F.E.A.R. Review

F.E.A.R. stands for First Encounter Assault Recon, an elite military unit created by the government to investigate paranormal phenomena … and by “investigate” they mean blow it back to heck. You play the newest member of the team who is about to be initiated into the unit in a baptism of fire. An experimental force of clone soldiers psychically linked to their commander is unleashed on an unsuspecting city when their commander goes insane, but there’s more going on here than your typical army of clones run amok problem. Dark forces are at work which defy a rational explanation, and they seem to be centered on a ghostly and deadly little girl…

F.E.A.R. does a great job of delivering a suspenseful story that is enough on its own to keep you playing just to see how it unfolds. The game does a great job of creating a genuinely creepy atmosphere, the kind that will have you jumping out of your seat and reaching to turn all of the lights on at night. The game makes use of many of the same devices found in the scariest of movies, such as brief flashes of scary images, hallucinations, unexplained noises, and ghostly encounters, and you’ll see the influence of films from The Shining through The Ring. It all makes for some thoroughly creepy, thoroughly enjoyable gameplay.

The firefights can be intense.
F.E.A.R. is not all about scary thrills; it delivers some excellent gameplay to match. The thing that really stands out about the game is that it confronts you with some of the smartest enemies you’ve ever seen in a game. Your enemies respond to your actions, report your position to each other, and work together to flank you. They are more aware of their environment than any enemy I can remember facing in a game before. I’ve seen them move between covered positions, use ladders to reach better firing positions, and use alternate entryways after I cut down one of their colleagues trying to come through a doorway. Not only is this challenging, it makes for some very dynamic gameplay in which no two battles ever play out in the same way. Finally someone put the “I” into “AI”.

To help even the odds a bit against your smart foes, you have the ability to slow down time for short periods of time ala The Matrix or bullet time. I don’t want to tell you why you have this skill as that’s part of the story, but I will tell you that it makes for some really cool game effects. You’ll see the turbulence trailing enemy bullets as you use your power to dodge them and watch each of your bullets as they impact into your enemies’ bodies. Sure, it’s been done before, but F.E.A.R. does it particularly well and makes it a necessary tool for survival more than just a gimmick.