A mother's wrath?
You knew that leaving the army for a special unit concerning paranormal would have turned as an interesting experience. But you couldn't imagine the truth you'd find during your first mission... You don't know who you really are. You just know that being a soldier was the goal of your life. You just know that you can be very fast for killing your enemies. You've joined the F.E.A.R. unit and for your first mission, you have to arrest Paxton Fettel, a young man who is a result of genetic modifications for making him a "superleader", who can lead armies with his mind. The troops are also genetically modified (are they human?) and are call Replikas. This is how your adventure begins...
F.E.A.R. is a FPS released in 2005 who was a success, mainly because of its ambiance and plot. I mean, as you can see, you're a nameless soldier (nicknamed Pointman by the community) sent to arrest a psychic who has gone mad and killed a lot of people with his army. Well, the dead are from Armacham Technologies... When will the enterprises learn that playing with paranormal is dangerous?
Anyway, without revealing the end of the game (it's for the Extraction Point review), what looked like a simple mission will transform in a raging war between the Delta Force, the ATC guards, Fettel and his army and you. Fortunately, the Delta Force is siding with you but it seems that that Armacham wasn't really a clean corporation. Using a young girl named Alma, who appears in your mind when you don't expect it, to give birth to genetically babies (well, there are only two: the first prototype et Fettel) who can be psychic like her and imprisoning her in a sort of jail isn't very ethical, especially for Harlan Wade, the responsible of the project. Is it a mother's wrath? But why this little girl, Alma, seems to warn you sometimes about dangers?
As you can see, you will have a lot of questions in mind... and it will be in this context that you will learn more about yourself. Story is sad, hurtful and that's why it's one of the strongest points of the game.
Gameplay is simple. You have to shoot enemies, mainly Replikas and then ATC guards (Armacham has a lot of secrets). But shooting while running like a mad dog into enemies isn't the right solution here. You have to be careful, using the environment at your advantage. After all, you have a special power, a sort of bullet time: time is slowed while you have still the same speed. It's very useful when you're fighting against the EVE robots or a bunch of soldiers.
One of the features of this gameplay is the fact that you can only carry three weapons. So, you have to make some choices and you never know if it's right or not. It adds to the realistic part of the game but someone like me who is used to have all the weapons will be disoriented. Indeed, when you love more than three weapons, it's always painful to say goodbye to your favorites. You find the weapons on your enemies, so, it's not a problem for finding them.
Your path is very linear but in the end, you forget about it. True, the passage in Armacham offices are long and somewhere boring but you'll find a lot of clues about the case and it's also strengthening the ambiance: you'll be scaried, oppressed by the small space and you will never know what will happened. You will never know when Paxton will trigger your memories or a vision, you will never know when Alma will appear.
Enemy AI is very good. The Replikas can duck, take cover or try to ambush you in order to kill you. Yes, everyone know that at the end, you'll be victorious (I hope) but having played games where the enemies do not see you even when you're in their eyesight or enemies running at you, making their death an easier task, I can assure you that FEAR can give some hard work to the hero.
Characters encountered are also very important: Jankowsky, your colleague, seems to have been killed in the beginning but you keep to encounter him, as if he was a ghost for example. Or Jun, another colleague, beautiful Asiatic woman, who seems to be interested in you. Or your boss, giving you rapports, orders or comments. Or Alice Wade, who prefers to escape because of her fear of flying and tries to find her father. Or Harlan Wade, the man who said to you that you'll be a god among the humans, who knew Alma, who was aware of what would happened, should the chamber opened (and Armacham PDG didn't seem to share his opinion). Or Paxton Fettel, your opponent, who doesn't kill you and wants to explain to you everything. Or Alma, this young girl who seems to kill people (but you, you escape... well, you will understand why). Or Alma the Older who wants to kill you because she's angry and bitter.
Graphics are also very good. The engine is really performant and you can tell that the feeling of fear is coming primary from the game between light and shadow, between the old structures you're visiting and the technologies encountered. Enemies, despite being based on the same model, are very well designed, like the weapons (I love the futuristic sniper weapon for example, very efficient against Replikas). Your visions are also very well designed. I just have a complaint against Alma the Older. She seems so creepy that I was afraid the first time I've seen her. Man, I don't like seeing her like that, her younger form is less creepy...
Soundtrack is excellent, I loved the beginning track during the sequence where Alma takes the control of Paxton's mind. You can sense the drama... like when Harlan will release Alma and is ready to pay the price of his sinful actions.
GAMEPLAY: 8/10 - it could have been a 9,5/10 but carrying only three weapons at the time wasn't really my cup of tea... FEAR is an example of good gameplay and how the things must be done.
GRAPHICS: 9,5/10 - Even if I wasn't so satisfied with Auburn's design as well with the first part's one, I must say recognize that the Armacham facilities are very well done. Same for the characters.
STORY: 10/10 - With Half-Life and Doom 3, FEAR is one of my favorite games in terms of story. Yes, it's very complex but you're linked to some of the characters. The results at the end are very interesting and even if Monolith wants to pretend that the expansion pack Extraction Point must be ignored, FEAR has one of the strongest universes for me but only if you count Extraction Point (and probably Perseus Mandate I didn't play).
SOUNDTRACK: 9/10 - What can I add? It's very good. Tracks are sticking to the ambiance, I suppose that the original voices were sticking (as I've played the localised version) and well noises or others are very good.
LIFETIME: 9/10 - A good replay value, difficulty modes and multiplayer justify this high note. You know, that feature of carrying 3 weapons only will probably push some of the players to play the game but with different weapons. And then, it's also a long game, sometimes too long (Armacham is a good example). But it's worthy.
FINAL NOTE: 9,5/10 - I wanted FEAR when I saw previews. It took one year after the buying act for playing it (remember that I've bought Painkiller when it was released and only play it two years later). And I enjoyed the game (minus the three weapons things). It's a very good game with a good ambiance, interesting weapons, a strong storyline and the emblem which is Alma, reminding the little girl from The Ring.
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