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Introduction

The PC has seen a plethora of impressive first person shooters within the last year, including Half-Life 2, Doom 3, and Quake 4. Such titles are renowned because they are able to immerse the gamer into the adventure, making the whole experience feel like it’s a lot more than just a game. F.E.A.R. is yet another outstanding shooter available on the PC that carries some of the greatest visuals to date. The horrifying storyline will grab you right from the start, and the fast paced, perceptive battles will leave you playing until the last mission. F.E.A.R. is an atmospheric shooter that any PC gamer definitely needs to check out.

What is F.E.A.R.?

F.E.A.R., short for First Encounter Assault Recon, is a division of the military’s top soldiers that deals with paranormal situations. In the opening cinematic, you learn that a rogue military commander named Paxton Fettel takes control of an army of cloned soldiers. While Fettel’s motives are unknown at this point, it is certain that he must be stopped before any large scale damage is done. As a member of F.E.A.R., you must work with your teammates and members of the Delta Force in order to put a stop to Fettel’s army and to determine what caused all of this madness in the first place.



Technical Standpoint

• Windows 2000/XP
• Pentium 4 – 1.7GHz or equivalent (P4 3.0 GHz Recommended)
• 512MB Ram (1024 MB Recommended)
• 64MB Video Memory (Radeon 9800 or GeForce 6600, 256 MB Recommended)
• 5 GB Free Hard Drive Space
• DirectX Version 9.0c

The minimum and recommended system requirements for F.E.A.R. are listed above, but you should still be well aware that this game is a system hog. It is clearly one of the most demanding games available today, so the minimum requirements will just barely be enough for the game to play on the lowest settings possible. With my Radeon 9600xt, 1GB of RAM and a P4 2.53GHz processor, I was able to play with medium detail settings on 800x600, without any added features such as anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering. However, if you’re lucky enough to own a Radeon X850 or Nvidia 7800, you should be able to enjoy F.E.A.R. in all of its beauty.

Astonishing Visuals

Gamers are certainly going to be in for a treat if their rig is good enough to play F.E.A.R. on high settings. First off, the moody lighting effects used throughout make you scared to walk alone in the dark, even if you do have a flashlight. Enemy’s shadows can clearly be seen if the lighting is right, but no matter how hard you try to prevent yourself from being spooked, an enemy lurking in the shadows can easily get the best of you. While some of the level designs are recycled throughout the game, you’ll still be scared by the aroma irregardless of how many empty halls you walk through. Ghostly encounters happen frequently, and while some of the cinematic sequences can be a little on the corny side, quickly seeing a dark figure bolt through a doorway can freak you out a little bit. The particle effects are simply gorgeous, rewarding players who try out different weapons and aim for explosive barrels. Smaller features too, such as the environment’s ability to be broken apart from crossfire, show that a lot of work was put into F.E.A.R. in order to make it as horrifyingly realistic as possible.

Shocking Audio

A lot of today’s latest games can certainly look impressive, but most of them aren’t accompanied by an audio experience that truly immerses the gamer into their surroundings. Luckily, F.E.A.R. delivers one of the greatest sound performances we’ve heard in a long time. When creeping through a building on your search for enemies, everything is dead silent. Drops of water can be heard from a leaking pipe, mice can be heard scurrying in the background, and the only real noise accompanying you is your footsteps. Even the slightest noise will make you want to turn up the volume just so you can determine if you heard another soldier, and moments later a vigorous gunfight will break out. Grenades will be whizzing across the room, the opponents will be shouting commands to each other, and the blasting of assault rifles, shotguns, and a various array of other weapons firing will fill the air. As soon as these enemies are taken care of, everything will go back to that familiar dead silence, and such a sharp contrast will certainly leave you shaking. To top it all off, often the main character will hear voices rattling inside his head, and the developers really did a nice job portraying the troubles that they caused him. All of this, accompanied with an eerie soundtrack at times, makes F.E.A.R.’s sound department truly commendable.

First Encounter Assault Recon – Locked and Loaded

To start off, one of the best features about the gameplay in F.E.A.R. involves the sheer number of weapons that become available throughout the adventure. While you’ll obviously wield standard FPS weaponry, such as pistols, sub-machine guns, and assault rifles, F.E.A.R. also has its fair share of innovative weaponry as well. Throughout the course of the game you can also find a plasma weapon that can burn the skin from enemies, a nail gun that can pin enemies to the wall and even repeating cannons that can deal a hefty amount of damage. You can carry around two weapons at any given time, and an assortment of grenades can be used at the press of a button. Frag grenades will explode on impact if they touch an enemy, so it’s probably in your best interest to take a few steps back before you toss some of these bad boys around.

