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F.E.A.R.

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Monolith

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PS3 Preview - 'F.E.A.R.'

by Andrew Hayward on April 17, 2007 @ 5:50 a.m. PDT

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Monolith Productions/Day 1 Studios
Release Date: April 24, 2007

Now this is one acronym that's pulling double duty. F.E.A.R. stands for First Encounter Assault Recon — a jumble of words that fails to roll cleanly off the tongue. But considering the content of the game, it's pretty easy to see the intent behind such verbal acrobatics. F.E.A.R. has been spooking and thrilling in mass quantities for the PC and Xbox 360 for some time now, but for those who have yet to bite the bullet, let's ask Senior Producer Rob Loftus what it's all about.

"It's fast-paced, first-person combat mixed with the paranormal," he said, while guiding me through the latest build of the forthcoming PlayStation 3 port. Succinct and to the point — thank you, Rob. But for the sake of narrative, let's see what our own Evan Lahti had to say about the Xbox 360 version of the game back in December:

"In parallel with a near-perfect shooter experience, F.E.A.R. develops a hue of eeriness through subtle storytelling and powerful emotional immersion within its environments. Add in the gorgeous slow-mo 'reflex mode' feature and the best artificial intelligence on consoles, and you've got a shooter that performs extremely well in terms of merging presentation with highly visceral gameplay." His 9.1 score added a large exclamation point to that glowing review, but his was not the only one. As with the PC version, F.E.A.R. for the Xbox 360 was met with near-universal praise.

Some six months later, Monolith Productions and Day 1 Studios are at it again with the impending release of F.E.A.R. for the PlayStation 3. Casual fans of the Xbox 360 version need not apply; for the most part, F.E.A.R. is a direct port, from its visual presentation to its available content. But for those who thrive on bonus content (or simply haven't played a previous version), I attempted to uncover the various additions during a hands-on session with the game at the Sierra Spring Event last week in San Francisco.

Because F.E.A.R. for PlayStation 3 is essentially a port, let's quickly go over the unchanged basics. What looks to be a fairly straightforward military-style shooter quickly reveals strong supernatural undertones, as your blank-slate protagonist must eliminate a clone army and discover what's up with the creepy little girl who occasionally pops up. By using the special "reflex" ability, gamers can slow down the action (but continue to navigate at full speed) to make battles temporarily one-sided, which will be absolutely necessary, as F.E.A.R. has been lauded for its fantastically relentless enemy A.I.

I had a chance to see the enemy squads in action, and little has changed from the previous versions. Your cloned foes will take cover, create cover, and find alternate routes to surprise you from behind. Watching it is amazing; playing it can be incredibly challenging, but that's part of the thrill of F.E.A.R. Loftus said that while other shooters attempt to make the player feel like a badass, Monolith was much more interested in amping up the skill of the opponents. "That's where the real design goes," he said, "because they have to be satisfying to actually defeat."

As with the Xbox 360 version, F.E.A.R. for PlayStation 3 features the console-specific Instant Action mode, which singles out what Loftus describes as "signature firefights" from the single-player campaign and scores players on a bevy of variables. High scores are then uploaded to leaderboards, though that's not the extent of the online support. Up to 16 players can duke it out in six multiplayer modes over the PlayStation Network, and the PlayStation 3 version of the game will feature at least one unique map not found on the Xbox 360.

So, aside from the prospect of multiplayer maps, what's new on the PS3? Well ... there's one new weapon. The Watson SAS12 automatic shotgun is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 release of the game, but that seems to be the only other significant addition. SixAxis motion controls have not been implemented into the game, and obviously, the PS3 version suffers from a lack of force feedback and Achievement points.

Those in the market for a traditional PC-style first-person shooter will probably find a lot to like in F.E.A.R. for the PlayStation 3. It doesn't seem to push the system or make use of its unique abilities, but it is a port of a quality game that should be reasonably well represented on the console. If you are someone who has banked his/her next-gen gaming future on the PlayStation 3, that is probably the best news you're going to get in an otherwise-dry April.


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