I avoided FEAR for a while because I just didn’t think the game could work. It’s supposed to be scary, but in the game you play an elite soldier. It’s hard to be frightened when you’re a certified badass. DOOM3 went for scary and mostly missed. I enjoyed the game, but the classic high-speed deathmatch-style combat doesn’t lend itself to fear and suspense driven gameplay. Why should I be scared of this monster? I’ll just circle-strafe him until he’s dead.
But the game came highly recommended from my friends, so I gave it a try. It’s different from what I expected. It dumps the fast-paced run-and-gun mayhem for the more deliberate pace of a tactical shooter. This means the game favors and encourages things like crouching, crawling, leaning around corners, listening before entering rooms, and hiding behind cover. If you do that in a DOOM-style game you’ll just get shredded, but here the more realistic behavior pays off, which changes the pace of the game and makes it more amenable to setting the proper mood.
|Boo. In the game you see lots of shadows, visions, objects going bump, and other unnerving things. You can never be sure if what you’re seeing is real.|
The pacing is great. Unlike typical shooters, the game isn’t a chain of monster-filled rooms connected by corridors. There are long stretches of non-combat in some areas, which makes it all the more powerful when combat does take place. The enemy soldiers never feel like speed bumps, even when you outfox them and put them down with minimal risk or fuss.
And speaking of outfoxing them:
|A second ago this guy was taking potshots at me from atop the catwalk. I took cover, and while I was fighting one of his buddies he jumped down and tried to get behind me. I caught him, but while I was taking this shot another one of his buddies came around at me from the other direction. These guys really do seem to be working together.|
|I am the one. Slow motion is fun to use. For most of the game you just have a small supply which is only good for a few seconds. You can’t fight a whole battle with it. Instead, you try to unleash it at just the right moment to do as much harm as you can and then return to cover before it runs out. If you try to deathmatch these guys a la Doom, they will blast you right out to the game over screen.|
The story is about par for the course. The main antagonist seems to be a specter / demon / spookything that takes the form of a young girl. She’s gotten me to jump or made my skin crawl a number of times.
The levels are fantastic. They flow naturally from one area to another. They offer just enough branching paths and choices to keep the game interesting, but keep things tight enough that you don’t find yourself meandering through completed areas looking for your next objective. The levels so far are modeled after real-world places like warehouses and office buildings, and they manage to keep exploration interesting without sacrificing realism.
Load times are good. Level transitions are rare, and when I did hit them they were only fifteen seconds or so. Reloading the same level (as happens when you die) is very fast, not more than a couple of seconds. Load times are usually a mood killer in games, and it was nice to see them do so much to mitigate that. Kudos to the developers.
Graphics performance was decent. My graphics card is a dusty old relic from the bygone ages of a couple of years ago, and the game warned me that it might have trouble keeping up, but in the end I was able to enjoy the game with most of the special effects turned up and still get a playable experience. Water reflections looked a little wonky and once in a while it would get choppy, but overall the game looked fantastic. (My card is an NVIDIA 6200. If you have anything newer than that the game will probably run just fine for you.) I do suggest making sure you turn shadows up all the way. The game turned them off for me at first, and it killed the atmosphere of the game. It was easily worth the performance hit to have full shadows enabled.
I’ve heard a rumor that this game contains SecuROM. I haven’t messed around to confirm this, although I will say I don’t see any unwanted processes showing up and the game runs even though I have both Process Explorer and a kernel debugger (MS Dev Studio) on my system. So, if SecuROM did come along for the ride, it came in an older, less objectionable form than the one in BioShock. The game ran fine and didn’t give me any copy
protection prevention hassles.
So far so fun.
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53 thoughts on “FEAR: First Impressions”
Great review, full of detail. Glad you enjoyed the game.
FEAR is the second time I’ve seen a game that actually managed to scare me. The other one was Thief: Deadly Shadows at the Shalebridge Cradle.
max payne was another game that featured “bullet time,” though it was a more traditional shooter. but i loved that mode in the game; it did become something of a crutch for me eventually though.
Why are little girls in computer games always spooky? I mean I know they can make sounds that only dolphins and bats can hear, but that doesn’t necessarily make _all_ of them genetic experiments/aliens/possessed…
Sounds like a good game Shamus – I had avoided it for most of the same reasons you had, so it sounds like I should give it another look. In fact, one day I think we’re going to have to pester you into doing a post about your N favorite games of all time, because I want to make sure I haven’t missed any of them; so far our tastes in games seem to almost entirely overlap. (Picked up an old copy of Fallout the other day because you mentioned it; good stuff!)
