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The classic game appreciation section: F.E.A.R.

Intelligent design

F.E.A.R.’s enemy AI was legendary at the time, and it’s still unbettered now. Every one of the SWAT troopers operating in defence of the Armacham facility at the centre of the horror will think around, react to, and pre-empt every situation you can throw at him with deadly speed and efficiency. Whether operating as part of a squad or on his own, every enemy will adapt to your evolving tactics, the changing state of the battleground, and his own side’s successes, failures and dwindling numbers exactly like a real, combat-sharpened, highly trained individual.


Above: Two opponents, but which one is the most dangerous one? Answer: Both of them

Every single enemy needs to be treated with the utmost respect, because every single one can and will take you down in no time at all should you let your guard down for a second. Camping will see you quickly suppressed as a rapid flank-and-flush operation kicks into operation. Rush-down tactics will see the clustered enemy scatter, only to regroup in a wider spread, engulfing you in a multi-directional embrace of lead. Take the team down to a single man in a wide environment and you could be looking at minutes of cat-and-mouse action as you both stealth around the empty battleground, using cover, elevation and misdirection to get the drop on each other.

The first thing you must do at the beginning of every firefight is take quick stock of the exact number and type of enemies you’re going up against. Lose track of just one, and you’ll find it all too easy to think you’ve wiped the whole squad only to find yourself whacked with a slug in the back of the head by a hidden lone survivor as you loot the bodies of the fallen for ammo.


Above: He's making a run for it. This could take a while

A friend of mine, the one whose PC I first saw F.E.A.R. running on, once regaled me with an anecdote of one such presumed victory, at the end of which his last opponent had fallen and gone quiet, presumed dead. Several minutes later, my friend was alerted to his survival by a hail of bullets to his own back, in a different room, several winding corridors past the battle. His Lazarus-like nemesis had observed his reactions to what he thought was the end of the fight, laid low, and deftly tracked him through the following areas of the level as he continued on his way, all the while waiting for the opportune quiet moment in which to make his move. It was the same guy all right. It was definitely the same guy. It’s just that now he was limping.

I had no trouble believing that story at all.


John Woo-hoo!

But F.E.A.R, isn’t all about intimidation. Its persistent sense of oppression, both supernatural and tactical, is tinged with some of the most crowning moments of badassery you will ever experience in an action game. The grim satisfaction that comes with ending each and every one of  F.E.A.R.’s rapidly evolving fights goes without saying of course. With AI so good that the concept of the word “artificial” stops applying, every battle engages you intellectually and emotionally on a level that very few FPS ever manage. But on top of all of that rests the crown jewel on top of the gleaming platinum-cake. F.E.A.R.’s stunningly implemented slow-motion feature.


Above: Just wait 'til you see it moving. There's so much awesome going on it could make you vomit

Far beyond being a mere piece of post-Matrix aesthetic cool, F.E.A.R.’s regenerating bullet-time ability is a serious tactical aid, as much a tool in combat as cover or weaponry. Allowing you to pick and choose your priority targets with absolute precision, it needs to be used with total discretion in order to gain a tactical jump on the right opponents. Cloaked ninja picking you off from the shadows while ground troops keep you busy? Hold off the slow-mo and knuckle down with full-speed combat until you get a visual on him, then pin him down under a thick blanket of temporal soup and open up on him. Enemy squad hunkered down under unbreachable cover? Throw down a grenade to the side of them, then drop the slow-mo as they scatter, sniping them down like leaden trap-shoot targets limping through treacle. 

As for those aesthetics though… Ye gods, F.E.A.R, is a spectacle. With all PC graphical effects cranked, it’s an incandescent, multi-coloured soup of motion blur, bullet-trails, Catherine-Wheeling particle effects, and glacially-erupting clouds of blood. The visual impact of the frag grenade’s detonation shockwave ripping through the air around it is worth the price of admission alone, and is still one hell of an arresting “Holy Hell!” moment to this day. 

