Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself…and Horrendous Audio, Apparently
When you have a game called F.E.A.R., there’s pretty much just one thing you expect the game to do. I mean, were a game called F.U.N. or D.U.L.L., I would certainly assume that I knew what I was getting into before I ever even started it. On that front, I suppose F.E.A.R. was a successful game (though it would have been more appropriate to call it simply C.R.E.E.P.Y.) The darkness in the game was so pervasive that it had a great gloomy mood throughout, and a few choice sections did manage to chase a cold chill right down my spine.
But I guess this is where the praise already ends. It took me quite a while – much longer than it should have – to finish F.E.A.R. It would have been wrong to take away the shooter elements of the game completely, and using the supernatural, truly creepy bits sparingly made sure I didn’t become desensitized to them. But I still would have really liked to see a more even balance between “run through this building and kill soldiers” and “get the loving crap scared out of you by a shape crawling towards you while going through a pitch-black vent shaft”.
As it was, the game’s tone was grim, its choice in environments suitably gritty (though kind of bland and repetitive), its enemy AI praiseworthy in the way it relentlessly tried to flush you out of cover while flanking you from multiple directions – it’s just that these elements weren’t what I was primarily looking for with a title like F.E.A.R. I guess that’s the best way I can put it. I’m not huge on shooters, but I do love horror games. It was slightly disappointing that I got an unbalanced mix, with too much of the former and not enough of the latter to truly satisfy me.
And then there was the audio. Oh sweet Jesus in a jumper suit, don’t get me started on the horrific voice-over quality! I could honestly get more comprehensive dialogue by rubbing a cinder block against petrified tree bark. Thankfully, the game’s plot was wholly uninteresting beyond the fact that there was “creepy stuff happenin’”, ‘cos any attempts I made to understand what the actors were saying was garbled by putting them through multiple radio static filters, then drowning what was left in general ambiance. Seriously. Imagine listening to your friend’s voice out over a walkie-talkie speaker. Now imagine that same walkie-talkie, locked in a lead-lined locker, which was sunk to the bottom of the ocean. That’ll give you a glimmer of an idea of what it actually sounded like.
Perhaps its two sequels will toe the line between classic horror and simple shoot-em-up a little more evenly. Ironically enough, it is the only series of which I (inadvertently) own each game twice – Steam sales make one do such crazy things, especially when I didn’t remember I’d bought them all on sale for 360 months earlier. Oh well…