I may get this one, thanks for the awesome “warts and all” review.
Speaking of creepy levels, the Oceanside Hotel in Vampire: Bloodlines really got under my skin. Actually, VtM:B seems to be one of the “pick your destiny” CRPGs that actually works. (You hear me, Fable?)
I downloaded the demo on my 360. One night after the wife and kids had gone to bed I was playing through various demos and came to this one around midnight. I started it up, walked around a bit, was creeping down the dark corridor with the unsteady lights at the other end and the little girl ran across the far end of the corridor in the flashing light. I shut the game off and loaded up the NHL 08 demo again to clear my mind before going to sleep… ;)
I can’t explain why little girls are so creepy to me, but they were the scariest part of Kubrick’s The Shining and would have made the Ring scary if it weren’t so ridiculous to begin with.
This game sounds very similar to System Shock 2, how well does it compare?
I really enjoyed F.E.A.R. – though it was not what I was expecting at first.
The thing most games don’t get is that creatures jumping out at you is NOT scary. Well, not after the first one, at least. And not when you can blow them away after they jump out at you. It becomes annoying very quickly.
The thing that works in F.E.A.R. is its creepiness. And their sparing use of Alma (the little girl) until the end.
Incidentally, one of the biggest jumps I got in the game was when I THOUGHT I saw Alma behind a window. It turned out to be the top of a plant. It WORKED.
Why is it so hard to shoot what may not be there? if I have doubts as to the solidity of something I see, I would, had I a gun, shoot it.
Also, why is it that they send soldiers against supernatural forces?
This game, in concert with some weather, scared the heck out of me. I was playing, as I often do, late at night with headphones (over the ear, blocks out most external noise variety). Playing in the dark, as is also usual for me, I hit one of the many spots in the game where things go bump and at the exact moment something went bump in game a tree branch sanpped off a tree out front and banged loudly against the window next to me. I screamed like a little girl… woke my 18 month old son who was asleep in the next room, brought my wife out of bed thinking something terrible had happened and got to spend the next 20 minutes trying to explain to my wife how the wind, a tree branch, and a game conspired to make a grown man squeal like a scared 5 year old….
Yep. It’s a good game alright. Creepy fun!
I’ll say that I enjoyed FEAR, but it isn’t one of my favorites. It was creepy, but by the time this game came out, the whole “creepy little girl” thing was totally overdone.
I didn’t find the combat to be particularly “tactical”. It was more or less a striaght run-and-gun for me. Maybe I wasn’t taking as much time as I should have to let suspense build and think about entering a room before I went in.
The bullet-time was cool, but it seemed to me to be just a toned down version of the slow-motion mode in Max Payne. It was fun and it added a lot to the gameplay, which was great throughout, but many aspects of the game came off as fairly derivative to me, which dulled my enjoyment slightly.
Playing it now, after The Ring and all those other “Creepy little girl” movies have faded somewhat might make it more enjoyable, particularly if you haven’t played Max Payne or watched those movies.
It was an excellent game in terms of graphics, gameplay, setting, design, etc… It just fell a little flat for me in the story department.
I will admit to feeling similarly about the creepy little girls in Bioshock, but I think what makes them work is that the game keeps offering bits and pieces of explanation about who they are and how they came to be. Also, unlike many other works, the little sisters in Bioshock represent no threat to you. If you leave them alone, they leave you alone. I feel bad for them rather than fear them.
Oters34 – Sometimes you can shoot at the incorporeal figures, sometimes you can’t (it sort of freezes you – like a dream sequence kind of thing). Very often the phantom girl is there for only a fraction of a second – a quick flash of her down a hallway or rounding a corner. It’s very sudden and can be quite jarring. Add an excellent atmospheric sound track and flickering or swinging light sources and it makes for quite the compelling horror movie!
It really needs to be played to understand how well done it is. It pulls you into it’s world and then proceeds to creep you out.. sometimes it’s little things that slowly add up in your perception to create that creepy feeling and sometimes it’s overt but it is all masterfully done.
“Speaking of creepy levels, the Oceanside Hotel in Vampire: Bloodlines really got under my skin.”
Oh, definitely right with you on that one. I’ve played through that god-only-knows-how-many times, and it _still_ manages to literally send shivers up my spine every time. I have no idea how a mission can freak me out like that when there are no actual enemies and only 1, maybe 2, points where you’re really in risk of dying…
Telas – Vampire Bloodlines did, in fact, have one decent creepy-level. Admittedly the whispering-in-your-ear while you have your pistol out, looking for an enemy that doesn’t seem to exist is a nice trick. As far as calling it a “Pick Your Destiny” game though… I’d have to disagree: it’s extremely railroaded throughout, with only a handful of missions being optional, and most dialogue choices leading to the same result. The only real choice comes at the very end, and even that leads you to the same missions… albeit just with a different cinema at the end.
