Publisher: VU Games
Release Date: June 7, 2005
Pre-order 'F.E.A.R.': PC
Although it’s doing so in one of the more quiet means of going about it F.E.A.R. is turning out to be what will be looked back upon as one of the definitive FPS titles of 2005. We recently got the chance to have some quality time with the multiplayer beta and to get a feel for the game as a whole. While obviously this still leaves the single player aspect of the game obscure (as Monolith really seems to be intent on keeping that under wraps for now) the multiplayer component is one of the most fun of the genre and the engine itself really needs to be seen in action to be appreciated.
So what do we know about F.E.A.R.? Monolith hasn’t said too much on the issue, but going off of what they have released and the performance demo in the multiplayer beta the player is a member of a four-man special ops squad sent into a complex on an initially routine mission. As all routine missions do the turn of events change fairly quickly, with the player suddenly finding himself alone fighting against not only a mysterious group of enemy soldiers but also with supernatural entities with incredible powers. For instance, there is a little girl apparition who not only has the ability to disappear and reappear at any place on her own will, but also has the power to simply dismember people on the spot.
One thing that F.E.A.R. really accomplishes is a genuine sense of mood. Even in the performance demo, as the camera panned around the rooms and hallways filled with uneven lighting and dark shadows one got a feel for just how creepy the game will be. The lighting engine in F.E.A.R. ranks up with the best and is probably the titles biggest asset. Many games have fairly advanced shadows and lighting effects but few use them so distinctly and with such a purpose and intent as F.E.A.R. From the dark, creepy interiors of the complex in the performance demo to the fairly well-lit areas of the multiplayer maps the lighting engine is constantly serving to paint a more realistic and vibrant world.
The multiplayer in itself is one of the few in the FPS genre that could almost carry the title just as easily as any single player mode Monolith has up their sleeve. F.E.A.R.’s multiplayer differs from its dark, scary single player component; instead delivering a handful of game modes of fairly standard player versus player combat with a few twists. F.E.A.R.’s multiplayer sports such popular game modes as deathmatch and team deathmatch among others, but what really throws a wrench into the standard take on FPS multiplayer is the SloMo game modes. In these modes there is a single orb on the map that can be picked up by any player.
This orbs position is constantly updated on everyones screen, whether on the ground or held by a player, making obtaining the orb not only a goal of sorts but also a burden once you get it. Once the orb is held, it must charge a significant amount before it can be used, but once it is charged it immediately becomes a force to be reckoned with. A simple tap of the button causes everyone and everything on the server to enter slow motion, with the player (and his entire team as the case may be) moving slightly slower while everyone else moves ridiculously slower. There are few things in any video game as gratifying as having your back to a corner, engaging slomo as you spin out and around, and spraying three enemies in the head with an assault rifle before the third guy has a chance to even get a round off. Due to the nature of the orb though, any player who has it is literally a marked target for everyone in the level, making the large reward of holding on to and charging the orb balanced out by the risk of even carrying it in the first place.
There are a few weapons to choose from in F.E.A.R.’s multiplayer, the current list being that of dual pistols (Be proud Mr. Woo), shotguns, nailguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, semi-automatic rifles, and plasma cannons. The shotguns, assault rifles, and submachine guns all handle like one would expect, while the dual pistols seems a bit under-utilized and a bit bland. The nailgun is sort of like a slow-firing SMG with the exception that you can stick enemies to walls. The semi-auto rifle and plasma cannons are the real powerhouses, which are capable of killing really quickly but require a steady shot. While all of the other weapons have a bit of spray these two are deadly accurate, meaning that you really have to line up your shot. In addition to the weapons you can pick to spawn with other weaponry can be picked up depending on the level, such as battle cannons and missile launchers. (Side note: Call me crazy, but I’m seeing a ridiculously large similarity between the battle cannon and one of the weapons the mechs could use in Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, another Monolith game. Man that was a fun gun. Moving on.)
One thing that F.E.A.R.’s engine does really well is special effects, to the point that the special effects are probably the graphics engine’s strongest suit. Shattering glass looks not only believable but you can watch the shards bounce around, bullets leave beautiful 3d bump maps in surfaces, shoot a chunk of drywall enough and a massive cloud of dust will develop. Effects in slo-mo look ridiculously cool, with the players viewpoint itself getting blurred around the edges and the whole screen getting a motion blurred photoshop-esque effect that looks nothing short of insane in real-time, and bullets leave contrails that actually distort what you see through them. It can be not only a rush but graphically satisfying to run across a balcony in slo-mo as a target below sprays the area with lead, causing glass to shatter, sparks to fly, and a teammate take a hit and go down all in glorious slow motion.
In all honestly, the multiplayer alone is worthy of the attention F.E.A.R. has received so far, and one can only imagine at this point as to how good the single player component will be if the multiplayer, a normally overlooked aspect of FPS titles, has already proven to be such fun even in its current unpolished state. F.E.A.R.’s engine is definitely a powerful one, and while it can be hardware-intensive the end effect that it brings to the table is nothing short of awe-inspiring in many cases. If you are a fan of the FPS genre mark F.E.A.R. up as one of your titles to watch, as not only does it look to raise the bar in terms of graphical excellence but also to challenge the standards of what quality gameplay is really made of.
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