Couple all of this with F.E.A.R.’s excellent ‘stuntman physics’ (a much more refined ragdoll system that uses highly progressive ideas such as actual weighting and anatomical correctness) and the way the then-pioneering sense of full-body, in-game physicality for the player facilitates a brilliantly diverse and kinetic melee system, comprising punches, jump-kicks and slide-tackles, and F.E.A.R.’s combat is some of the most satisfying, stimulating and affecting that has ever graced a shooter.

Only one FPS can turn you into such a psychological wreck while also making you feel so apocalyptically badass. Only one FPS can leave you so invigorated while also so emotionally drained. And only one FPS so satisfyingly lets you slide-tackle into an enemy trooper, launch him into the air, and then pin his realistically-flailing body to the far wall using a precision-aimed nailgun shot to the head, in one fluid motion, all in gloriously cinematic slow-mo. F.E.A.R is that game. Not even Monolith's own sequel could equal it, and you can forget about the atmosphere-deficient bullet-time Call of Duty that is F.E.A.R. 3 right off the blocks. No other horror shooter has so successfully blended all the required elements in such intelligent, lean, and satisfying fashion, and to be honest, I'm doubtful that any ever will again.

Did you play F.E.A.R. at the time? Are you tempted to now? Let me know in the comments and we'll have a nice big conversational exchange. And don't forget, if you want more of this sort of stuff, but want it in the form of a free-wheeling verbal ramble, we do an aurally listenable Appreciation Section every week in our TalkRadar UK podcast.

July 14, 2011

The classic game appreciation section: Sega Rally
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The classic game appreciation section: Sonic the Hedgehog
Kicking off a new regular feature, on Sonic's 20th birthday


 
 

41 comments

  • saintjordan - August 14, 2011 1:03 p.m.

    I didn't get to play Doom 3, so I only heard stories how scary it was. F.E.A.R. I played, and it sure scared the living daylights out of me. And it was a great FPS game, which I only got to appreciate after finishing it, and somehow, the scare factor was no longer there the second time (and countless times afterward)since I knew when Monolith would play tricks on me. Without the scare factor, I was able to play it as great FPS game, not as a scary FPS game. There is a cheat where you can make your slow motion bar longer, and I maxed it out, really maxed it out, and it was slow mo heaven. There is this stage where you enter a room full of enemies, and I would really just charge in, in slow mo, with a shotgun, and a full load of grenades... FPS heaven.
  • TheJHat - July 22, 2011 1:51 a.m.

    F.E.A.R. is still one of my all time favorites.
  • gilgamesh310 - July 18, 2011 4:29 p.m.

    @ZigzMagoo, my arse it is. Play Amnesia. That's the scariest game ever created, and it hardly gets any attention :(
  • gilgamesh310 - July 18, 2011 4:26 p.m.

    ParanoidAndroid, to put it simply, no, the 360 version is a rather poor port. As well as the graphics being inferior, the controls are poorly mapped and it's just not the same without a mouse and keyboard.The ability to be able to shoot grenades in mid air is almost impossible with a control pad, as are a lot of the other activities. The game was bred for the PC, where as the rest were console games.
  • StonedMagician99 - July 15, 2011 8:35 p.m.

    While I don't agree that F.E.A.R. 3 was a CoD clone, I do agree that F.E.A.R. is one of the greatest FPSs of all time. Great article, sir!
  • Groocifer - July 15, 2011 6:01 p.m.

    I enjoyed F.E.A.R., but not half as much as most of the other posters on here. Admittedly I have only played it on the 360 (my PC wishes it was as powerful as a piece of toast), but I just didn't find it as scary as I hoped... whereas Condemned - a game that never seems to get the love I think it deserves - made me mess myself. Frequently.
  • CanadianBeaverHunter - July 15, 2011 4:38 p.m.

    "So I buy a copy. And it doesn’t run. It turns out that my rig's specs trump my friend’s in every respect but graphics card. Mine is about as powerful as a piece of toast. Sad times." Been there.
  • philipshaw - July 15, 2011 1:12 p.m.

