Fat Elephants Ate Rennies? Nope. Fire Everyone At Roofs? No. For Everything A Reason? Hmm, could be. Fold Envelopes At Reading? Now you’re being silly again. First Encounter Assault Recon? You got it in four – well done!
Like Far Cry, Doom III, Half-Life 2 and Quake IV before it, F.E.A.R. is a first person shooter finding itself on a Microsoft console after doing well on PC. But whereas the selling points of the aforementioned were well known – Doom III had its PC melting graphics, Half-Life 2 had its gravity gun – we didn’t know why F.E.A.R. is any good.
Fortunately it doesn’t take long to figure out. The AI is first to impresses, with enemies that run, duck, leap over objects, peer around corners and even jump through windows to evade or pursue. To tackle their superior wit there’s the ability to slow down time, allowing for precision aiming and the chance to take a whole squad out with just a handful of bullets. The graphics are at their best during these sequences, with bullets rippling the air and limbs recoiling realistically thanks to the fancy physics engine.
You play as a new member of an elite team sent to investigate supernatural disturbances. Don’t go expecting any Ghostbusters-like tomfoolery though: for the most part you’ll be shooting brainwashed Special Forces. But there are frequent spooky visions and flashbacks – blood runs down walls, images of guts and gore flash on the screen and taunting voices can be heard while walking down dark corridors. A flash light can be used to light up such dingy areas, but it only has a limited charge. It’s this clever use of shadows that helps keep the tension high.
The save points are nicely spaced and it’s possible to change the difficulty level at any time if things get too taxing. The main problem we had was getting lost within the maze-like office blocks, factories and derelict buildings. Also the puzzles don’t vary much from the tried and tested finding switches, draining pools of water, crawling along pipes and through air ducts to discover new areas.
In addition to the main game and Xbox Live play, there are a handful of Instant Action missions. These each last fifteen minutes, and as the title suggests, they throw you straight into the action. Usually against respawning enemies in large environments full of objects to take cover behind. These missions are very handy for unlocking some of the achievements – ‘kill five bad guys with one slow mo round’ and ‘kill ten enemies with environmental objects’ in particular.