F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon
F.E.A.R. can be desribed in short as a first person shooter, with full blown action sequences and expertly crafted horror elements. The game lends ideas from Japanese horror culture, and if that's not interesting enough, add slow-mo and you have a game that will give you both "oh god no" and "hell yeah" moments at the same time.
Published: 21.12 2020 by Nocturn
Me personally, I'm not a fan of horror at all. I tend to go for action, comedy and drama. Horror, no thank you, hard pass. It just freaks me the hell out, and I can't get myself to enjoy a single moment. So why can't I stop playing F.E.A.R.?
The game put you into the role of First Encounter Assault Recon, or F.E.A.R for short, newest point man. You and your squad receives the mission to find out what have happened to Paxton Fettel, a psychic commander that can control an army with his mind. You might, just a tad, sense that something is wrong when you are presented surveillance footage that shows that Fettel's diet consist of body parts. If you are not yet intrigued on what the hell is happening, the next thirty minutes will hook you in with strange happenings, and small twists that will leave you wondering. And I almost forgot, there is a girl with long black hair, and if you have any experience with Asian horror, you know that is not a good sign.
The story is told through audio and text logs, and small first person viewed cut scenes. It is expertly crafted to peak your interest, and pushes the story further just enough to keep you at edge of your seat. The same studio created a few years later Condemned, and you can see that the same story telling that is used there is also present here.
As I stated previously, the game uses slow-mo (or bullet time) as a game mechanic, and by no way is that a bad thing. Matrix made it first popular into movies. Then Max Payne brought it into the video game, but non had yet tried to make a first person game where it was present, before F.E.A.R. perfected it on the first try. Who doesn't love to slow down time, and land all of your head shots with ease? Just when you push the button, the time and audio slows down, and a the spray of bullets, and when time is back to normal the bodies hit the floor in a fountain of blood. It is glorious. You have also the ability to lean around corners, so you can do some small scouting before you go gun-ho into a room.
The sound design is minimalistic, but effective. The ambient dark tone of the soundtrack, composed by Nathan Grigg, is it's own master class in how to create an atmosphere that plays expertly into the visual. It is always tingling in the background and tells a story to your ear drums; "maybe there is something around the next corner?".
Moving on to the graphic portion of the game. It is not colorful, and most of the game is set into dark environments, and usually inside buildings. There is a lot of grey and black going around, and to be frank, the interior designer on most of the rooms is not one that I would hire to decorate my home, but it fits the tone of the game great.
The AI, called Goal Oriented Action Planning, is an highly adaptive and intuitive intelligence that will keep you on your toes. No missions will feel the same, and playing a mission over again will probably feel different. The enemies will try to flank you, they will adapt to the situation on the spot, and will take into consideration to use their strength in numbers the right way.
Even if you are a part of a squad, you find yourself playing much of the game alone and hunted. Thou, the feel of power you feel when you push the bullet time button for the first time, and you hear the soldiers react in fear. It is hard to describe in words just how great it feels, and is just something you should experience for your self. How the game reacts to you as a player is in a league of it's own, and in my opinion fifteen years later, still is. There is so much bad A.I. implementation out there, so it is so refreshing to see that a studio have taken their time, and really put their heads together to create something special. Jeff Orkin, the A.I. designer, have written a whole paper on the subject, so if you are interested, google it.
To sum it all up, F.E.A.R. is an expertly crafted game, that grips you from the first second until everything comes together at the end. You will sit on the edge of your seat, but always pressing on to understand what the hell is going on. F.E.A.R. stand down in history as one of the greats, and it's a shame that Monolith haven't been able to create a follow up that is in the same tier as the first.
As an editorial note at the end; to be in the position to look back in a retrospective view on the F.E.A.R. series, I find that the first one to be the best entry in the series. It was packed with intuitivity, minimalism and mystery. The next entries focuses more on the action bits, and lost what made the first one so great. F.E.A.R. is one of my best single player memories, and by far my best experience in the horror shooter genre.