F.E.A.R Platinum Review - John Woo meets The Ring
Paxton Fettle, a psychic commander, has been released from within his holding cell and taken command of a battalion of genetically engineered super soldiers. He seizes control of Armacham Technology Headquarters, killing everyone within the building. You take on the role of Pointman, the recruit for F.E.A.R (First Encounter Assault Recon). Your job is to find and eliminate Fettle, only then will the soldiers become dormant once again. There is, however, more the situation and Fettle than what meets the eye.
F.E.A.R is a first-person action horror game developed by Monolith Productions and published by Sierra Entertainment. F.E.A.R Platinum is a collection of the first game including it's two expansion packs Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate.
F.E.A.R is a classic game with intense action, excellent atmosphere, and some brilliantly designed scares. The two expansions, however, are more of a case of just more, adding little content and have stories that are non-canon to the series.
Let's start with F.E.A.R.
A dark, disturbing and chilling story.
The story to F.E.A.R is well written and paced with the story slowly but surely revealing itself as the game progresses. It is a case of expecting the story to go in one direction at first only to have that turned upside down, and something far more dangerous and sinister is happening and the player is caught right in the middle of it.
Paxton Fettel is one of the best designed and written villains in video game history. He is a character that is evil and psychotic, the player hates him but can't help but feel sympathetic towards him due to his history and background.
The same applies to Alma, the creepy little girl encountered throughout the game attempting to kill the player along with killing plenty of others along the way. The player has a disliking towards her due to trying to kill them and innocents throughout the experience but cannot help but sympathize with her.
If I am to fault anything with the storyline of F.E.A.R, it is how it's told and how it ends. A lot of the story establishes through listening to voice messages on phones and uploading data from laptops to the F.E.A.R coordinator Betters. The story told from the laptops is not a problem as it allows the player to progress as Betters says it through radio contact.
With the voice messages however you need to stand close to the phone to hear the message. It slows down the pace of the game especially with the amount of them that are to be found half way throughout the game. They are not well spaced out resulting in a cluster of them in a short period, resulting in the game taking a major slow down in pace at that point.
The ending is quite disappointing as it ends without there being any closure. It felt that the game just suddenly ends right as things are reaching their peak of intrigue, leaving the player wanting more. The fate of some characters never gets explained, and they do not make an appearance in the later games in the series. It leaves the player to make assumptions to what happened to the characters despite the fact that they were leading characters that they had contact with throughout the entire game.
Overall the story is intriguing, suitably dark and chilling and adds to the overall horror element of the game. It requires a certain amount of patience and interest to understand and experience the story in full.
If the player gives the story the time, it is worth the patience it requires.
Intense combat mixed with paranoia-inducing horror.
F.E.A.R is easily one of the most solid shooters out there. The enemy A.I is brilliant standing proudly with today's A.I considering it's a title originally released in 2005. The enemy communicates with each other and reacts in accordance to the situation at hand. They will attempt to flank you if possible or will retreat if some of the squad are killed and often blind fire as they do so. They will run for cover at the sight of a grenade being thrown in their direction and throw grenades at the player to flush them out of cover.
The protagonist has remarkably superior reflexes that allow them to make everything move in slow-mo briefly. It gives the player an edge over the enemy that are constantly outnumbered and at times outgunned. The reason for Pointman having superior reflexes also plays into the storyline and is established throughout, making it explained as oppose to being just a game mechanic for the sake of it.
There is a vast arsenal of weapons at the players disposal including pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles and unique weapons like the Penetrator and the Prototype weapon that disintegrates enemies into skeletons to keep the combat from becoming stale.
Players could also pick up and use grenades and mines to help against heavier armored enemies and power armored units along with medkits to heal themselves. If I am to have one gripe about the gameplay of the game it is that the medkits are far too plentiful. It feels like every second or third room contains a medkit and player can't help but wonder why one building would require so many. The sheer number of them decreases the difficulty of the game and makes it easy even for the hardest difficulty setting.
The horror aspect of the game happens in between the action. Often horror is done in the form of hallucinations or where the Alma the little girl makes an appearance often seen from the corner of the protagonists vision. What makes the horror stand out with F.E.A.R unlike most modern horror games is that it gets into the player's head.
Even during quiet moments where nothing is happening, the player will always have the thought that something is about to happen and paranoia sets in. It gives the game this sense even during those quiet moments that something is always around the corner ready to attempt to kill them. It fills the player with fear and makes them wonder if they will continue or take a break for a while before continuing.
It is that the player doesn't know what is exactly happening or why they are having these visions and hallucinations that make it so effective, the fear of the unknown.
The action and horror are beautifully balanced, where there is not too much of either one or the other. It makes it as enjoyable from the very beginning right to the end.
Excellent graphics, atmosphere, audio and attention to detail
The graphics for F.E.A.R are far ahead of its time. Many games even those released several years after had graphics that can't compare to that of the F.E.A.R. Ten years on the graphics still hold up well. You can see the difference compared to modern day graphics, but it is in no way hard on the eyes.
