The first person shooter. A genre that has been with us since the very early days of gaming. There has indeed been a great amount of innovation since taking our first steps into games such as Doom and Wolfenstien. You only need to look at the groundbreaking physics of the Half Life series and the fan pleasing online capabilities of the Halo games to know that we have come a very long way. However it has indeed become a market that has become clogged with third-rate games and stale ideas. Contemporary examples would be Legendary and Shell Shock: Blood Trails. So does F.E.A.R manage to break new ground or is it the nightmare sceptics may be expecting?

As far as game plots go the F.E.A.R storyline is pretty hammy. You play as a rookie in the First Encounter Assault Recon. And on your first week in the job you are sent off to investigate the whereabouts of a man named Paxton Fettel who likes the taste of human flesh and is a wee bit psychic. As expected your first mission goes belly up and so ensues a chase through sewers, office blocks, air vents, abandoned building and some more air vents.

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This is a grey game. There is no doubt about it. This game is grey. And black. Yes as far as colour palette goes F.E.A.R seems to want to sit comfortably in what seems to be this generation’s trend of setting games in the dankest darkest settings that our mortal minds can comprehend. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments where the environments don’t shine. Scenery reacts well if you shoot it and watching reams of paper and office equipment fly around as you engage in a matrix style shootout with armoured soldier clones never gets old.

It may sound like I have been on a bit of a rant about the graphics and the settings. But that is only because if a little bit more effort had gone into creating some more varied environments this game would have been up there with the greats. However F.E.A.R does bring some new things to the table that sets it apart from the crowd and might not make it perfect, but sure as hell makes it great.

The sound in this game is phenomenal. After playing the first 20 minutes or so the psychological horror and creepy sound effects will have you jumping out of your seat. It is easy to see where games like Dead Space drew their inspiration. That’s right. It’s THAT good. Wandering around and suddenly coming face to face with an animated corpse accompanied with a ghastly shriek will have you reaching for that light switch. And this works well ensuring that you, the player, are constantly on edge throughout your playthrough. Most FPS’s, after having you battle a large room of enemies, would give you time to relax and catch your breath. However such is the nature of F.E.A.R you may have downed every living enemy in the vicinity but you just know that round the next corner some paranormal anomaly is waiting to get right up in your face.

The combat is also a treat. It may not be entirely original (infact it seems to have been copied and pasted directly from Max Payne) but it is very very fun and very very satisfying. Tapping the left bumper slows everything down (the games reasoning for this is that your reflexes are quote “Off the chart!”) and lets you riddle unsuspecting enemies with stream after stream of bullets. Its not original, nor is it clever but as game math has proved time and time again its that guns + slow mo = WIN!

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Finally the enemy AI. If I said the enemy AI was like that of the Combine in Half Life 2 I would genuinely feel that I was doing F.E.A.R a disservice. The clone soldiers are incredibly intelligent, knowing when to attack, retreat, flank in short they really do act like real people. And this is where F.E.A.R genuinely breaks new ground and what really sets it apart from the crowd. After playing through the game a second time there was hardly a battle that I fought which panned out the same as my first playthrough. It kept things fresh, and kept me rethinking my tactics.
Enemy AI may not be what the average gamer is looking for in a shooter. And even if it is, it probably won’t be at the top of their list. However the AI teamed with the fun rewarding combat and scary horror themes make this a truly great and original FPS in what has become an overcrowded and frankly boring part of the gaming industry. Forgive F.E.A.R its shortcomings, put the disk in, turn the lights out and prepare to be scared and exhilarated in equal measure.

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