I won’t forget the first time I saw the original F.E.A.R. game being played. I was over at my friend Nathans house and he said he had to show me this new game demo. It was late in the evening and the apartment was dark and we were the only ones in the house which only added to the atmosphere. The game finished loading and I was soon partaking in a meeting of a special ops group known as F.E.A.R., or First Encounter Assault Recon for short.
While I didn’t entirely grasp what was happening I did get the general gist. This team was built around the purpose of investigating potentially hazardous paranormal situations. I liked the whole game idea right from the start, it sort of felt like a more hardcore version of the x-files. Any other wayward thoughts where silenced when I saw security camera footage involving some military leader eating one of his men. The briefing basically said that this man had gone insane (no really?) and we should go see why he had attacked this facility. That set the mood for the team being dropped in and starting to move towards our objectives. I would have preferred to have had a team consisting of maybe six members but it was just myself and two other specialists and we were spread out. The game does an awesome job right from the start of inciting a fear of the unknown and allowing the players mind to jump to all sorts of dark and spooky places.
A particularly scary moment was passing through a kindergarten school and the class room your forced to detour through suddenly reacts as if to some unknown force. Lockers flap open and shut, papers flutter around the room and then you hear the whispers. Sealing the moment is when a shadow of a young girl appears for the briefest of moments and then is gone.
The demo wrapped up and I was hooked. The first installment seemed to do everything right, the pacing, the hallucinations, the whispered nursery rhymes, along with intense and bloody shootouts with AI opponents that are still some of the best around. The game could be exhausting, so much so that sometimes after completing an objective I would be hesitant to even move forward from just being on edge for so long.
There where two expansion packs released for the game, though they ended up being inconsequential as F.E.A.R. 2 took off an entirely different angle then presented at the end of the Perseus Mandate.
I was disappointed by F.E.A.R. 2 Project Origins, I won’t lie. Was it still a good shooter? Yes. However it had lost a lot of the very thing I loved about the series. The fear. Even the box art was working hard at removing the fear of the unknown with Alma being presented in a manner that wouldn’t frighten a two year old. The game continued to trade scares for action, and the scares that were done were more of the jump scenes from the likes of Doom 3 then the never ending foreboding of the first game. The final slap to the face was the games ending. Nothing like all your hard work being rewarded by your character getting screwed. I mean this in a more literal way then you think. How can I put this in a G-rated fashion: Alma does the jedi mind trick on you and you happily agree to assist her in expanding the family. Oh to hell with it. Alma rapes you. Game ends. I would have liked to been a part of the brainstorming session.
- Guy 1: So, I think the game should start with a massive explosion.
- Guy 2: Good, good.
- Guy 1: So we got the beginning. How about the game ending in a rape scene?
- Guy 2: Pure gold. Throw in some shooting and mech battles and lets take an early lunch.
If the bile is bit hard to handle I apologize. I am just disappointed by the turn the series took. The third game of the series is in production, and while it certainly looks scarier then F.E.A.R. 2 it still seems to be taking the action over scares tactic. This is personified by the co-op idea. Having the Point Man assisted by the spirit of Paxton Fettel just robs the spooky straight from the starting gate. The game looks creepy, but that’s about it. I do have to say the live-action trailers are a neat touch though.
Let me wrap this up by saying the idea of the F.E.A.R. Team is still awesome. Imagine the team being dispatched to investigate a cult in the town of Gatlin Nebraska. Or being sent to investigate a series of grisly murders at Camp Crystal Lake. Alright, so I may be reaching, but you get the idea. The possibilities are endless in regards to the paranormal assault squad. I hope more F.E.A.R. games are made after the trilogy concludes. Perhaps games that take a fresh route and that don’t include Alma or her offspring.