Originally an impressive first person shooter title for the PC, and the Xbox 360 a year later, F.E.A.R. now blasts its way onto the PlayStation 3. Unfortunately for PS3 owners, the apple has strayed far from the tree.
F.E.A.R. hit the top of most PC gaming charts when it originally launched in the Fall of 2005 as one of the most graphically impressing titles for its time. The amount of detail that Sierra put into lighting, soft shadows, anti-aliasing and textures was stunning to say the least. Two years down the road, many would expect the graphics to have been enhanced on the PS3. However, that simply isn’t the case.
F.E.A.R. for the PS3 seems to have been a half-hearted attempt at porting the game from the PC to the PS3. The graphics are lackluster to say the least. A simple comparison of the PC and PS3 versions would show that the console version has reduced texture detail, reduced AA (anti-aliasing), reduced lighting and soft shadows, bogus background detail, and a variety of other issues as well. The game still offers some decent particle effects. However, there have been a couple cases where your muzzle fire wouldn’t match up with your gun. It’s nothing crucial to the game, but it’s just one more example of how Sierra rushed this port. So while the graphics are still nice, they aren’t anything close to the level they could be.
It’s go time! Wait for it…wait for it…
One of the largest critiques about F.E.A.R. is the title’s load times. To say it bluntly, they’re unforgivable. You will finish an interval (level) and be hyped up and ready for the next, but standing in your way is a 30 to 60 second load time. Put it this way, after finishing an interval you’ll have time to go to the bathroom, wash your hands, get a drink and come back only to see the game still loading. While players have come to understand load times for the PC, console gamers are use to being able to play long gaming sessions with very little interruptions. Not to mention that load times for the PC only usually take 5 to 20 seconds depending upon your hardware specifications. Games like Resistance: Fall of Man, which contain much larger and highly detailed levels, would only take 5 to 10 seconds to load. So one must ask the question, was Sierra even trying on this port?
Two for the money…three for the show
F.E.A.R. sports three gameplay modes which cater to different FPS players. For the player who likes a story, campaign mode offers a decent horror plot. As a F.E.A.R. operative with “off the chart reflexes,” it becomes your mission to track down Paxton Fettel, a psychotic/telepathic serial killer. Fettel takes telepathic control over an Elite clone army, the enemy you’ll be fighting throughout the entire game, and uses it to try and stop you from capturing him. Along the way you’ll encounter strange occurrences. One instance you may be wading through a hallway filled with blood, the next you’ll be running from a little girl in a red dress as everything explodes behind you. So while your mission may be to track down Fettel, you’re on your own personal mission to find out who, or even what, you really are.
While much of this sounds entertaining, the storyline “bottomed out” after the first hour or so. In other words, after the game establishes the storyline and your mission, you’ll find things becoming very repetitious as it doesn’t add anything new to the storyline, other then a some weapons and a couple of enemies. While this may be forgivable if the game was non-stop action, you’ll often find yourself simply running around. When the action does happen, however, it will take you by surprise and will usually be quite chaotic, with gunfire and grenades destroying everything in your path.
Multiplayer mode is perhaps the title’s saving grace, as it is pretty fun running around the dark levels, with 15 other players, trying to kill all in your way. F.E.A.R. supports the classic FPS modes, such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. Yet also supports a unique mode called “Slo-mo,” which allows the gamers to play the entire round in F.E.A.R.’s reflex mode. The game allows for very basic avatar customization, as you can choose the build of the elite force you play as in-game. While in-game, you can pick up health packs, body armor, weapons and grenades, much like the campaign mode, and use them to put yourself at an advantage.
The downside to multiplayer combat on the PS3 is that there is no one playing this game. You can sign on to the F.E.A.R. servers and have the option of quick joining or custom joining a match. Either way, if you notice, there is hardly ever over 100 people online playing this title. When you do enter a match, you must choose your weapon before you start. While F.E.A.R. gives you a quick array of the weapons found in the game, it’s pointless to choose any weapon other then the Assault Rifle, which is the best weapon in multiplayer. Since everyone uses it, you would be at a huge disadvantage if you used anything but that. Thus, rendering all other weapons ineffective. What is also dismaying about the multiplayer mode is how you have to wait for a host to start the game. While it may sound like no big deal, if you have 15 people ready to go, and the host is absent, the game will not start, not even if everyone is checked off as ready. However, the good outweighs the bad in this case because as soon as you enter the game, fun and chaos ensue.
Besides campaign and multiplayer modes which the PC version of the game have, F.E.A.R. for the PS3 also has a “Instant Action” mode, that will allow players to instantly jump to an interval in the campaign, usually one of the intervals where a lot of action is taking place. While this is a nice feature to have for shooting frenzy players, the load times act as a buzz kill, and definitely decrease your eagerness to jump into combat. Instant Action mode is scored based upon how many soldiers you kill, how many times you get hit, how many med-packs you use, etc. Once you die, your stats for that Instant Action match are uploaded to an online leaderboard and you can compare them with other players in your region. While this mode doesn’t add much to the game, it’s a great way to train yourself, hone your skills and become familiar with the controls.
While there is no actual soundtrack to F.E.A.R., the game does support an eerie and frightening ambiance. Often you’ll hear a low humming interlaced with some faints moans, kids laughing, kids crying, etc when running through hallways. When you’re about to enter a battle scene, the ambiance will fade away and louder, chaotic, fighting music will come to the forefront. Or, when you’re walking those dark corridors and a vision pops up on the screen, the ambiance will spike and you will know that something strange is about to happen.
The sound effects are pretty solid as well. When low on health you become abundantly aware that both your heart and breathing rate have increased and become much louder, often overshadowing the ambiance. Shooting a variety of different objects create their own unique sound. Soldiers will shout a variety of different phrases, many of which contain vulgarity, others which let you know if they’re about to flank you or throw a grenade. Overall the sound in F.E.A.R. is very well done, especially for a game that lacks in most other areas.
And the survey says…!
Overall, F.E.A.R. for the PS3 is nothing more then a half-hearted attempt on Sierra’s part to bring their award winning game to another next generation console. Though the graphics seem more lackluster on the PS3, as opposed to the PC and Xbox 360, they still qualify as nex-gen, but only as just barely. F.E.A.R. gives players three modes of gameplay which is nice because variety is always welcomed. The catch is that multiplayer, perhaps the title’s only justification in a purchase, has hardly anyone online playing it. The sound quality is solid, which makes it even more appealing in a game where every other aspect of the title is not. Minor glitches, framerate drops, jaggedness, and various other issues don’t necessarily subtract from the eerie environment F.E.A.R. places you in. However, for those that have played the game on the PC or Xbox 360, should avoid it as the title is clearly worse then the other versions and doesn’t add anything new to the mix. Last, but certainly not the least, is the horrendous load times throughout the game. They are as bad as they sound. On any console, past or present, 60 second load times just show how rushed the game is for the hardware that it’s on.
All the negatives aside, F.E.A.R. still takes the player on an eerie, psychological journey, through a world that he/she will begin to understand as the game progresses. The weapon variety is nice and creative at times. The A.I. is ingenious, often times the player will find his/herself surrounded when they thought they were safe behind an obstacle.
If you have never played F.E.A.R. before, and own a PlayStation 3, go to your nearest rental store and give it a chance.