2005 Reviews

F.E.A.R.

  • Review Date: 2011-01
  • Release Date: 2005-10
  • Developer: Monolith
  • Rating: 7.5

Monolith has been responsible for some good underrated games. NOLF and its sequel are two of the most underrated first-person shooters in my opinion. I skipped their previous shooter, Contact J.A.C.K. due to below average reviews, but F.E.A.R. is another great release from the Washington based studio.

F.E.A.R. was met with a fairly positive reception, suprising consider the industries' criticism of games that bring nothing new to the table. And indeed F.E.A.R. really doesn't bring anything new. In fact, for pure single-player focused first-person shooters (which excuses Splinter Cel and Battlefield 2), F.E.A.R. is the top rated of 2005. Ahead of Call Of Duty and even Quake 4. But it's not without it's issues.

The biggest issue is the lack of finesse in the level design. Now the Lithtech engine, developed in-studio by Monolith, is a great engine. In fact the version of the engine (Jupiter EX) used in F.E.A.R. is still being used in shooters in 2011. The problem with F.E.A.R. is that it failed miserably on using the engines potential. Sure, they made good use of lighting as this is a definite strong point in the game. Although not as amazing looking as Doom 3, Quake 4 or Splinter Cell; it's not far off. Where F.E.A.R. lacks is, firstly in the texturing. Textures are plain, drab and dominantly grey throughout the game. Follow this up with abysmal level design. Constantly throughout the game you'll be walking through plain four-brush corridors with a scattering of prefabs such as barrells and pipes. Follow this up with a room, then another corridor or two leading to the next room. All the while looking horribly unfinished in the detailing department. There are no complex angles, no extravagent architecture. This is level design 101, to the point where you could take just about any level in the game, for instance one of the far too many office levels, put some drab brown wood textures in there, and suddenly it's a warehouse complex.

As mentioned each room has a couple of routes to get in and out. The upside is enemies can also use either route to attack, so it's sets up for good gameplay. However it gets repetitive very fast and confusing because it sometimes feels very maze-like.

Where F.E.A.R. excels is in it's gameplay. We deal with human opponents almost exclusively. Some take more damage than others, some have different weapons. But the AI is all the same; and that is fairly good. Not perfect, but good enough to provide a decent and fun challenge. I played the game on medium and it's fairly perfect. I always had plenty of shotgun ammo, plenty of health packs in reserve, which is how I like it. The weapons all felt great. The shotgun and machine gun are your main weapons, with enough space to carry only one other weapon which alternates depending on what you find in each level. It was slightly disappointing that you can only carry three weapons, but that's a minor niggle as the shotgun is great fun.

There could have been a few different enemies. Sure you have turrets, both ceiling-mounted and flying; both of which were very annoying and didn't enhance gameplay at all. Some kind of ghost also makes an appearance occasionally, but these are far too underwhelming. Some sort of challenging ninja enemy, complete with invisibility and very fast manoeuvres makes very few appearances, unfortunately.

The story, which I won't go in to, had a fairly solid premise. Unfortunately there was little storytelling and very few cut scenes throughout the game. Most of the backstory was told through laptops which were too long and boring to sit and listen to throughout the game. Monolith should have put a lot more effort into telling their story.

Overall, F.E.A.R. is a fun romp for around 10 hours, with a successful engine but sadly let down by old skool level design which may have been great for a late-90's/early-2000's game, but in 2005 looks too bland compared to the level of detail of, for instance, Doom 3.