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May 2019

Fear Effect Sedna

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix Collective
Developer: Sushee
Release Date: March 6, 2018


Xbox One Review - 'Fear Effect Sedna'

by Cody Medellin on April 18, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Taking place four years after the events in Fear Effect 1, Fear Effect Sedna is a real-time tactical action game.

The original Fear Effect was released near the tail end of the original PlayStation's lifecycle. Back then, cinematic adventures followed the classic Resident Evil blueprint, where the game had tank controls and locked camera perspectives at different angles. Although it had a storyline that mixed a Blade Runner-esque future with Chinese mythology, most people will remember the game's sequel more since it confirmed that the lead character Hana was in a same-sex relationship. Three console generations removed, the franchise has returned with Fear Effect Sedna, a game being developed by a smaller studio that's aiming for something very different from its predecessors.

As in the first two titles, the story mimics the charm of blending a futuristic setting with mystical elements. The tale picks up after the second game's good ending, and you once again take on the role of Hana, a mercenary who has been doing quite well thanks to her partner Rain. The duo calls on their old mercenary buddies, Glas and Deke, to help out on a few missions, but soon everything goes sideways, and a simple statuette retrieval turns into an adventure where they battle it out with characters from Inuit mythology.

While the story seems nice, it isn't delivered well enough for most people to care about. The lines rely on innuendo so much that something that would normally be funny becomes a chore to listen to. That feeling is amplified by the fact that the delivery of the lines is either wooden or emphasizes the wrong parts. You get what's supposed to be happening, but nothing gets you emotionally invested in the tale.

As far as gameplay goes, fans may be taken aback because Fear Effect Sedna trades in the fixed camera angles of the first two games for an isometric viewpoint similar to that of the Diablo games and Invisible, Inc. Aside from that, the tenets of the original games are still present. In particular, the game tries to juggle various gameplay types into one title. The opening level demonstrates this nicely, as you're treated to a few shoot-outs with some stealth sequences peppered in between. This is followed by a lesson in using each character's special abilities and tactics to move your characters simultaneously. It ends in a puzzle sequence before you're treated to a cut scene. Throughout the game's five-hour length, you can expect this type of genre-bouncing to occur quite often. In addition, most missions give you an AI partner you can either command or shadow you and act accordingly.

Of those various gameplay types at your disposal, the most successful one is stealth. Your movement speed during crouching walks is on par with other dedicated stealth games, and the one-hit kills you can perform are done nicely. The visibility cones from enemies and cameras are fairly easy to see, as is the space where their view is obstructed. There's even a level at the beginning of the game that has you listening in on conversations while trying not to blow your cover as a champagne waiter. That said, the reason why stealth works is because it is very rudimentary in execution. For example, you can't hide bodies or take out anyone from behind cover.

However, everything else is executed quite poorly. The puzzles are a sore spot, since most of them come off as rather obtuse. Some don't bother to explain what the player should be doing, since it isn't clear what the puzzle is even about. Some have clues that use the environment, which vary between being clever or difficult just for the sake of it. Almost all of them can end the game with a failure movie that looks nice the first time around but gets old due to the amount of screens you have to go through to return to the puzzle and try again.

Combat is also done terribly, and this is a bigger issue since there are many smaller components that comprise the fighting. The shooting is quite bad, as the controls make this out to be a standard twin-stick shooter only for you to realize that the right analog stick only locks on to nearby targets. Even then, the targeting can be bad enough that you'll often hit enemies you didn't intend to while ignoring the more immediate threats.

The AI is generally pretty bad. Enemies often fail to take cover, choosing instead to rush you and stand in the open waiting to be shot. The same goes for your AI companions, who also go for less-threatening targets and don't bother to take cover when getting shot. Even if you decide to switch controls and cycle through them to put them in a better vantage point, they'll ignore their own safety and run out into the open once you relinquish control. Based on those two things alone, you can see why there's an abundant amount of health kits in the world, since you'll need to make up for the fact that you're perpetually near-death after every fight.

As for the other combat mechanics, the game doesn't give the player much of a chance to use them. The fights are short enough that it feels like a waste to use your special abilities, like making holograms or laying out turrets. Even during boss fights, those abilities don't seem to make a difference. The same goes for the fear system, as you're supposed to be able to deal more damage if you take more of it, but the increase is so negligible that you may feel that it doesn't exist at all. The game supports the ability to lay down tactics by pausing to direct your team, but the system is deeply flawed. The game reads all of your motions with no way to cancel out of it, so if you're the type who wants to play around with placement before executing it, you'll see your people following the path without even trying to lay down cover fire, making this feature useless since everyone just dies quicker this way.

Graphically, Fear Effect Sedna fails to impress. During the cut scenes, the anime style of yesteryear still looks nice, but the animations lack polish. It works as a nostalgia trip for old fans, but newcomers won't be impressed. This is especially true during gameplay, where the animations look stiffer and the lack of any reactions to either hitting an enemy or being hit are disappointing. Despite the cel-shading, the environments look rather bland, and the various details (e.g., neon signs and video billboards) don't do much to enhance things. On top of that, the pervasive fog of war in stages makes the restrictive vision on the levels feel even more claustrophobic.

The audio is quite disappointing. Aside from the aforementioned bland voice acting, the sound effects lack punch, so common things like gunfire and alarms sound muted. The lone bright spot is the music, which sounds like something that came out of "Blade Runner." Even that, however, is marred by instances where the music crackles, as if your speakers are breaking down.

Fear Effect Sedna is a case of improperly executed good intentions. It has an intriguing story at its core, but the bad script fails to make it shine. It has lots of different gameplay mechanics at work, but none of them feel good, let alone good enough to carry the weaker parts. It has a presentation that's less than stellar, even for fans who enjoyed the originals. There's still a chance that you can enjoy the game, but you'll have to forgive the various flaws to do so.

Score: 3.5/10

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