The attention to detail when it came to the development of F.E.A.R was incredible. The lighting effects were fantastic; bullets would damage the environment leaving debris and holes in surfaces and enemies react to when shot in particular places. As an example, an enemy would limp if enough damage is inflicted on their leg or fall over if the player inflicts enough force.
The atmosphere of the game gives this constant feeling of being alone throughout, except occasionally the player having another character with them temporarily. This sense of loneliness adds to the general horror of the game and enhances those quiet moments in between the action and horror. It makes the player feel vulnerable and increases the paranoia that the game already sets in motion with its horror sequences.
The ambiance and audio enhance everything within the game bringing the horror, atmosphere and action to a whole new level. It always fits in perfectly with the scene at hand, giving the player increased immersion and tension through everything that the game throws at them.
The last game to scare it's audience until Amnesia
F.E.A.R will always be remembered for being a classic game that blends action and horror perfectly. It was the final game to be released that genuinely scared its audience until the release of Amnesia which revived horror in video games.
Overall F.E.A.R is an outstanding game that is intense, terrifying, fun and has a deep and dark storyline to it with well-designed characters and balanced gameplay. It does have a few problems such as the telling of the story slowing down the pace of the game and there being far too many medkits decreasing the difficulty. It is a game that I have played through multiple times and is as enjoyable as the first and I couldn't recommend it highly enough.
Let's move on to the first expansion, Extraction Point.
An Interesting Non-Canon Ending
The two expansions for F.E.A.R were developed by TimeGate Studios as oppose the original developer Monolith Productions. The story of Extraction Point takes off directly from the ending of F.E.A.R. The player along with Douglas Holiday and Jin Sun-Kwon must make their way to the extraction point that has been set up by surviving SFOD-D operatives on the roof of Auburn Hospital.
Despite the story being non-canon and all events ignored in the sequel to F.E.A.R I felt the direction the story went in better suited to the course the original game was going at the end. I would have preferred that the sequel continued from Extraction Point as oppose to going down the route that it did which I never truly took too, but that is another tale for another day.
Paxton Fettle returns reactivating the replica soldiers once again and attempting to hinder Pointman in any way that he possibly can. Extraction Point focuses more on the paranormal and Alma's capabilities of deadly raw power giving insight into exactly why the events in the backstory occurred. Despite the exciting direction of the story and exciting ending it goes without any closure just as the original did.
It leaves questions unanswered that due to it being non-canon players will never get the answer to, which is a shame due to the intrigue that it's ending has.
Please Sir, can I have some more?
The gameplay of Extraction Point does a bit of an Oliver Twist. It is a case of can I have some more, as it offers more of the same. There is little that the expansion adds to what is in the original except a few new enemies, weapons, locales and deployable turrets.
The environments are very samey to that of the original leaving little new to experience in new locations. You tend to feel that you are making a return to where you have already been. The new weapons are satisfying, but players don't get to use them enough due to their rapid ammunition consumption and rarity. The same applies to the new enemies; they are refreshing but not used enough.
Enemies are a lot more numerous in Extraction Point resulting in battles being longer than that of the original game but balance out with horror sequences also being more numerous. Medkits are just a plentiful as in the original again decreasing the difficulty but thankfully there is no standing around listening to voice mails to understand the story.
Extraction Point terrifies more than the original
I would never have thought it possible before playing Extraction Point, but it does indeed feature better and more horrifying sequences than that of the original. It was possible in part due to the developer having the ability to create more paranormal horror sequences with how the original ended but for an outside developer to do so as well as TimeGate is an incredible feat.
The horror sequences use the excellent atmosphere as was in the original game but bring it to a whole new level due to the paranormal activity that is happening throughout the city. There is without a doubt some Silent Hill influence brought into the sequences with it being most noticeable in the hospital section of the game.
Some of the scares throughout the game are nothing more than cheap jump scares but overall the horror sequences are disturbing, creepy, gruesome, weird and highly satisfying.
A good carry on but lacks replay value
Extraction Point is a decent expansion; it has an interesting carry on of the storyline, some great scares and memorable moments. Unfortunately, there is little replay value due to little additional content, and the story isn't deep enough nor canon to the series to make it worth a second playthrough.
It is worth playing Extraction Point for the good aspects that it has to offer and if players are looking for more F.E.A.R, but it is quite a missable title and far from a must play. It is a perfect addition to a bundle like that of F.E.A.R Platinum, but as a separately purchasable expansion as it originally was it would not be worth it unless playing purely for the horror.
With F.E.A.R and Extraction Point done, let's move on to the final expansion that the bundle has to offer, Perseus Mandate.
A disappointing story of plot holes
Perseus Mandate takes place during the events of the original, just after ATC begin to battle against F.E.A.R and SFOD-D operatives. The player takes on the role of a nameless F.E.A.R operative only referred to as Sergeant. The sergeant is a part of a second F.E.A.R team, comprised of Captain Raynes, Luitenant Chen and himself, who are being sent to a second ATC facility to investigate any wrong doing they are attempting to hide.
