The surroundings for your battles range from open courtyards to railroad yards to hallways to office spaces, but for the most part they seem to share one trait: they're dark. And, as I mentioned briefly and parenthetically above, your flashlight sucks. Cheap employer must have thought I'd be able to find a better one lying around somewhere. I didn't. That said, navigating through the game is pretty straightforward, using what I like to call WDWO(tm) (Whatever Door Will Open) navigation, which ensures that you won't waste a lot of time that could be better spent in shooting at (and/or being shot by) mutant bipeds in trying to figure out where you are, where you've been, and where you need to be, or every now and then, all three at the same time. This is a matter of taste, I suppose. Some people probably prefer a little more challenge in finding their way through the maze.
The game engine allows for interaction with items in the virtual world, but with no real application in the game. You can shoot the top off of a compressed gas container, for example, and watch it torpedo around the room until it explodes, but that's purely recreational and doesn't do anything to help you achieve your goals. If you've played Half-Life 2 (and who hasn't), you'll understand what I mean. In HL2 you actually have to use the interaction with objects to enable progress through the map. In PM, it's just eye candy. That said, I did find it somewhat ironic that I could absorb multiple shots from high powered weapons, but plinking the fire extinguisher next to me with a pistol caused a fatal explosion. I didn't do that anymore, as you can imagine. I shot the rats instead. What an immensely gratifying mist of blood... but I digress.
The environments, both visual and auditory, were nice and spooky. I get twitchy when I play these games, and PM was no different. The sounds of the weapon fire and the deep resonating booms of explosions, coupled with appropriate screen shake, added to the tension. Some of the really spooky special effects that supported the storyline (presumably, anyway, given that I didn't really pay attention to it) were really neat. In fact, I commented on the Gaming Nexus blog that I hadn't had a trip like that since the year my mother-in-law decided to supplement the carbon-neutral free-range solar-powered turkey that she buys at Wild Oats with some mushrooms she found growing in the back yard. Perspective changes, blurry vision, and inexplicable location jumps added to the ambiance and excitement. The only part of the overall package that I could have done without was the language. Grenades are one thing - my kid (who is just vindictive enough to enjoy watching Daddy get blown up over and over and over...) is used to that kind of stuff. The rampant F-bombs, on the other hand, well... that gets old. Yes, there's a Mature 17+ label right on the box, so it's not like I wasn't warned. It's just that it doesn't add much to the game, in my opinion, and really isn't necessary. I know, Uncle Scar, Mufasa, and all that. I just thought I'd mention it just so you're aware.
From the viewpoint of a player that has not played any of the previous F.E.A.R. games, I found PM to be enjoyable. It's probably the darkest and most violent FPS (FPE) game that I've played, and the battles the with evil, non-sympathetic (non-boycottable) characters were intense. From the point-of-view of someone that has played the previous F.E.A.R. games or others of the same genre, however, I suspect PM would be warm beer. As near as I could tell, there wasn't anything truly innovative about it, which I suspect is the primary reason it was tagged with the "stand-alone expansion pack" descriptor.
Perseus Mandate will probably feel pretty familiar to anyone that has played previous iterations in the series, but is a worthy title for someone new to the scene.
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