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July 2019

Fear The Wolves

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Vostok Games
Release Date: 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Fear the Wolves'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 2, 2018 @ 12:01 a.m. PDT

Fear The Wolves is a postapocalyptic, first-person shooter that offers a new and original take on the battle royale genre.

Battle royale games are huge these days. The top two behemoths in the genre are PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite, and there's a fierce battle to be the next big title in the genre. Some games, like H1Z1: Battle Royale and The Culling, are trying everything to become bigger despite being some of the early adopters of the genre. Others, like Realm Royale, are trying to use their popularity in other shooter genres to get some recognition here. Big franchises like Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 are also trying to muscle in to the territory. In the midst of this stands Fear the Wolves, a battle royale title that uses the backdrop of Chernobyl and has some developers who previously worked on the acclaimed PC shooter, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. We got a look at the game's current closed beta to see how it's turning out.

The main structure of the battle royale genre is intact in Fear the Wolves. You drop out of the sky along with a host of other people, and you have nothing in your possession. You spend most of your time scouring the environment for ammo, guns, and other gear to help you survive. While trying to hunt down other people, you also have to pay attention to the environment, which has its own way of trying to kill you, thus preventing you from camping out too long in a spot. You can ride some vehicles to traverse the level faster, but that also breaks the stealth element, since those run-down cars can be quite noisy. In order to win, you have to be the last person standing.

In addition to using a first-person perspective and adopting PUBG's realistic slant, Fear the Wolves introduces a few elements to make it stand out from the crowd. The first is the titular wolves that roam around the level. In addition to worrying about other humans, the wolves run around in packs and provide a decent amount of damage when they hit you. It doesn't take much to defeat, them despite their irradiated status, but they are a good foil for those who want to stick around one area for a long time, since that's when they'll most likely appear.

The helicopter is the second big change to the game, as it provides players with another means of winning a match (aside from just eliminating everyone around you). The helicopter appears somewhat randomly but usually when the game's population is low. Red smoke grenades are thrown down around the helicopter's area, so everyone knows where it is, and reaching it is only half of the battle since it takes a long time before the helicopter ascends and takes you with it. All that time, you're left vulnerable to fire, so the copter itself isn't a surefire way to win. While many will go for the standard road to victory, it's nice to see alternatives available.

The other big change has to do with the environmental hazard meant to bring people closer together as the map progresses. Here, it takes the form of radiation, but instead of closing around players in a circle, it appears in random places around the map. The unpredictable nature of radiation appearances keeps things fresh, but the player has some counter-measures to prevent themselves from being overwhelmed. For starters, radiation is slow to build, so it takes time before an irradiated square goes from low priority to full strength. The game also allows you to get anti-radiation pills, oxygen tanks, and radiation suits, so it's plausible to hide in the radiation fields for a while before you have to worry about getting out of there.

Finally, the game gives all fallen players the chance to influence the environment by voting on which weather system they'd like to be implemented almost immediately. For example, you can vote for wind to appear, so sniper rifle shots no longer go straight. You can also vote for things like rain, so vehicle controls are slippery and visibility is reduced. It's a mechanic that does a good job of encouraging players to stick around a match for a while instead of jumping to the next match once they get killed.

With all of that said, Fear the Wolves has two main issues at the moment. The first is that the game only seems to care about kills from a distance. Attack someone with a machine gun from a good distance away, and there's a good chance you'll get in enough hits for a kill if your aim is good. The same thing will happen if you use pistols. Use those same weapons up close, and your chances of hitting anything fall dramatically. Even with a shotgun, which is usually a very reliable close-quarters weapon, barely puts a dent in your opponent — even from point-blank range. After having almost every shooter out there ingrain the basics of guns and distance effectiveness, it feels weird that the close combat feels ineffective here.

The other item that plagued our time with the game was the fact that it's difficult to get into a match. Most of the time, the game simply didn't have enough people to fill up one match. On the launch of a new closed beta period, we waited for over an hour before we gave up and tried again later. On the rare occasion we got into a game, we had waited at the title screen for 20-30 minutes. While it's understandable that a closed beta would have a significantly smaller population than an Early Access title or open beta, we've been in other closed betas where the wait time wasn't excruciatingly long. It is hard to say whether people were unaware of the game, tired of the genre, or wary of the fact that the developers still haven't finished their other Early Access title, Survarium.

There's no doubt that Fear the Wolves has some good ideas to contribute to the battle royale subgenre. From the escape chopper to the random danger pockets to the wolves, the ideas make the battle royale game more interesting when compared to other titles. At the same time, the game doesn't seem tailored to anything but distanced combat at the moment, and the connection issues are troublesome. It'll certainly be worth checking out the game later on to see how the improvements are going.

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