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F.E.A.R. Review

by: Brian Healy ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

Creepy horror and first-person shooter combine in a game that will have your heart racing and leaving you gasping for breath from beginning to end.

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    Welcome to First Encounter Assault Recon - F.E.A.R for short.  It is your first day on the job and you just know things are going to go bad.  Very bad.

    First Encounter Assault Recon is the military's foremost, top-secret task force assigned to deal with paranormal occurrences.  Like Ghostbusters, only with real guns, the game's storyline foregoes that of other first-person shooters that have gone before them.  Out go aliens, street-thugs and robots, and while masses of enemy soldiers are retained - after all, what would a good shooter be without them, also introduced into the mix are some exceedingly creepy people who serve up the plot of the game.

    In the game, you play a raw F.E.A.R agent who, on his first day is called in to investigate some strange goings on, it soon becomes clear that the crisis runs far deeper than some mischievous poltergeist.  In fact, its all the dirty work of Paxton Fettel, an insane military commander with some serious telepathic powers and an army of clones at his disposal.  As Fettel rampages through the city, it becomes apparent both through the gameplay itself and subtle cut-scenes that Fettel is looking for something and it's up to F.E.A.R to find out what and stop him.

    What unfolds is a top-notch first-person shooter that is both creepy and intense in equal measure - not to mention gory!  
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    Product Features

    F.E.A.R is not a game for the feint-of-heart.  F.E.A.R is a game that will, as the name implies, scare the proverbial from you, and you never quite know when the game will deliver it's next slice of cerebral meddling.

    Weapons are various and feel powerful, unlike in some other games, and you can actually take down enemies with a single, well-placed shot rather than having to pump them full of lead before they even flinch.  Whereas in other first-person shooters, where the weapons tend to curve as the game progresses making those in later levels more powerful and those from earlier levels less so, the weapons in F.E.A.R have no such curve and you can clear a room with a pistol just as easily as a machine gun. 

    If need be, you can indulge in a little 'bullet time' whereby your enhanced reactions can slow down time for a few seconds, allowing you to pick your shots and gain the upper hand.

    But it's not just with bullets you can use. F.E.A.R has also integrated some limited hand-to-hand combat into the game and you can lay out enemies with your bare-hands, or deliver crushing kicks to the bad guys.  You can even use the butt of your gun as a makeshift cudgel if the need arises.

    The action is fast and furious, and you'll rarely have time to draw breath as wave after wave of clone soldiers descend on you.  In those rare instances where you can breath, there is always the feeling that the game will assault the mind, if not the reflexes at any given moment. 

    Between skirmishes, the story unfolds via some very creepy cutscenes and flashbacks, and a heavy dose of ghostly apparitions who crumble to ash in front of your eyes.  You'll hear lots of whispering people and the haunting laugh of a little girl, and although treading a very fine line towards being kitsch, the game does a fine job of sustaining it's gritty, grim tone.

    One of the best elements of F.E.A.R is its delivery of the creepy tension.  The game seems to instinctively know when to deliver an apparition to make you jump, and while you may feel invincible after winning a gun battle, the supernatural forces that appear at what seems the most inopportune moment leave you feeling that you are at the mercy of the game, not the other way around.

    Another area where F.E.A.R differs from many other first-person shooters is that it isn't possible to run around with an arsenal akin to that of Arnie in the film 'Commando'.  F.E.A.R limits you to only being able to carry three weapons at a time and you need to consider the pros and cons of each weapon, especially when you get into the serious hardware later in the game, such as rocket-launchers.

    You can also carry a limited supply of grenades which can be thrown without the need to equip them first.  The same applies with first-aid kits, which, at the press of a button can be instantly applied for some much-needed health.

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    [inlineImage|sectionimages||F.E.A.R Box Art|]
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    Game Shortcomings

    Try as it might however, F.E.A.R can't quite get away from feeling somewhat scripted in terms of the enemies you'll face. Most encounters will be with a group of soldiers, although you'll occasionally run into the odd 'super-soldier' with enhanced weapons and armours. While the AI of the enemies is excellent - laying down covering fire, diving for cover and flanking attempts are just some of their features, the lack of overall enemies becomes a little monotonous and you'll soon find firefights offer an air of deja-vu. It would have perhaps been better if some of the enemies which feature later in the game had made their entrance that little bit sooner.

    The gameplay environment is one of the game's biggest let-downs and centres primarily on abandoned industrial complexes and docks areas, such as warehouses and boiler rooms interspersed with the occasional office, air-vent or walkway. After a while you'll swear you've walked down this corridor previously.

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    System Requirements

    F.E.A.R doesn't need a beast of a PC to run effectively, but for the game to be seen in all it's glory then a powerful machine is recommended.  That said, the game ran perfectly fine on an AMD Athlon 3000 fitted with 1GB RAM and an ATI Radeon 1950Pro graphics card at a resolution of 1280x1024.

    The minimum specification for the game is as follows:

    System: Pentium(R) 4 - 1.7 GHz or equivalent
    RAM: 512 MB
    Video Memory: 64 MB
    Hard Drive Space: 5000 MB

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    FEAR is quite easily one of the most intense and atmospheric games you're ever likely to play and it's exciting blend of action and horror will thrill you one moment and scare the wits out of you the next. FEAR features some of the most gorgeous gun fights you're ever likely to see on the PC and takes the first-person shooter to a whole new level. Being scared has never been this good and FEAR is a game that anyone serious about PC games should play.

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    Technical Info

    Publisher: VU Games 
    Developer: Monolith 
    Genre: Modern First-Person Shooter 
    Release Date: Oct 18, 2005 (more) 
    ESRB Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

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