F.E.A.R. Game Review
Sound, Multiplayer, Conclusion
Sounds and Voice Acting: Itís better than those crappy ads you see on TV
Surprisingly enough the voice actors in this game are suited quite well to their characters. The lip-syncing in the game is also quite good, as I donít find myself wondering where exactly the animation of the NPC is at in its sentence in relation to the audio that Iím hearing, or vice-versa. I think the voice acting in this game is probably top-notch for a PC game that hasnít attracted the attention of big Hollywood stars.
Aside from that aspect of the sound, the sound effects for various actions in-game I find are adequate and appropriate. There is nothing special about the sound effects themselves, the weapons sounding not unlike youíd expect them to.
What I will say though is that the music is used to great effect when setting the mood of the scene. During firefights it is fast-paced and action-packed, making you feel like you want to get out there and kill something, afterward it will change to suspenseful and eerie music, making your brain do a back-flip. I would often question whether or not my trusty shotgun was going to be good enough to take down whatever crazy paranormal thing I saw.
Multiplayer: You can instill F.E.A.R into others
First and foremost, the in-game server browser. To put it simply: it sucks. While it does provide basic functionality for locating and joining servers, thatís about all it does. You can sort by the important values; ping, players and map, and you can filter out the full and empty servers. However, one important and prominent feature thatís missing is the ability to save favourite servers. Each time you want to play online you must refresh all the available servers, and sort them manually until you can find one you like. This is only avoided by the use of third-party game finding software. I do have one further thing to say: if Monolith (or any other developer for that matter) are going to write an in-game server browser, they might as well do it properly, and incorporate the same powerful features that are available in any third-party application.
The multiplayer side of the game is as varied as your average FPS title can be. There are several game modes, which include the typical Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag game modes.
One aspect of the multiplayer gaming I will comment on is the apparent impossibility for the developers to incorporate an effective solution for the use of SlowMo. In Team Deathmatch SlowMo there will be a specified ďSlowMo holderĒ who carries a special object with them (denoted by a blue glow eminating from their character) who controls when SlowMo is activated. When they decide to activate SlowMo, the entire team will experience its effects, regardless of their current positions on the map in relation to the firefight.
I find this quite unusual as I donít feel it adds anything to the gameplay. Perhaps you could look at it from the angle of helping to ensure the SlowMo-er uses it effectively and conservatively, ie, when his team mates are around him and together facing the enemy. However, I fear that itís perhaps a silly implementation issue. I recall playing a mod for the orginal Half-Life called Firearms, which in its heyday incorporated a Matrix-style slow-motion and hand-to-hand combat system. The amazing thing was that each client could enable and disable slow-motion combat on their end whenever they pleased, without affecting the gameplay speed of the other clients. Itís surprising because apparently a professional developer like Monolith couldnít figure out how to code something that some kids did when they made themselves a Half-Life mod.
Miscellaneous items: Thereís gotta be more to it, right?
F.E.A.R has two further things Iíd like to mention. Firstly, there is inbuilt benchmarking software that enables you to tweak your system for maximum efficiency and framerates. Unfortunately though, it isnít terribly effective. The demo played each time is dynamic and the outcomes of the benchmark vary each time you run it. This is because the level of smoke and gunfire you see is determined each time by the AI NPCs firing at each other.
Aside from this, the benchmark itself is not representative of real-world gameplay. I found that although the benchmark gives back detailed results, including a percentage spread of the framerates and the minimum. maximum and average values, these numbers simply have no context when youíre actually playing the game. Although my system returned terrible results in the demo with Volumetric Lighting enabled, in-game there is no noticeable framerate difference. I feel the benchmark utility is a nice touch, but is ultimately useless.
The last thing Iíd like to mention is that SecuROM, the technology behind anti-piracy attempts, has been reported to play havoc with those trying to install and use the game via their DVD-R/RW drives. It seems as though SecuROM doesnít like people putting their F.E.A.R DVDs anywhere near a device capable of making copies, and as such some users are complaining about their inability to play the game, with it locking up every few minutes, presumably while SecuROM checks to make sure the DVD is real. Even if you get to the stage of being able to play the game, issues with SecuROM being unable to verify the authenticity of real, bought-from-the-store DVDs, consequently preventing the game from being run, are also plaguing users of DVD-R/RW drives.
Conclusion: It has to end somewhere
All in all, F.E.A.R offers a solid gaming experience. With its ease of installation and setup, assuming you arenít using a DVD-R/RW, youíll be on your way to playing the game merely minutes after sitting down at your PC. The control system is easy to configure despite the extra gameplay elements and player functionality that F.E.A.R brings over the standard FPS implementation. That isnít to say that F.E.A.R is vastly different to your run of the mill FPS game - it has some amusing extra features that give it that little bit more; things that simply make you say, ďOh, thatís different.Ē The graphics are superb but let down by sub-par textures and the audio serves its purpose well, with music setting the mood of the scene quite appropriately. Multiplayer is a wholesome, fun experience, and will provide some hours of gameplay after youíve finished the single-player campaign. No release is without its issues, and F.E.A.R has them with SecuROM, though these issues are purportedly confined to the systems of those with DVD-R/RW drives.
Overall Iíd give F.E.A.R a solid 8/10.
There's a large thread about this game here in OCAU's Games forum.
All original content copyright James Rolfe.
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