You’re a faceless, nameless, mute grunt who’s a part of the First Encounter Assault Recon, or FEAR for short, sent off to stop telepathic cannibal Paxton Fettel who’s taken control of an army of clone soldiers. Sounds promising enough. In your search for Paxton you make your way from the start of a level to the end of a level, with a number of gunfights standing between you and your destination, mixed with a hand full of spookiness.
There are different missions for the different levels, such as locating an office or a person, but the missions never really affect the gameplay; all you do is make your way forward, shooting everything that stands in your way, and trying to not pee your pants whenever something spooky happens. The story of the game is told through messages on answering machines, data on computers, occasional radio broadcasts, occasional encounters with other characters, and information screens inbetween levels. Unfortunately each piece of story information is brief and uninspired, so I found it difficult getting a clear view of the bigger picture.
The super clone soldiers don’t appear to be that super either, never really showing any remarkable talents compared to some of the non-super non-clone soldiers I’ve tackled in other games. Eventually I started getting confused as to whether I was fighting super clone soldiers or not, as the enemies now and then change costumes, and some of them appeared to be part of the security team for a building I was invading. Were these super clone soldiers? Were they being telepathically controlled? Or were they just hard-working Americans trying to keep their evil boss’s building safe from nameless, faceless, mute gun-totting madmen like myself?
One of the highlights of the game was to me when I stumbled over a semi-secret room (more like a room that could easily be overlooked rather than a secret room) in one of the later levels, where I found a radio that started playing a pop song in Japanese. I managed to record some of the song, but the quality is not the best, the music from the radio being mixed in with the ambient music of the game. You can give it a listen here. The chorus is somewhat amusing, which I believe is: I know we can make it together.
As a first-person-shooter the game works well enough, but as a horror or story driven game it leaves a lot to be desired. As I was mainly looking for the latter I ended up feeling rather disappointed, and eventually even frustrated, wanting to get finished with the darn game so I could move on to other things. The endless gunfights were beginning to take their toll, and being a “meticulous gamer” I’m guessing they took longer for me than they do for others on average as I often re-played scenes several times to see if I couldn’t get through them without losing as much health or ammunition. The gunfights are generally fun, but it just got a bit too much after a while.
Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, known for his humorous illustrated video reviews Zero Punctuation, sums up my general feelings for the game well in his review of the game’s expansion pack, Perseus Mandate:
FEAR was an endless parade of identical gun fights broken up by the occasional slightly harder gun fights […] Every now and again FEAR remembers it wants to be a horror game too, and makes the lights flicker or throws down a random blood stain […] FEAR doesn’t mesh horror and action as well as, say, Condemned does. The transition between prolonged horror sections and bouts of tactical combat occur with an almost audible clunk.
The game Condemned was actually developed by the same company and released just about two months after FEAR. I played through it a while back, and it was a pretty enjoyable experience. It definitely did mix the action and horror a lot better than FEAR, and it’s a lot more story driven and overall scarier as well (it might actually be the scariest and most unsettling game I’ve played thus far, but playing through the last level of it with a fever might have affected my overall judgment of it as a whole). A couple of the levels do drag on a bit, with a few too many action scenes, but it doesn’t really come close to FEAR.
FEAR did actually startle and scare me though, especially whenever I’d play it at night with lights turned off and with headphones on, and one of the game’s strong points is definitely the audio. But in the end, I was ultimately left feeling unsatisfied with the game. But I’m glad that it’s finally over…
… or IS IT?!