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


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

by Alicia on June 3, 2005 @ 2:42 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: FPS
Publisher: VU Games
Developer: Monolith
Release Date: September 7, 2005

Pre-order 'F.E.A.R.': PC

E3 is a very loud place, and it’s hard to appreciate a game like F.E.A.R. properly when you’re seeing it there for the first time. While Doom 3 flirted with some survival horror conventions, F.E.A.R. is an outright horror FPS. Instead of just using low light conditions to build a sense of terror, F.E.A.R. goes the extra mile and has your character periodically overwhelmed with nightmarish visions of floating phantoms and seas of blood. There’s also a creepy sense of sound to go with the title that is just hard to appreciate when some rapper in the next booth over is doing his best to deafen you.

Played in your own home, on a next gen PC in a darkened room, F.E.A.R. will probably be sure to impress you with its graphics, and then use them to scare the crap out of you. F.E.A.R. is a game full of remarkably detailed textures and perfectly realistic light modeling, all moving at an impossibly high frame rate. Great graphics are abundant at E3, but F.E.A.R. stands out as possibly the best-looking game we got to look at for any significant period of time.

If you’re wondering about the gameplay, well, what we saw indicated that it was a fairly typical FPS, with the traditional assortments of weaponry and enemies. Assault rifles, pistols, rocket launchers, sci-fi guns, all the usual stuff a FPS fan really wants to get to use is there. F.E.A.R. is also following the recent trend of trying to incorporate melee combat into the basic FPS play, so you’ll have some punches and kicks at your disposal. Finally, Max Payne-style bullet time effects will be there. There’s pretty much no classic FPS gameplay element that F.E.A.R. has left unrepresented. The action was very fast and smooth, but we didn’t see anything aside from the atmosphere and graphics that distinguished F.E.A.R. from some of the other FPS on display at the show.

We did notice an unusually believable sense of physics present in every detail of F.E.A.R. Enemy corpses remained on-camera after you shot them, and bullet holes from missed shots remained in walls and other setting objects. An upgraded version of the Havok physics engine called Havok 2 was driving the title’s rag doll physics, and the leap upwards from the original version of Havok was amazing. There was a real sense that bullets had velocity and mass in the gameplay, with enemies flying back and jerking wildly when your shots connected.

Reportedly, the full version of the game will feature an incredible array of destructible objects and things like panes of glass that shatter when shot. A sense of physics this authentic is worth massive style points in an FPS, and helps add to the believably gritty atmosphere of the game. To some extent, it’s the realism of the physics that makes the horror elements so creepy when they suddenly emerge. Supposedly the physics in the final version will be so detailed that weight will become a major factor in weapons use, although the E3 demo didn’t really show any sign of this.

Still, the atmosphere in F.E.A.R. goes a long way toward giving it a very different feel from, say, Half-Life 2. The title stands for “First Encounter Assault and Recon,” and the paramilitary guy you play is part of a strike force trained to deal with paranormal situations. However, the paranormal situations in F.E.A.R. go far beyond the monster attacks most games would attach to the premise. F.E.A.R.’s plot shows every sign of unraveling in a genuinely mysterious way, with a main character haunted by visions of a horrifying little girl in a red dress.

In action-movie style, the plot follows an elite F.E.A.R. team that is sent into a potentially haunted building to seize control of an area that’s inhabited by some entity that was able to murder the last F.E.A.R. team they sent after it. The little girl specter seems to have some link to the carnage, and may very well be able to tear people apart with little more than a thought. The usually claustrophobic feeling of the typical FPS level suddenly becomes outright oppressive when you’re not sure if those strange noises you’re hearing are an enemy, or some terrifying bit of plot that’s about to launch itself at you. The sense of immersion is enhanced by a plot that is purportedly going to progress in real-time fashion, about a 12 hour span.

With graphics as the title’s other main strength, PC fans are probably starting to wonder what kind of system requirements will be attached to this game. The Monolith rep who gave us the demo said, more or less, that if you could run Half-Life 2 when it came out, then you’ll be able to run F.E.A.R. It’s a game primarily geared for high-end machines, but not impossibly expensive ones.

Most FPS these days are built increasingly around the online multiplayer experience. F.E.A.R. is unusual in its emphasis on the single-player, story-driven game. It will have a multiplayer mode, but information on it was incredibly scant. Since gameplay in the single-player mode was extremely reminiscent of Half-Life, we imagine the multiplayer options would also be similar to Half-Life’s, but there’s no way of knowing for sure right now. It’ll be interesting to see how F.E.A.R.’s robust graphics and physics engines affect the quality of the multiplayer game.

F.E.A.R. will be released exclusively for the PC; no X-Box or next gen console ports have been announced. PC fans will probably be pleased that they’re for once getting a title that will be exclusive to their platform, and seems tailored to show off all the game design elements that only a high-end PC can make possible.

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