Another huge advancement in the game is the AI behind the enemies in the game use. For the first time since I played Half-Life I can tell that a lot of work has gone into the AI and that they work together to attack you. The enemies also use cover well and will actually create cover out of things like sofas, soda machines, and desks. The AI will also attempt to flank you and retreat when the tide of the battle turns on them. This offsets their amazingly loud voices and walkie-talkie communication which allows you to hear them long before you actually make visual contact. That’s not to say that you won’t be surprised by the odd lone patrol every once in a while but it is exceptionally rare. There is some variety to the AI as well. The replica troop AI is different than the rent-a-cop AI in the game in that the rent-a-cop AI doesn’t seem to work as well together and they don’t seem as bright as the Replica AI. It’s subtle but a nice touch in the game. The drawback is that there are really only five or six types of enemies in the game.
Graphically FEAR is the best looking shooter on the market. We’ve already talked about the cool combat effects but where the game really shines is the use of shadows in the game. The shadows play a major part in helping to generate tension as you will often see shadows of enemies before you actually see them as well as being used to hint at the scarier parts of the game. The rest of the graphics are excellent and well modeled. There aren’t a lot of bad guys but they are really well done and move very fluidly.
Sound is a very important factor in the game and Monolith did an excellent job on this part as well. Weapon sounds are robust and solid sounding and it’s easy to tell which weapons your enemies are holding just by the sounds. The voice work in the game is also strong and well done. The nerdy guy you meet throughout the game is a little on the annoying side but that’s part of the character. There isn’t a lot of music but it is used effectively in spots to help build tension in the game.
The world in FEAR is mostly interactive and most things work like they should. There isn’t a real sense of interacting with elements in the game like there was in Half-Life 2 though as you can only really knock things down using melee attacks or shoot them with your gun. This is a little frustrating as it would have been nice to be able to create my own cover like the AI can as well as being able to play around with things in the world a little more. I sometimes felt like Edward Scissorhands because you could see things in the world but you really couldn’t do anything with them. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Half-Life 2.
Multiplayer in FEAR is standard fare Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. You can play with and without the SloMo feature turned on to add some variety to the gameplay but it’s nothing to write home about. It’s a nice diversion at a LAN party but not necessarily something that is going to be chewing up a lot of your time.
I can’t say that I didn’t have a lot of fun with FEAR but after finishing the game I just felt like something was missing. I don’t know if it was the lack of world interactivity or lack of variety to the levels but the game just didn’t feel as satisfying as other FPS games that I’ve played in the last year. That said, FEAR does raise the bar in a lot of areas in terms of atmosphere and enemy AI and is one of the few games in the last few years to have some really good scary moments. Hopefully the game sells well enough to warrant a sequel as there isn’t a lot holding this game back to becoming a solid new franchise.
While FEAR introduces some spectacular visual improvements, artificial intelligence, and an awesome new melee combat system the game is lacking the varied environments and game plays modes that would put it in the pantheon of great FPS games.
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