Wednesday, February 7, 2007

F.E.A.R. (Xbox 360)

I really wanted to like F.E.A.R. (despite it's really lame sub-title "First Encounter Assault Recon"). The reviews made it sound like it was going to be good (GameSpy, GameSpot). Kinda like Eternal Darkness meets FPS. But it wasn't. Not even close. This is my first review of a game that I started playing after I had already started this blog. So my thoughts are pretty well catalogued. I even went so far as to even take notes while playing :O. And looking back on them just backs up what my gut was telling me 10 minutes in: this game kinda sucks.

I'll try to start out positive. We'll see how long I last.

The game features a bullet time effect that you can flip on at will (with a cooldown). While in that mode explosions and whatnot look pretty darn cool. Unfortunately as the game goes on you realize that it's actually not that useful, as that with everything slowed down all it does is give a little more reaction time - it's not likely you also get Neo-like super speed. Which has the end of effect of making what should be a pants-soiling firefight into a Valium-paced game of whack-a-mole.

In general the weapon selection bored me to tears. But towards the end of the game, it did improve a bit. You eventually get this plasma railgun thing that is meltingly satisfying. But for 90% of the game I was either using Generic Shotgun or Generic Machinegun. And I never really ran out of bullets so there wasn't much motivation to change it up.

Graphically F.E.A.R. is quite capable, but completely uninspired. The environments in F.E.A.R. are booooooring. Really, this game sets an all time new low. The entire game takes place in a nondescript industrial complex, followed nondescript office building, and towards the end you upgrade to a nondescript research facility. That is, if you kept playing long enough to give a shit. I work in an office. Wandering through one during my after hours game time just isn't fun. Especially when they're absurd maze-like complexes that no employee could ever ever navigate. And what brilliant plot tool do they use to transition you from destination to destination? Your helicopter gets shot down. Three times. That's too bad, because I was really looking forward to the nondescript alleyways that connected the locations.

One of the things that I was the most excited about with F.E.A.R. was that it was supposed to be this whole paranormal, dim-the-lights, scary action adventure. It's not. Office buildings are not scary, even if you flash black haired demon girls on the screen now and then. The story sucks, and what little there is ends up being so anti-climatic in the end that you feel really cheated. But what gets me is that the protagonist, connected as he is to headquarters or whatever via comlink, never mentions that he's having these freaky visions. He just stupidly wanders through random building after random building, hoping the law of a thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters will guide him to the villain. Who you just headshot when you find him - no fight necessary (that wasn't a spoiler, that was me saving you hours of your life). Even Doom gave me more motivation to keep trudging on that F.E.A.R..

On top of sub par environments and sub par story, the entire game is littered with in-game ads for Dell XPS game systems. Almost every computer and every monitor is brandishing the Dell logo, putting you on the express route out of disbelief suspension land. If only they had used that ad money to actually build a game worth my time.

I finished F.E.A.R not because I enjoyed the story and had to see the ending. Nor because I enjoyed the gameplay and just couldn't get enough. I finished F.E.A.R. so that I could guiltlessly write a nasty blog post about it and so that I could get some achievement points (which they totally gypped me on).

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