Every generation, when game consoles catch up to current PC wares, publishers are able to exploit the success of various PC games (mostly first-person shooters) by porting them over to these new home consoles. The trend of porting FPS titles onto home consoles occurs in full for the first 2-3 years of a machine's life; once PCs begin outgrowing consoles, in terms of processing power, developers aren't able to pull off proper ports anymore. So, with the Xbox 360, and especially the PlayStation 3, still fresh on the market and able to perform alongside PCs today, it's no surprise that we're seeing quite a bit of PC porting going on. First Encounter Assault Recon (FEAR) is one of many PC to console ports out there. And as we know by now, there are good ports, average ones, and bad ones. FEAR falls somewhere in between average to bad.
The concept behind FEAR is easily the best thing the game's got going for it. The horror factor certainly does bring out a very tense experience, and occasionally you may find yourself briefly digging the game, if only to unravel more of its paranormal mysteries. As you play the game, you'll be repeatedly confronted by lightning quick flashes of ghoulish imagery. It's used quite effectively and manages to set a theme unlike an FPS game has ever seen. Though, beyond that, FEAR is an average first-person shooter that brings very little to the table in terms of gameplay. Before you actually begin the game, you know you're in for something really bad when you experience the horrendous load times. Each stage takes nearly a full minute to load and 30 seconds to re-load! How Sierra let something like this ship is beyond me, but these kinds of load times are completely unforgivable.
Your entire goal in the game is to investigate a paranormal occurrence and stop a possessed mad-man. That man is a military commander, Paxton Fettel, and his brain is connected to a magnitude of cloned army warriors. So what happens when a madman's brain is connected to a bunch of clones? All out chaos. And of course it's your job to stop him and put an end to his telepathic puppetry.
The action is pretty standard stuff - you'll be doing a lot of running and gunning. Most of the stages are corridor based, so don't expect immense settings that rival Resistance: Fall of Man or Gears of War - a lot of the game is contained and in-doors. From time to time you'll encounter some pretty haring gunfights, and you'll be required to use the game's SlowMo feature ( to slow down time) just to even the score a little bit. To further enhance the combat, FEAR allows you peak around corners by using the directional pad on the controller as well as utilizing a zoom function for more precise shots. Once you start playing FEAR, you'll quickly realize that the game is much better off with a mouse and keyboard. Aiming can be a chore, especially when you have enemies that frantically jump around, disappear into thin-air only to re-appear in front of you, and smack you down.
As far as multiplayer goes, the PS3 port of FEAR has support for 16 gamers, across 5 different multiplayer modes, such as death match, team death match, capture the flag, elimination and team elimination. There is a SloMo modifier for capture the flag, and both death match modes that gives the player with a reflex booster pick-up, and his team, an advantage by slowing down the opponents. Once the carrier of the reflex booster is killed, the pick-up is dropped and can be picked up by someone else. While there's some additional extra content specifically made for the PS3 version, you may not care for any of it once you notice something about FEAR's visuals...
...the horrific framerate. It'd be sort of understandable if FEAR's framerate chugged in a higher resolution, like 1080p, but this is a game that runs in 720p and has a framerate slower than a Toyota Prius. Worst of all, FEAR is a port of a one year old Xbox 360 game and a two year old PC game - so to have it running worse than ever before is pretty inexcusable. And in case you're thinking that maybe it's because FEAR is a visually tasking game, it isn't. In fact, FEAR may be one of the poorest looking PlayStation 3 games on the market. The porting was done by Day 1 Studios, and the final result isn't very pretty.
The framerate bounces around so much that it actually leaves me fairly nauseated. I couldn't play the game any more than in short bursts of 20-30 minutes, simply because I'd get a headache if I played any longer. Then there's the game's overall look. To best describe FEAR's visuals would be like this: imagine the original PC game running at the highest settings, with Vaseline smeared all over the monitor. FEAR looks washed out, to be precise. The texture detail is poor and the character detail doesn't seem to be very 'next-gen'. The lighting is okay at best, though it has a tendency to be pretty bland. Nothing is spectacular about the way FEAR looks - and the framerate really deters from the game's overall appeal.
FEAR's audio is one of the more acceptable traits that the game features. Guns fire with a powerful punch, and explosions come off sounding fairly convincing. The ambiance is done right with a combination of eerie background noise and chaos that do a good job of creating a very tense feeling. FEAR utilizes audio very well to create that feel of horror and fright. The game also features voice acting, and it too is one of the better facets of the game. All in all, the game's sound is actually one of its stronger points.
At the end of the day, the PlayStation 3 port of FEAR could've been much better. If the framerate hadn't been as jerky, we'd have a fairly enjoyable game -- nothing ground breaking, but enjoyable, nevertheless. FEAR would be a great game, altogether, if it offered a bit more open-space. Visually, the game is a joke and probably the single worst looking port I've seen on the PlayStation 3 thus far. FEAR's best attributes are its audio and gameplay presentation, both of which that create a very a tense setting. Unfortunately, neither of those two traits can save FEAR from being a mediocre game. If you have no other means of playing FEAR other than a PS3, secure the PC or Xbox 360 version instead. If you don't have a proper PC or an X360, rent the PS3 version of FEAR first.
5/16/2007 Arnold Katayev