I wonder as to the re-play value of a game like this. First time through is frightening and wonderful. Second time through… you know that’s just a funny shadow moving, and you run right by it.
Somewhere in the game is a newspaper laying on the floor which reads “EVENT HORIZON RETURNED!” An interesting reference to the scifi/horror film that’s always left me wondering if the game’s designers wanted a more firm connection between the two and were unable to negotiate anything with Paramount.
This was one of the first games I got recently to test out the graphical prowess of my 8800GTS, most of my games I play having been a bit on the older side (WoW doesn’t really beat up a recent vid card unless you force more antialiasing through your video drivers). I was really pleasantly surprised with this game. The graphics are very impressive for a game that’s a few years old in itself and the explosion effect of grenades is really cool coupled with the generous shrapnel and items being thrown about.
Unfortunately some of the creepiest enemies you only encounter a few times; you mostly face the grunts though they get a little tougher over time. The environments also get kind of repetitive and can become kind of mazelike in their similarity.
The sound is very good and you are missing out if you don’t have a surround setup. The ending is very well done and probably one of the creepiest parts of the game.
From what I’ve read, the expansion isn’t much more than more of the same combat, though.
One of the things I liked about FEAR was the way that the “poltergeist effects” were often off to the side, not necessarily right in front of the player (or worse, snapping the player’s view to the effect.) I was constantly going “wait, what was that moving? Did I really just see something?”
I just LOVED F.E.A.R. – couldn’t get enough of it. Try the add-on, if you can get your hands on it.
Creepy game -whatÂ´s that? Doom was -ohmygoditjumpsatme!!
However the light thing was good. FarCry was something I liked. But again only It-jumps-at-me-creepy. A decent horrorgame which freaks me out…never had that. IÂ´ll try FEAR. Talking about tactical. OP Flashpoint was the most nervewracking thing I ever played. Still love it. Not shooter but tac-sim. Usually I tend to think a good sim produces much more angst than a shooter ever could. Silent Hunter III must have shortened my life. Ah! Yes! Hidden and Dangerous 2. That came close to flashpoint.
Oh and @Oters34.
Did you remember the one game. Yes that one where you play the top-exorcist guy the vatican uses when natural powers turn freaky? Yeeah. That one I really liked. Prepairing a good banishment while zombies try to bring down the door you barricaded with the desk. Crash! They found the window! Get out! … No! Back in! They mustnÂ´t have the crucifix of San Ivo. Holy waterÂ´s empty. Why did you have to use it on the bats? The first rite of banishment…”In servitudinem te abduco…” No thatÂ´s the third. “Ego te absolvo!” -Great you have just forgiven olÂ´ flakyskin all his sins. Back to the library, find the “Seventh Damnation of Maxentius”. It must be here…somewhere. ItÂ´s just 20.000 books. Most are latin. Some aramaeic. DonÂ´t forget the greek ones. Always loved the greek ones. So while you work your way through long dead pages. Doomtrooper (TM) walks up main avenue, loads-up Big Effing Gun and blows good old Zoombay and friends to zog.
He then boards a cool looking gunship and vaporises the occult base from orbit. You only get the Papamobile (TM).
Ok. Maybe I was overreacting. But do you get my drift? -However I would take a shot at this game.
I played F.E.A.R. I never got past the “first impression”. Not because the game was bad… No. On the contrary, it was because it was TOO good at what it is best at: being scary.
Seriously. I’m not squeamish at all, or a scaredy cat. I find most horror movies to be entertaining, but hardly scary. The Ring, for instance, had an interesting plot and some wicked cutting and symbolism, but it awoke no feeling of terror in me.
In F.E.A.R., I was dreading each time a combat “segment” ended, because I found the horror segments so scary. I tried turning of shadows, sitting in a well-lid room, with no sound, and I STILL made a loud noise each time the little girl appeared behind me.
I had to quit at last because I was getting through the game at snail pace, and I honestly were worried if my nerves could take it.
I guess, in my case at least, the thing about YOU being the character that has to go through such an horrible ordeal really means a lot.
