So, F.E.A.R. looks great, sounds great and – believe you me – has some of the best combat features in any FPS, full stop. So why the disappointment?
Because, great as it is, F.E.A.R. isn’t all that it could be. Everyone always talks about Halo and its ‘thirty seconds of fun, over and over again’ formula, but the thing about Bungie’s classic was that it didn’t just hit you with the same thirty seconds, it constantly gave you new environments, new, tougher enemies, new challenges and new ways of tackling them. This is where F.E.A.R. falls down.
First, let’s talk about the environments. Aren’t we all getting tired of the same industrial complexes, the same walkways, the same service tunnels, ventilator shafts, crates and ladders. Well, F.E.A.R. wheels out all the familiar clichés in its first third, then hits you with another series of office block clichés in its second. It’s realistic. It looks beautiful, but there is nothing here to take your breath away – nothing that you haven’t seen before.
Also, while the levels are well designed and the scary bits provide their share of standout moments, this isn’t a game full of stunning set pieces. Don’t get me wrong – it’s packed to the gills with great gunfights, but after a while they all start merging into one. And as for the enemies….simply put, there aren’t enough of them, and once you’ve taken down the umpteenth squad of clones, you begin to get tired and wish for something else. The ninjas and the heavy dudes are great, but we really needed a little more variety.
Remember Half-Life 2? How each section of the game had its own identity, its own feel, its own distinct challenges and set piece moments? The way it made you feel part of its own gloomy, post-apocalyptic world, and gave you a sense you were steadily learning and making progress through it? Well, F.E.A.R. never quite achieves the same effect.
Still, it does achieve an awful lot. This isn’t a game to cram into one action-packed weekend, but one to leave behind when you feel bored. Return afresh, and you soon remember all the reasons why you love it – the atmosphere, the scares, the sheer high-octane thrill of the combat. F.E.A.R. might not be a classic, but it’s close. So damn close, you’ll want to give it the proverbial cigar.
Frightening, thrilling and stunning to look at, F.E.A.R. falls down when it comes to progress and variety. Even if it’s not a classic, it’s the best FPS so far this year.