on walls and bodies lying around; characters swear a lot, using the f-word and the s-word, keeping it about on par with a R rated movie; a character is seen nude, with hair and well-placed shadows covering the most sensitive parts.

 

The main story itself is simple enough, but the story takes several interesting turns along the way, and has an ending that could have been pulled from a J-horror film. There\'s also a phone call after the credits that you won\'t want to miss.

The main enemies you fight are cloned soldiers, referred to as \'Replica soldiers\' or \'Replicants.\' These faceless, generic enemies come at you in a few different variants, but they all act about the same. The main differences between the types of Replicas are the weapons they carry, how much damage they can take, and what they look like. The artificial intelligence in this game seems smart at first, coming from places you don\'t expect, getting around you, and ducking for cover at irregular intervals; but then you realize that they all act the same. It soon becomes easy to predict when an enemy will come from behind a wall, and where reinforcements will come from. This is not helped by the fact that their radios are on a loudspeaker, as they will call for help or make comments about you slaying the squad. This chatter can even get funny at times, for example whenever I shot a soldier in the head, they screamed to “Watch out for the sniper” regardless of range or weapon.

The weapons in F.E.A.R. are fairly standard for a FPS. You have the pistol, the machine gun, the assault rifle, the shotgun, and others. The twists are that you can dual-wield pistols, the nailgun weapon fires polycarbonate bolts that are about a foot long and can pin your target to a wall, the sniper rifle is a particle weapon that disintegrates the target, and the rocket launcher fires three shots at once. There are a few other weapons, like a repeating cannon that acts a grenade launcher of sorts. Grenades come in three types: Fragmentation, or frag, time bombs, and mines. These weapons handle like you would expect and are generally a blast to use. The nailgun, or HV Penetrator is probably the easiest weapon to snipe with since zooming doesn\'t involve a scope like the more conventional sniper, the Type-7 Particle Weapon. If it\'s close-range damage you want to do, you can\'t go wrong with the VK-12 Combat Shotgun. In addition, instead of an alternate fire, you have melee attacks. These include whacking a target with the stock of your gun, if crouched, performing a slide kick, or if you jump while melee-attacking, you execute a jump kick.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay: 15/20
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 10/10
Stability: 3/5
Controls/Interface: 5/5

Morality Score - 56%
Violence: 2/10
Language: 5/10
Sexual Content: 4/10
Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

You are also given a tool which is often more powerful than any weapon in the game: Reflex Time. In a take on \'Bullet Time\', you can slow down time to aim more precisely or dodge enemy fire easier. This is easily one of the coolest parts of the combat. The developers have claimed that were trying to imitate the feel of a John Woo movie, and for the large part, I think they succeeded. While you can largely get away without it on Easy, Reflex Time is a necessity to survive the harder difficulties.

I should take this opportunity to point out that F.E.A.R. is a very violent game. If you take a shot at close range, the body can, and often does explode or rip into pieces. Blood tends to fly all over the place, in quantities rivaling God of War. The HV Penetrator can pin enemies to a wall, if you hit them in the shoulder or head. The bodies will lie around until you get reasonably far away, and they are susceptible to getting shot and bleeding a little more. However, after shooting a body, the bullet holes disappear very quickly.

Combat isn\'t everything about F.E.A.R., though. The game builds an incredible atmosphere with numerous elements. You will often find yourself seeing things that aren\'t there when you investigate, and you will often hear whispering or other ominous noises as you progress. There are a few times where you will jump from the suddenness of an event, like Alma shoving you off of a ladder, but these can become predictable and in some cases annoying. Those don\'t detract from the overall experience though, which comes across very strongly as a terrifying experience.

From a technical perspective, this game is very well done. The audio is very deep and convincing: the guns sound powerful, the auditory hallucinations are creepy, and the voice acting is great. From a graphical standpoint, this game isn\'t anything groundbreaking, but it does look good. It\'s about on par with Half-Life 2 or Doom 3 on Medium or High, which is pretty good for a game from 2005. Interesting to note is that when you point the camera down, you see your character\'s legs. I haven\'t seen very many first-person shooters that do that even to this day. It\'s also interesting to note that there is an option to enable bullet casings, however these disappear mere seconds after being ejected from the gun and falling to the ground. The ragdoll physics in F.E.A.R. can get ridiculous at times, with corpses often getting stuck in awkwardly hilarious poses. The graphical ability of the Lithtech engine truly shines with the hallucination and Reflex Time sequences, featuring fantastic motion blurring and excellent fade-ins and outs. Very little texture pop-in or other graphical glitches were noted during play.

The game itself is very stable, but there are a few glitches worthy of mention. The game can occasionally crash to the desktop, and usually does so while loading. Thankfully these crashes were infrequent enough that they deserve only a passing mention. What is slightly problematic, however, is that during very crowded scenes with lots of enemies and explosions, the game will stutter, even with a high-powered system unless the graphical settings are turned down. The stutter is usually only for a short while, but it can be distracting.

Before I wrap this up, I must mention that F.E.A.R. is not at all a child\'s game. Massive amounts of blood and gore, a slew of profanities, and partial nudity make this a game I cannot easily recommend to youth, or to adults who can\'t stomach the grotesque and macabre imagery F.E.A.R. serves up. However, if you are a fan of Silent Hill, but could never quite get over the lack of ammunition, or if you think blending horror with an action-packed FPS sounds like a cool idea, F.E.A.R. is definitely worth a look.

Objectionable Content:

Violence/Disturbing Imagery: Combat is very violent and bloody; blood will splatter on walls, floors, and anything else within reach. The bodies themselves show bullet holes, but these disappear after letting the body sit for a few seconds. The bodies only disappear after reaching a new save point, and can be kicked around until then. With the more destructive weapons, shooting an enemy at close range can result in their body splitting in two pieces or exploding into a shower of guts. Aiming for the head with a shotgun while at close range usually results in decapitation, while aiming for the chest at the same distance can cause them to explode. There are scenes of cannibalism, which usually hide the actual consumption, but you see the person doing it. There are scenes you will encounter that are gory, bloody, and messy; for example when you find a man half-eaten, or when you find the remains of a special forces team which was reduced to skeletons and blood. Further, the process of reducing people to skeletons is shown once onscreen, and you hear it happen twice throughout the game.

Language: Language is also prominently heard throughout F.E.A.R., with many characters, including the Replica Soldiers, using the f-word and s-word frequently. Each gets roughly 75 uses throughout the game, depending on which soldiers use it.

Sexual Content/Nudity: Alma appears naked in several of the final sequences. While her hair covers the sensitive parts, it is next to impossible to miss the fact that she is naked. It is important to note that is not shown to be in any way attractive, and is meant to terrify the player further.

Supernatural: The nature of the strange occurrences are attributed to a psychic who is technically dead.

Disclaimer:

The copy reviewed was purchased from the PC digital distribution client Steam in a bundle with F.E.A.R., F.E.A.R.: Extraction Point, F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate, F.E.A.R.: 2: Project Origin, and the DLC for F.E.A.R. 2, Reborn for $9.99. This reviewer encountered no problems that were the fault of Steam. The Steam download is about 17 GB in size. Approximately 9 hours were logged in the campaign, which was completed. Multiplayer was unable to be reviewed because of licensing problems with the Steam release of F.E.A.R., which requires one to register on the Warner Bros F.E.A.R. Combat website to receive a serial key. However, this key is only for the original game and not the expansions. A physical copy should have no such limitations.

 

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Deepfreeze32

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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