Creepy. The name alone was enough to have me scared. Scared in the same way that the name “Contract J.A.C.K.” scared me. And “First Encounter Assault Recon”? Please! “Fun Educational Activities and Recreation” would have been a less forced acronym, and quite possibly scarier, in that inimitable way that only edutainment can be.
As you might guess from the title, the game is an action/horror FPS, and it does make a squirmworthy effort to be scary. And from the short demo, I was genuinely spooked whenever one of the genuinely spooky moments happened, so I’d have to concede that on the “scary” front, it mostly looks like succeeding.
Mostly: the one “totally freak-you-out ha ha ha you will be sooooo totally scared and drip sweat spook area” in the demo looks like it might have been drawn in 1994 as a B-level from Wolfenstein 3D, and this does detract somewhat from the overall quality of the sequence, but – here’s the cool thing – the sound still gets you shivering. That or the fact that it’s freaking twelve degrees in this room. Brrr.
On the plus side: size! The demo weighs in at a rather chunky 600MB, and play time spans about… oh, say fifteen minutes if you really take your time meandering through it, meaning that there’s a very real chance you’ll take longer to download it than play through it.
As someone writing about games, I have another problem with it: it’s really hard to get a good screenshot from the demo, because it’s so bloody dark all the time. It adds to the atmosphere, but don’t expect to be blown away by a Far Cry-like holiday brochure shot. This one’s very definitely from the Doom 3 school of “keep ’em in the dark, and if they’re not crying enough – turn out all the lights. If they’re still not a complete wreck, play a loud sound effect behind them while they’re in the dark, and make them take damage from something unspecified, that’ll really freak ’em”.
Let’s play a quick game of spot the difference: One of these games is a scary thriller. The other isn’t yet released.
The graphics are pretty good – up there with Far Cry, Half-Life 2 and perhaps even Riddick. Riddick is included in the list as FEAR is one of the new breed of games where you actually have a shadow-casting body – look down, and you’ll see legs flailing away underneath you (flailing is the word – they’re not as believably animated as Riddick’s). The teeny thumbnail here and most of the shots I’ve seen don’t do it justice – the motion of the enemy characters is fluid, and for the most part believable. There are some nice special effects thrown in to boot, and the particle weapon packs a really satisfying punch and after-effect, especially when fired in slow-mo mode. There are nice, large sprays of blood on occasion too, though they’re typically short-lived (no pun intended).
The sound is really good. I mean, really good. Scary good.
The gameplay mechanics are something of a hodge-podge: Medikits can be stacked in your inventory, and are applied instantly with Z. In trouble in a fight? Z Z Z! Unfortunately, death comes very quickly, so you’re more likely to be creeping around with Quicksaves and Quickloads than remembering to use the medikits when under fire and trying to change your default grenade. Another notable feature is the “quick reaction mode” which you or I would probably call “bullet time” – in an “everything slows down for everyone” sort of way a la Max Payne 1, but it tends to run out quickly and in practice is of limited use, especially when the time taken to reload or fire a weapon is also increased. On the plus side, it makes it more “special”. But it doesn’t help with the weapon accuracy much.
If there’s a problem with the game, it’s with the weapons and damage model – I like headshots to kill. I like headshots to be achievable. I do not like the scatter-fire of automatic weapons, particularly when the enemy seem perfectly well-able to fire precision bursts with theirs. While I’m at it, the game actually seemed easier on Hard, but Medium knocked me around a bit.
Is the Single Player demo worth playing? Tough call. Did I mention it was really short? Yeah, it’s probably worth playing, if the download costs nothing.
I’ll give the demo 7 out of 10, it’d possibly have been an 8 if it was longer.
Aussies: Grab the demo locally from the Marina.
2 thoughts on “F.E.A.R. Demo Review”
I dont want to get personal, but this is just a dumbass review. It does not say anything about the excelent AI, it does not say anything about the excelent implemented, albeit not invented bullittime.
It doesnt say anything about the story line(and yes there was a litle story telling going on although it was just a 15 min. demo)
And it doesnt say anything at all about the mindbogling graphics!!
As you only give a good comments on the sound and music, and nigle about the game being to dark(ever heard of turning the gamma? It was just fine when I played and I turned the gamma down,.. If you want I CAN deliver good pictuters) I wonder did you see anything at all?
Oh, har har. It’s like this: My site – *I* get to be the one using the forced humour. “Did I see anything at all?”. Monkey bollocks. No, wait, that *was* Far Cry.
The “darkness” comment that so annoyed you was a comparison to Doom 3. It’s very dark. Really, really dark. It’s designed so you can’t see things all the time. Then they turn the lights out AGAIN! That’s the point. That’s called “trying to be scary”. Darkness == scary. Ask any game developer.
As kids have developed ever-better FPS skills, the objective is now to rob the kids of their sight to create a harder game, while increasing weapon scatter. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you. For a while, FPS designers were considering hiring mercenaries to roam the streets with hot pokers, melting the eyes of kids with uber-good FPS reflexes.
Turning the gamma up to insane levels breaks my suspension of disbelief, and typically won’t work anyway if the designer’s done their job right.
Look, I gave the bloody demo 7 out of 10. That’s not hate. That’s a good game with flaws.
I didn’t mention the AI because the AI bits are hidden behind scripted pressure-point mechanics; everything has a trigger. Too much of the game relies on fore-knowledge of what’s going to happen next (eg, they’re expecting you to die, say “wow”, reload, and try the same section again). That’s not good enough any more. When the AI is brought out to play, it’s psychic.
Next time, I’ll call it a criticism, rather than a review.
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