A third faction known as the Nightcrawlers along with an agent of the Senator, Morrison, beat the team to the facility, searching for "the Source" the DNA of Paxton Fettle. The Nightcrawlers succeed, and the team must pursue them to secure "The Source".
The story of Perseus Mandate offers little addition or intrigue into the overall storyline and is non-canon just like Extraction Point. It is full of plot holes, for example, the Sergeant has the slow-mo ability like Pointman as do the Nightcrawler mercenaries. These characters having the ability make no sense due to the storyline stating that Pointman is the only one to possess the reflexes that allow the slow-mo ability.
Fettle and Alma also appear throughout the game that too makes little sense as the second team has no direct involvement with Fettle or the events with Alma. The hallucinations experienced in the game are an another plothole as those experienced by Pointman are due to his connection with Fettle and Alma.
Overall the story for Perseus Mandate is boring and full of plotholes just like those mentioned above and continues for a bit longer than it should. It is slightly longer than that of Extraction Point, and it just drags towards the end.
It gives the player a sense of just wanting the game to finish only half way through, making the later half of the game painful to endure.
Lack of new creative and original content leads to a stale experience.
Just like Extraction Point, Perseus Mandate offers little new content to that of the original game. There are three new weapons, the grenade launcher, an advanced assault rifle with night vision scope and lightning gun. New enemies introduced are Nightcrawler mercenaries, Nightcrawler Elites, a new ATC model and a new monster.
The new assault rifle is a pleasant addition while it's scope is badly textured, where it remains visible even in darkness. The grenade launcher is powerful but feels clunky and unsatisfying to use. The lightning gun is incredibly powerful and satisfying to use, but its design seems like it could have been more creative.
The new character models of Raynes, Chen, and Morrison look terrible compared to that of the characters of the original game. They are missing the same amount of detail, looking like a step back graphically and stick out like a sore thumb. The animations of Morrison are terrible, where opening a door in a calm manner, involves him kicking it and doesn't even look right doing so.
The Nightcrawler mercenaries are nothing more than re-textured models of replica soldiers while the elite looked like nothing more than slightly retextured and adjusted ATC models. The new monster is quite creative and comes as a pleasant surprise and does its job of scaring the player, at least the first few times.
Once the player figures out how the creature works, however, it is easily avoidable. It hides within a hole where if the player stands over it the monster will grab them, dragging them down, clawing at them. The hole is easy to spot, and the creature can be killed by shooting in at it while keeping a distance.
Upon completing the game, an extra mode is unlocked containing three new mission maps. They are a nice addition but offer nothing more than another challenge, coming across as quite pointless and giving little incentive to play and complete.
There is a lack of new environments making it feel ever more that players see all of what they have previously experienced for the third time. Between that and the little content added, it leads to nothing more than a drawn out, stale experience.
More intense action with bottom of the barrel horror
Perseus Mandate continues to deliver the intense action like the original game, but the ideas for horror sequences feel like scrapping the bottom of the barrel. The best scares that TimeGate had to offer were apparently placed into Extraction Point, leaving Perseus Mandate lacking in horror.
The horror sequences often didn't involve making the player feel in danger. Instead, most involved the Nightcrawlers or some other unfortunate character being brutally kill in some manner. It leaves the player to spectate the gruesome moment as oppose to feeling threatened by it.
It has its moments where it makes the player jump, but it is through cheap jump scares as oppose to the slow build up of horror and atmosphere that was in the original game and Extraction Point.
An unnecessary expansion
Perseus Mandate is the expansion that the series could have missed and would be no worse off. It lacks in almost every way with little to keep the player interested between boring and repetitive combat, a poorly written story, little new content, badly designed and animated models and missing the mark on the horror.
It may please the player looking for nothing but to play more F.E.A.R, but other than that it is a disappointing and unnecessary addition. As a standalone purchase, the expansion would feel like a waste of good money but as part of the platinum bundle it makes it slightly easier to play without the feeling of buyer remorse.
The Verdict on Platinum as a whole.
The Platinum Bundle is a worthy purchase for €9,49. The original F.E.A.R is worth that price alone without the inclusion of the two expansions. The original and Extraction Point are certainly worth playing with Perseus Mandate being optional and missable.
The three games together are approximately 15 hours long depending on your experience with the games. F.E.A.R is the prime example of an action horror game done right and shows that video games can still scare even while having guns in them.
The bundle is worth purchasing for those looking to experience F.E.A.R for the first time or for revisiting it. It's only let down is that of Perseus Mandate which stops it from scoring higher. If you like John Woo style action movies and Japanese style horror like that of The Ring, you are sure to enjoy what F.E.A.R has to offer.
F.E.A.R Platinum is available to buy on GOG.com for €9.49.