F.E.A.R. PS3 Review - 26/04/2007

F.E.A.R. has already launched on both PC and Xbox 360, and by now, it’s pretty much a two year old game. However, have Day 1 Studios added enough to Monolith’s original to warrant a purchase?

The PS3 certainly needed another first person shooter. Resistance is great, but apart from that, there’s no variety or choice in the genre on the console. Call of Duty is very similar to it, and so it seems like a good time to unleash F.E.A.R. on PS3 gamers. There’s a new level, gun and an Instant Action mode, but Xbox 360 owners won’t be impressed that nothing really new in terms of content has been added since their version. In fact, it’s largely inferior.

‘The game places you in the shoes of the newest member of the F.E.A.R team, a top secret militarily organisation assigned to investigate paranormal goings on. The investigation centres around an insane ex-military commander taking over an army of clones who take orders from him telepathically. This won’t be a creepy little X-Files type stealth-em-up. Oh no, quite the contrary. The game’s biggest draw, apart from all that scary stuff that I’ll get to later, is the immense feeling of shooting a gun. Unlike games such as, well, any first person shooter game in existence that takes the fun and the visceral feeling away from unloading speeding hot lead from a barrel, F.E.A.R makes every single bullet seem like a little world of hurt. Just look at the pictures to the right.

Now I'm no expert, but I'd suggest that man's some sort of cannibal. Or likes strawberry jam very much – from personal experience, I'd suggest it's probably the latter. Strawberries = Happiness

Sorry to refer to an overused slogan created by EA’s ‘Black’ publicizers, but walking into a room, letting off a magazine then waiting for the smoke to clear while you survey the damage you’ve caused really does feel like ‘gun porn’. Although you can’t change the actual landscape of a level like Red Faction, everything is interactive, meaning you can give an entire hallway a facelift, with bullet holes, smashed glass and debris all coming together to look like the work of a gun-wielding Carol Smiley. The destructible environments really give the feeling you’re in control of a powerful machine. Unfortunately, a whole army of similarly like minded soldiers also brandish big shiny guns which are capable of causing this magnitude of havoc, and they are again unfortunately the smartest enemies seen thus far in a FPS.

The way your enemies act independently, pushing over tables to create cover, or knocking boxes over to distract you while another flanks you from the side, really subverts the notion that all the soldiers are clones, let alone computer controlled characters. Instead of acting like some developers and making ‘hard mode’ merely the mode where enemies require a stupid amount of hits to die (*cough* Gears of War). Day 1 Studios make it fairer by allowing your enemies to sustain a realistic number of bullets before dying. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a one shot kill ‘game-over-a lot-of-times’ fest. You’ll have to outsmart, not outgun your enemy to bring him down. This means never staying in one place for too long and allowing those crazy clones to get a bead on you, and, as I’ve learnt the hard way, always turning your torch off when walking round corners. I don’t know whether to praise the genius of the developers or cry at my own dismay when a solider screams to his buddies ‘hey, there’s torchlight! Fire!’

The hardest guy on the planet sent to investigate the weird, supernatural goings on is scared of a little bit of fire and a few shards of glass? Pathetic.

Another gameplay addition that makes the transition from the single player aspect of the game to the multiplayer is the ‘slow-mo’ ability. F.E.A.R’s incarnation of ‘bullet-time’ is probably one of the best representations of it you will ever see, as a press of the left rigger will make time slow down so you can dodge past bullets or run rings around enemies. A mode you’ve seen countless times in ‘Max Payne’ or ‘Enter the Matrix’? Yes but F.E.A.R’s destructible environments take this concept even further, where everything takes a turn for the ‘Jon-Woo’ and bullets ricochet off walls, sparks fly off soldiers’ helmets and dust, smoke and debris cloud the air. The feature creates a new dimension to multiplayer battles as only one person gets the ‘slow-mo’ ability, and people must fight over who it is, sort of like a game of tag. The drawback to the person who holds control over everyone’s speed is that all the other players can see him on their map. It’s an interesting slant on a familiar formula.
(Quoted sections are taken from our Xbox 360 review of the game, by Ben Griffin).

While that’s all good and dandy, you can’t help but notice the stagnant feel to many of the locations. The plot may well warrant office block after office block, but towards the end of the 11 chapters you do begin to find it getting repetitive. Like with Black, there are some standout moments when you survive hordes of enemies and just stop. Hearing bullet shells rattle on the floor and the quiet drifting of dust and plaster falling to the ground is an experience like no other. Everything is beautifully captured in audio, but it’s a shame the same cannot be said for graphics in the PS3 version.

There are some very nice looking set pieces in the game – this being just one of them – it's just inconsistent.

In short, it looks graphically inferior. The textures are bland, it looks brighter (not exactly great in a horror game) but washed out. There are also big problems with anti-aliasing throughout, particularly in outdoor areas and the Instant Action mode. It’s as if you turned off the graphical settings in the menu, and it was running on the lowest spec possible. There are impressive lighting effects and some nicely modelled areas, but you can’t help but grumble at the whole inadequacy of the thing if you’ve even glanced at the Xbox 360 or PC versions. Regular framerate hitches and horrific 30 second-plus load times at the start of each level further add to the frustration.

On the plus side, the multiplayer supports 16 players and is lag-free and fun. The game on the whole though is marred by odd controls – it will take you a good few levels to get used to. Using the pressure triggers of L2 and R2 to fire and throw grenades feels really weird. Crouch, scope and switch weapon are also in bizarre locations – why not take a leaf out of Call of Duty and Resistance's book and just use tried and tested control schemes?

He really needed that leg.

Turning bodies inside out, pinning enemies to walls and the eerie feeling of investigating the supernatural accompanied by the superb story leaves F.E.A.R. at somewhat of a crossroads. It was brilliant two years ago, very good on the Xbox 360, and I suppose, is onlygood now. Fortunately there aren't loads of FPS games around at the moment, and so F.E.A.R. is a worthwhile bet if you have needs that must be quenched.



Monolith/Day 1
PC - Xbox 360 - PS3