Reviews: First Encounter Assault Recon

A Truly Underrated Masterpiece

There are many shooters that have been praised for their intelligent plots, superb storylines, and tense atmosphere, with games like Bioshock, Half Life 2, and System Shock 2 being the most mentioned among gamers and critics alike. However, F.E.A.R., despite being one of the most acclaimed games of 2005, seems to have slipped out of the minds of the general public. This is, as far as I am concerned, an immense disservice, as F.E.A.R. is indeed one of the most unique and intense shooters ever created,even to this day.

Whenever you fire your guns, you literally feel every bullet whizzing through the air, and causing damage to your enemies. While most shooters feature rather dull feedback, as the shooting takes a backseat to advancing through the level, in F.E.A.R., ever kill is immensely satisfying. Add to that the wide variety of weapons, ranging from dual-pistols to a skin-melting particle gun, Max Payne-esque slow-motion, and some of the best tactical enemy AI to this day, and F.E.A.R. is worth playing for the gunplay alone.

However, if it was only the action that was good, it wouldn't be as great as it truly is. In a much-welcome change of pace, the game also includes many horror aspects, not unlike other shooters such as Doom 3. What sets it apart is that instead of relying on "monster in the closet" scares like id's attempt, the game instead goes for atmosphere. Indeed, during many of the levels, you will find yourself simply going through dark room after dark room, with flickering lights, strange noises, and ghostly apparitions going off all around you. Play the game alone in the dark, and you will be on the edge of your seat, praying for the next firefight to lighten things up. Add to that a surprisingly deep and tragic story line, with themes ranging from human experimentation, Cloning Blues, Telepathy, Humans Are The Real Monsters, and even family, and the game is pretty much perfect.

To sum it all up. F.E.A.R. is what one would get if you combine the fast-paced firefights of Hard Boiled, the psychological horror and atmosphere of TheRing, the psychic powers and familial dynamics of Scanners and the themes and violence of Elfen Lied. It is truly a game everyone should experience.

From horror to shooter

The original F.E.A.R. game was incredibly haunting. It had great atmosphere, good backstory and was genuinely scary. The shooter bits were pretty good as well, though the surroundings got a bit monotone, with each hallway looking like the last. The expansions were both big improvements, adding massive improvements to the shooter elements as well as being terrifying.

The problems with the series started with F.E.A.R. 2, though I still say that game was good. It simply stopped being as scary. I think the main problem was with the Interface Screw that happened when you got close to something supernatural. In F.E.A.R. 1, the Interface Screw only happened when the supernatural stuff actually started. In F.E.A.R. 2, it seems like it started a few seconds before, warning you, rather than adding to scaryness. Everything in the series also seemed to have suddenly gotten more advanced, despite the fact that F.E.A.R. 2 takes place at most a few days after F.E.A.R. "Sexy Alma" was a big problem as well, as she looked and moved in a rather silly way. For some people it might be qualify for Uncanny Valley though. Howevever, there were still quite a few scary moments (most notably the haunted part of the school), the backstory behind all the new stuff was excellent and I really liked the locations.

F.E.A.R. 3 just wasn't scary at all to me. Half of the scares consisted simply of a random Interface Screw , and with most of the others I just couldn't see what was going on due to the black tentacles around my screen. None of the new in-game elements were ever given any explanation (at least in the game itself, they might have gotten it outside) and the abundance of phase casters and commanders seems very weird, considering only 9 months of R&D could have happened between F.E.A.R. 2 and 3. There is also the issue of the story. For the first half of the game, the story was pretty decent. But as soon as Jin Sun-Kwon appears, it gets really confusing. How was Beckett supposed to stop Alma? How was Jin following my efforts? How did we get from the monster-infested water to the airport? Whose memories did we enter and how did we enter those memories? How did we reach Alma? The events in the latter half of the game are so completely jumbled that it barely qualifies as a story. The shooter elements were pretty good though.

F.3.A.R. - Well now. That was a letdown.

I don't really see the point in trying to make a "review" of F.3.A.R.. At the end of the day, it's just a shooter with slow-mo...which is part of my problem I suppose. Instead I wanted to put down the main issues I noticed with it, in comparison to its predecessors, and see if others think I'm way off the mark or not.

- When making the first F.E.A.R. back in 2006, the developers went to lengths to stress how they wanted to avoid jump scares for frights, instead relying on setting an oppressive and uneasy mood. To their credit they didn't do too badly. Sure there were still some brown-your-trouser surprises and it wasn't on the same level as Amnesia or the Shalebridge Cradle, but still. The sequel was less so, but there was still a mystery as to what exactly Alma wanted. F.3.A.R. is pure action, with naught but a few "Boogity-boogity-boo!" moments to startle you. Only the final level is legitimately "creepy".

- Alma has been reduced to a purely passive character. She was always pure ID but she was still very active, what with her tendency to just slaughter everyone who got in the way of her goals. In F1, she wanted to escape, in 2 she wanted, well, you. But in 3 her sole act is to periodically scream. Now to be fair, she's kind of in labour, but it's still disappointing to just cut out the poster character nearly entirely. I'll admit I thought the "Creep" being the manifestation of the memories of her father was actually pretty cool and fitting, but the fact it replaces Alma completely...yeah, nah.

- No resolution whatsoever on pretty much all of the side-characters: Genevive Aristide, Douglas Holiday, and heck the rest of F.E.A.R. and Becket's team. You could ague "They died, duh." But that's a bit of a half-hearted resolution.

- This one's minor and entirely petty: the pregnant Alma at the very end...just looked really, really stupid.

Just a bit of a letdown that a series that had previously tried to establish a good story and atmosphere reduced itself to just another run-and-gun shooter in its finale. Not bad at all, I should stress, just kind of "bleah".