    Headline is spot on, played this when it came out but it was the last game I played on my P.C before I switched to console gaming
  • bass88 - July 15, 2011 12:34 p.m.

    I really enjoyed F.E.A.R. I remember almost filling my underwear when I got onto a ladder and saw young Alma standing right in front of me before disappearing. And then the bit where Fettel shoots himself and all enemies are still. I was just expecing them to turn on me when I was halfway. Very suspenseful. The part where older, skinnier, naked Alma is released is terrifying too. And thank you for saying Sadako and Ringu. I remember being pissed at reviews and articles for comparing her to Samara from The Ring. If you want to compare a horror game to a movie, pick the scary (and good) one.
  • gamerkx - July 15, 2011 10:33 a.m.

    loved this game ! this was back when the F.E.A.R. series was still scary !
  • faraany3k - July 15, 2011 9:56 a.m.

    Awesome article. I must add this game has a completely free multiplayer component aswell. Try that out instead if you are competitive type. http://www.fearcombat.org/
  • lordvader178 - July 15, 2011 8:46 a.m.

    F.E.A.R is quite possible the best 360 game I ever played. i've been through it 50+ times and it just amazes me at how it's better then every other game i've played so far. The AI, the setting, the story. Nothing has beaten FEAR yet and I doubt anything will. For those of you who havnt played it, do yourself a favour and do it. You won't regret it because it's such an amazing game.
  • Yeager1122 - July 15, 2011 6:20 a.m.

    Ive only played a little of the first F.E.A.R i liked the little i played.
  • Imgema - July 15, 2011 5:26 a.m.

    The first FEAR just felt right to me. Even though most of the game took place in offices and other similar environments, it still managed to get me hooked. Its a shame that the sequels aren't as good. Its another example of the decline in gaming quality the last 5-6 years.
  • decxan - July 15, 2011 1:38 a.m.

    Love this game. Same story with me, friend had it on his pc then I got it on my xbox and just fell in love with the gameplay. Still play it now and again with a few beers trying to unlock achievements. Dont know what happenned with the last 2 games, different developers?
  • Valcrist - July 14, 2011 10:54 p.m.

    I think I have a new favorite feature here, great job as usual, and just like the other commenters, I´m off to get F.E.A.R. as well
  • Spybreak8 - July 14, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    I played the demo way back when back in college. My college roommate watched behind me for all but the whole demo. The part where Alma freaks you out by appearing after you come down and swing around from the ladder he said I can't take this anymore it's too f'n scary! Haha the last game I played with the lights off and with 5.1 surround sound was Doom 3. FEAR and Doom 3, games that any FPS fan must play for sure. I'd throw in RE4 onto that list but the controls are horrible. Here's hoping the remake this year fixes that but I'm not hoping too much since Japanese devs just don't get it sometimes.
  • Enclave84 - July 14, 2011 9:53 p.m.

    I remember seeing this in the gamestop and picking it up, although it was for 360 not much changed. As for the sequals, the add ons for the first are excellent, the second in the series is okay....and as the look back said, don't even bother with the third in the franchise. Then again, it wasn't made by monolith but rather by a company that was most remembered for Mech-Assualt.
  • armerus - July 14, 2011 9:32 p.m.

    I recently acquired a F.E.A.R expansion game, F.E.A.R Perseus Mandate, Thankyou very much GamesRadar, and I will share a moment with it. I was standing looking around a corner, and a man walks into a corridor. I walk forwards and follow him in, and find only a med-pack at the end of the corridor. I walked forwards, took it, turned around, and the man was standing right in my face. At this point a friend of mine had also been drilling a hole into the wall so I could connect an ethernet cable to my computer. This mix of him in the face, and the loud drill sound made me jump up, slam my knee into my desk, and fall back onto my chair angrily and in pain. Pain aside, the game is epic. I liked the horror to the game, and it was, amazing. Thankyou again GamesRadar. - Oliver Armitage
  • ZigzMagoo - July 14, 2011 7:42 p.m.

    This game is imo the scariest game ever created.

Showing 1-20 of 41 comments

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