F.E.A.R. is a shoot em up action/adventure game which is now out for those of you with a shiny new PS3. We take a look.

F.E.A.R. is hilariously, absurdly violent. It’s a shooter set mostly in a single skyscraper block, where genetically modified soldiers and psychic monsters have invaded a biotech firm. And you’ve got it made, because you’re just as modified as the men you face. At any moment, you can slow down time, duck behind a pillar, peep out and take away a soldier’s legs with a single blast from the shotgun. “Holy shit, he’s flanking us,” they scream, as you empty clip after clip into their faces, leaving decapitated corpses spitting blood. Heads are literally rolling. “We got him,” they rejoice, as you hit the wrong button again and select the now empty sub-machine gun. Uh-oh…

This should be brilliant. The mix of ideas are so perfectly balanced: high-action Hollywood gunplay, and a horror plot that’s clearly ripped from The Ring. Following you through the building, both tormenting you and leading you on is Alma, a similarly modified little girl wearing a blood red dress. She’s the focus of F.E.A.R.’s horror interludes. She’ll turn the corridor you’re in into a blazing inferno, walk on the ceilings and torment you with visions.

But it doesn’t follow through. The gun-fights are by far F.E.A.R.’s best element. If they continued uninterrupted for the entire game, you’d have PS3’s answer to Black. But they’re short and fractured. You spend much more time exploring drab offices and cubicles, flicking switches, listening to answer phone messages or solving yet another jumping puzzle. So much of F.E.A.R. is just dead time – minute after minute spent walking through the office block, waiting for the gunfights to kick off.


And that’s not the only problem. This is a port from a two-year-old PC game. Back then it looked startling, particularly because the gunfights kick up so much dust and smoke. Occasionally, you’ll just spray fire into a cloud hoping your bullets will connect – such is the amount of fog kicked up. But it’s aged badly. The PS3 version looks like the PC version running on low detail. The textures are grainy, the fogging inept. It’s drab, too – the office block setting lending itself to infinite shades of grey but little other color. And the issues with conversion don’t stop there.

Despite F.E.A.R.’s simple premise, it’s actually quite a tough game to control. There are just so many buttons. Buttons to lean left and right. The fire button. A button to switch to the land-mines. A button to swap weapon from a choice of three. A flashlight. A reload. A melee attack. A use button. A throw grenade button. All these functions have been mapped quite awkwardly to the Sixaxis. You can only scroll through your guns, not select them individually. This is not clever: too often you’ll be caught switching to an empty gun in the middle of a pitched fire-fight. For the first couple of hours, expect to constantly hit the “change weapon” key, instead of fire. The game provides a few alternative configurations, but none are ever comfortable.
But then, in other ways, this is a good conversion. The online multiplayer has survived intact, with Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes. Online, the slow-motion is triggered by a power-up – when activated the entire game slows to a crawl. And there’s also an instant action minigame – dropping you in a level with an infinite number of cloned bad-guys, seeing how long you can last. It’s this mode that really shows just how fun F.E.A.R. can be: without the shackles of down-time and plot all you’re left to do is shoot. It’s just sad that it never quite finds the key to those shackles.

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