Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


(Sierra/Monolith for Playstation 3)

By Michael Palisano

Bringing an occult edge to the usually dry combat ops genre, Sierra's F.E.A.R. offers players a unique supernatural twist on FPS games. The game places you as a member of an elite force assigned to track and destroy otherworldly phenomenon. In addition to standard weapons and ammunition, you have the ability to slow down time and use other psychic powers to help you through your missions. The gameplay itself is fairly average for the genre though some clever horror sequences are used to keep you off-guard. F.E.A.R. looks decent enough on the PS3, though this version does tend to look a little flat. A few multiplayer deathmatches are a cool addition and make F.E.A.R. a fairly decent shooter with some interesting ideas.

As an elite member of F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assualt Recon), you are a specially trained soldier who's been enlisted in the battle against evil, supernatural forces. Your mission begins with the appearance of a serial killer, who's been spreading his darkness through the city. As you get closer to his location, strange things begin to occur, things which cannot be explained. When you finally arrive and find him, some truly awful sights await you and you suddenly find yourself transported back to your team-mates suddenly. As you begin to make your way into the other areas of the game, things become even more sinister and dark, as an evil presence becomes stronger and stronger. While the first few missions in the game offer little that differs from standard FPS titles, F.E.A.R. becomes more intense as you go deeper into its missions. You begin fighting what appear to be standard soldiers, but things become strange at points, as you're suddenly possessed by strange visions, and zombies and shadows appear seemingly out of nowhere to keep you off-balance. This approach allows you to gradually immerse yourself into the action and allows you to learn the game's quirks and nuances as you go along without having to suffer through endless tutorial levels.

The levels themselves are fairly straightforward at first as well, but become increasingly strange as you defeat levels. As you go into the deeper levels, things that were only hinted at earlier manifest themselves, and you find yourself battling zombies and other ghosts. While you do occasionally have some support with other recon forces, they usually fall quickly to the evil forces, leaving you to fend for yourself in the increasingly dark corridors and hallways. You'll find a lot of clues in each level, which take the form of phone messages which become increasingly ominous and dangerous as you go deeper. Something is definitely not right in the warehouses you are covering, and as the visions become more pronounced, the visions you see offer an increasing intensity and become more disturbing. F.E.A.R.'s storyline is fairly unique in that it mixes elements of stealth, combat tactics and horror effectively to create one of the more original an interesting games on the market. From a gameplay standpoint, the game offers a decent array of weapons ranging from shot-guns and pistols to grenades and other items. As you progress through the levels, you'll also find health and med packs, plus additional power-ups that allow you to increase your stamina and reflexes.

Knowing how and when to use your stamina ability makes a key difference in the strategy of the game. Since the enemy AI is quite smart and allows your foes to strafe and attack you much more intelligently, you'll need to pay attention to them much closer. They're very hard to take out once they've spotted you and since they attack in numbers, it makes it much harder to survive their assault. As you play through the game's later stages, you face much stronger opposition that makes it much harder for you to escape a battle unscathed. The game mechanics are easy to understand and quite intuitive and most players should have little trouble with F.E.A.R.'s controls. Firing and shooting uses the shift buttons, while you can activate the slow-motion using the shift buttons as well. Movement requires use of the standard d-pad or the analog stick. The game's HUD is very easy to use and doesn't interfere with the action. You can crouch or jump easily and use different positions to navigate through the levels. Most of the actions, such as pressing a button or opening a door are context-sensitive, assigned to the square button. This makes playing F.E.A.R. relatively easy for FPS veterans and should allow most players to jump into the action with little learning curve.

Adding to the speed and length of your reflexes is quite important, since the higher your ranking, the more time you can use in the game's slow-motion mode. Here, you can slow down time for a brief period, which allows you to dodge enemy fire and makes taking down foes much easier. Learning to use this ability effectively is a key strategy in winning the game. One of the cooler aspects of F.E.A.R. is that you can sneak up behind enemies and attack them without warning. These stealth moves are very important because they reduce the risk of damage your character will take, since it only takes a single hit to take down an unaware enemy. More importantly, downing an enemy without alerting nearby foes allows you to sneak by without having them call in reinforcements, which makes your job much easier. When you're in the slow-motion mode, it makes your more effective, but it also allows you to see the game's powerful physics engine in action. You can see shots reflecting though the air Matrix-style and watch as the bodies of your fallen foes bounce around thanks to the game's rag-doll physics.

While the single player experience is solid, most players will probably want to check out the game's multiplayer modes which offer the standard team, deathmatch and capture the flag modes. F.E.A.R. is relatively easy to set up and its game matching is fairly solid - the game plays with little lag and offers a decent selection of weapons to choose from. You can choose to play either a standard mode, which plays like most other shooters, or can select to turn on the slow-motion mode which makes things a lot more interesting and strategic. This is not the main part of the game, F.E.A.R.'s multiplayer modes are a solid addition to the game play. F.E.A.R. came out almost a year ago on other platforms and while the game looks decent enough, it hardly taxes or exploits the PS3's processing power. Most of the levels look decent, if a little flat but the enemy models lack detail and don't animate as smoothly or fluidly as they would in other games. The game's presentation is decent as well, with some interesting cut-scenes and several rather disturbing sections that add to the atmosphere. There's little doubt that this is a violent and bloody game, so those players who are sensitive to this have been warned. F.E.A.R. has some excellent cinematics that help to immerse you in its storyline and these are integrated seamlessly into the main body of the game to make for a decent experience. Unfortunately, the overall look and feel doesn't match the levels seen in PS3 titles like Resistance: Fall of Man. This lack of polished visuals indicates what is probably a rushed port that lacks the finishing touches and visual quality that really makes the experience stand out from the pack.

Unfortunately, there are a few additional technical issues that make this less than it could have been. First, the game doesn't load quickly and makes you spend an inordinate time waiting for the status bar to fill. Even worse, the game has a tendency to freeze and crash during these screens as well, which means you have to reset and begin anew. While F.E.A.R. doesn't exactly set the PS3 on fire with its graphics engine, and looks slightly worse than the PC & Xbox 360 edition released last year. However, it still looks decent enough. From a gameplay standpoint, it does offer a fairly engrossing and interesting storyline, which helps to immerse you in the storyline. The use of special weapons, motion slowdown and some really cool weapons adds some variety to the gameplay, but it isn't enough to really recommend it to gamers. Despite its occasional flashes of inspiration, F.E.A.R. on the PlayStation 3 is a sub-par port of this title that leaves you feeling a bit disappointed in the end.

Grade: C+

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