Interestingly enough, certain karate moves, such as drop kicks, side kicks, and melee punches, can also be used if you’re low on ammunition. Even with the wide selection, you’ll most likely end up using a few of your favorite weapons throughout the entire game. In addition, health packs are scattered throughout the levels and can be used by the press of a button, allowing you to easily recover even if you’re in the middle of a battle.

To go along with the vast weapon selection, the combat scenes in F.E.A.R. are nothing short of extraordinary. A seemingly empty room can burst out into a firefight in instances, where you’ll first want to dash towards any form of cover. Whether you quickly run back to the room you just came from or decide to be a little more daring and hide behind some scattered boxes, the initial burst of intensity will surely make your heart pound. At this point, the intelligent A.I. will work together to take you down, so any battle could easily be your last. If you wait in one spot too long you’ll be flushed out with a grenade, and if you run out into combat too soon a barrage of bullets will surely greet you. Each firefight will require you to analyze your environment in order to devise a plan that can leave you unscathed. While it would be much simpler if you could just pop around a corner and blast the hell out of anything in sight, the enemies in F.E.A.R. will do anything they can to take you down. Whether they’re diving through windows to avoid a grenade, piling up objects to create cover, or if they’re working in small groups to flank you, the computer opponents are well aware of what’s going on at all times.

As far as the actual combat is carried out, F.E.A.R. again manages to deliver well in this respect. Each weapon carries a unique feel that lets you know when it wants to be used; in some of the long range scenarios you’ll want to dust off the scope on your battle rifle, while some of the close quarters confrontations will simply beg for the use of a rocket launcher. No matter what the situation is, sometimes you’ll need a little extra time to sit down, line up your shot, and kick some ass. Luckily, a slow motion mechanism can be activated to heighten your combat reflexes, allowing you to overcome some of the hairier situations. In slow motion, a marvelous motion blur effect will sweep the world, allowing you see the trace of every bullet in the air, easily giving you the opportunity to locate the source of the attack. Explosive effects will also send out a magnificent shockwave when time is slowed, but you’ll still have to react fast if you don’t want to get hurt. Fighting in slow motion is significantly easier because you’ll have the time to crouch, look through your scope, line up your shot, and then take your enemy’s head off without them being able to deal any damage whatsoever. When overused, this feature can slow down the flow of gameplay and make the firefights seem less epic, but often it will be your only solution to saving your life. While this time slowing resource is limited, when used appropriately it will allow you to avoid getting pumped full of lead when you’re dangerously outnumbered.

The Future of F.E.A.R.

The single player in campaign takes roughly 10 hours to complete and it has to be said the level variety is sadly lacking, but what is there to do after that? Once you’ve already solved the mystery, a great chunk of what made playing the game enthralling your first time through is missing. You should be able to squeeze some fun out of F.E.A.R. afterwards just because the A.I. will always act differently depending on your actions, but for those of you who don’t want to play through the single player campaign again, F.E.A.R. also carries a solid multiplayer segment as well. The multiplayer modes consist of the traditional FPS game types, such as deathmatch and capture the flag, but this time around they have a special twist. Players can battle it out for the ability to slow down time, which will surely give you an upper hand during battle.

All of the funny drop kicks and melee punches can also be used online, and it’s surprisingly rewarding to run around and beat people to a bloody pulp. The online mode isn’t quite as in-depth as the single player mode in terms of sleuthing and remaining hidden, but instead the action is very fast paced. You’ll do a lot of killing and a lot of respawning, which can certainly get repetitive after a few hours. Also, playing online will require a powerful PC if you want to receive a sufficient frame rate, so you might get stuck turning your settings down all the way just to play at all. Still, F.E.A.R. can deliver hours and hours of nonstop entertainment, as long as your PC can handle it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, F.E.A.R. is an excellent first person shooter that anyone with a decent setup definitely needs to try out. The storyline is captivating, the combat is fierce, and you’ll easily get your money’s worth thanks to the surprisingly intelligent computer opponents. While this title is certainly a system hog, F.E.A.R. puts every last megabyte of RAM to good use. Whether you’re looking for a game with a haunting storyline or intense firefights, F.E.A.R. is surely a great FPS title that shouldn’t leave anybody disappointed.

Game play 18/20
Graphics 19/20
Sound 19/20
Value 17/20
Preference 19/20
Overall 92/100


 

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