Dec 3, 2007
Why is it that child stars always suffer? It’s the Macaulay Culkin effect: subject to an increasingly mediocre by-the-numbers career while bickering parents divorce and squabble over the cash flow. Spare a thought then for Alma Wade, preteen star of developer Monolith’s money-spinner FEAR: a victim of a tug of love between her creators and her publishers Vivendi - but also paraded through an array of ill-fitting console treatments and absurdly bland expansions. So why are we championing her return? For one thing, the Monolith brand of FEAR’s close-quarter gritty combat and AI has never really been bettered. For another thing, Monolith (who hasn’t been a part of the FEAR franchise since the first entry) is remarkably candid about the original game’s failings.
“It was a frustration on FEAR, not being able to get outside!” agrees John Mulkey, the game’s lead designer. “We had a pretty indoor game. We were a claustrophobic game by design, but at a certain point tension becomes numbing. So we’ve decided to mix it up and to have these more open spaces, and you feel a little colour from the sky before going back to tight, menacing environments… Plus, we really played out the whole ‘creepy little girl walking across the hall in front of you’ card. We’ve put a lot of effort and a lot of thought into the ways in which we can give Alma teeth. It’s going to be more direct, and an escalation: not something you say ‘Creepy little girl is not so creepy anymore...’ to.”
In another break from FEAR, you no longer play one of PC gaming’s amnesiac protagonists - you’re Michael Becket, a member of the US Army’s covert Delta Force. Delta Force was the whipping boy in FEAR - the members were waiting in the wings, but then started leaking blood all over the place whenever a spot of the old Alma ultra-violence was required.