Developer: Monolith Studios
Release Date: 10/17/2005
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Well, I finally did it. I finished F.E.A.R., and that may seem silly to you, but I’ve started this game so many times, and just never got around to finishing it. I remember when it first released and tried out the demo that murdered my PC. The game wouldn’t even start most of the time and when it did it chugged at single frames on the lowest settings. As time went on I tried it on more powerful PCs over the years, and even on Xbox 360, and just somehow never managed to finish. As a kid this game bored me to death, yeah that’s right. I never understood the story, the gameplay was boring, and the game is brutally difficult even on the easiest setting. There’s a lot here to like despite the game’s age and flaws.
You play as a member of F.E.A.R. or First Encounter Assault Recon. They are a special forces unit that deals with the paranormal and you’re assignment is to investigate a girl named Alma who is part of a government experiment that has gone wrong. While the Alma is a very famous video game character, the story of F.E.A.R. is not very deep or all that special. The game tells its story a lot like Half-Life 2 does with in-game cut-scenes and various pieces of the story gathered elsewhere. Listening to answering machines and finding Alienware (yeah they left them in there all this time) laptops will give you insight into the story that becomes quite interesting as the game unfolds.
Outside of the story is the combat and that’s what made F.E.A.R. famous. The game is extremely difficult if you aren’t on your toes and use your Reflex at every encounter. This slows down time and allows you to accurately aim and dodge bullets almost like Bullet Time in Max Payne. Without it, the game would be impossible to beat as the enemies can kill you in a couple of hits. You can save up health kits and find body armor lying around that helps, but I just remember how incredibly hard this game was if you didn’t really utilize quick saves and the Reflex ability.
The game has great shooting mechanics that feel good, but with some generic weapons. Shotgun, pistol, rocket launcher, machine gun, sub-machine gun, and a few unique weapons thrown in the mix makes the arsenal a little stale, but doable. The game does get rather scary with many dark hallways, scripted events, and jump scares that make me eerie to this day. Part of what makes F.E.A.R. so enjoyable today is how the game stands the test of time. This game supports ultrawide displays, large resolutions, and looks really good even today. Sure, the textures are dated and the models are somewhat low-resolution, but the game just looks sharp and runs very well on modern systems. The lighting effects are still impressive and everything about this game felt only a few years old.
The level design is probably my biggest gripe as you run through generic hallways of brick and steel and every level is a confusing maze and messy. Part of why I never finished the game years ago was the awful level design that just screams boring. Never was there an interesting area that stood out to me as they all blend together as generic linear hallways. You tend to forget about this as the game is so intense and you’re white-knuckling around every corner. The scare factor still holds up and so does the intense action.
And maybe that’s all we really need with F.E.A.R. We don’t need cerebral stories, memorable characters, or wacky guns, but a solid high-octane challenging shooter experience that you can only get on PC. As it stands, F.E.A.R. should be played by every PC gamer as it helped drive the genre forward and push GPUs to their limits.