Had a similar experience with FEAR. I bought it right after it came out because I’d been following it’s development closely. Scared the pants off me but I found the story jumped the shark at the end and left me feeling letdown. Too much railroading :)
speaking of bioshock, i thought this guy’s review of it was pretty entertaining:
I really enjoyed F.E.A.R. More than any other game it strikes a perfect balance between the arcadey Quake style of FPS where it takes several seconds of concentrated gunfire to kill anything and the “one hit and you’re dead” philosophy of more tactical FPS games like Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon. It’s challenging and requires a modicum of thinking, and slow motion mode, destructible environments and plenty of gibbing just make the game cool. A lot of any FPS is how the system “feels,” and F.E.A.R. is just how I want a shooter to be.
That said, I didn’t find the game scary at all, and I’m someone who is easily creeped out by video games. I still freak out anytime I find head crabs in Half Life, and I even though Eternal Darkness was pretty creepy. Despite playing F.E.A.R. at night after work in a dark room with headphones, there weren’t that many moments that really creeped me out. I think it most of it was because the scary sequences never seemed threatening. You’re a bad-ass super soldier armed to the teeth with vicious weapons who can move in slow motion. That was enough psychological reinforcement to kill any suspense the scenes might have otherwise had.
It didn’t help that the scenes rarely even had the possibility of hurting you. It was a little like being in a haunted house: you know the actors can’t touch you, so who really cares?
Finally, it was obvious that the scare scenes were just there to serve as a (welcome) break from the constant stress of fighting high-pitched battles with lots of soldiers. Rather than being a source of further stress, they weren’t that bad because they were less stressful than the combat that preceded them!
Still, I can’t wait to see what Monolith does with their non-F.E.A.R. branded sequel that takes place in the same universe. Even more of the same would be fine with me.
I mostly found the horror bits of the game vexing, I think this derives from my playing the game specificially because I had an itch to play a FPS, so I went through the game being annoyed at much of the horror stuff because it slowed down my ability to go kill stuff.
Headshotting opponents with the HV penetrator is a lot of fun though, and makes retracing your steps a bit more creepy since you have corpses pinned to walls and in some cases the roof.
I even had one pinned next to a wall about 3 metres in the air, on the wrong side of a ladder.
Yeah. Cool game. Another cool feature? Flying kicks and tackles! One of my friends actually tried to do the game without using guns (more than necessay). Possible by using covers and bullettime. If you havent seen it (i didnt know before my friend told me) try do a standard melee while on the run, then quickly duck (or jump).
But the game wasnt close to scary compared to the ONE thief 3 level. I was totally unable to play that game without daylight outside. And i didnt turn my light off that night…
Hmmm.. Vampires has some scary levels? I really wanna play that game. But i didnt like it the first time i tried the game. It was too… stiff. And cramped. Like Deus Ex 2. No, worse. Anyway…
Any other FPS scary games out there?
Hey Shamus, glad you liked it. I worked on the Day 1 Studios Xbox/PS3 port… and I have to say that Monolith definitely does have their act together when it comes to balancing the AI.
Alas, although I’m neither a designer nor a Monolith employee, I probably am not at liberty to get into a discussion on game design decisions on titles worked on by my employer. Suffice to say that after playing the first 5-10 levels about a hundred times I don’t even remember what was supposed to be scary… it was usually “climb down the ladder, there’s Alma, walk through Fettel, kill 4 guys, pick up phone, and press button. Debug.”
Thanks for the good review, I have heard of FEAR before and will definitely give it a try now – it seems to be what I like (and for the record I like UT circle-strafe shooters too, just different styles!).
I liked FEAR. Really made my hair stand up on several occasions. But then again, sometime after playing through about half of it, the plot became clear. I had seen the end coming from miles away. That really hurt the atmosphere imho. Other than that I also liked the enym AI, this was one of the few FPS where you could not run in with blazing guns and mow down everything in your path.
Comparing FEAR and System Shock 2? Hardly possible. I replayed System Shock 2 over and over since it is one of my all time favorites. I played FEAR only once, after I did it, the atmosphere was gone. All that remains is a solid tactical shooter, but there are better tactical shooters than FEAR.
“Speaking of creepy levels, the Oceanside Hotel in Vampire: Bloodlines really got under my skin.”
I had to stop playing this level several times. My heartrate often was at a level beyond healthy. I regularly watch Horror Movies and I like “scary”, but what they did with that level, ranks as “plain genius” on my “scary scale”. Especially with my trustworthy 5.1 Headset. After the first few vases were tossed when I passed them I started to move step by step through that Hotel. When I hit the cellar, all I wanted was to get the f*** outta there as fast as possible. They REALLY messed with my mind.
I absolutely loved that Oceanside Hotel level…..my favourite bit is trying to climb up the service elevator shaft, and having a soft frightened voice whisper urgently to me, “Watch out!” before I look up to see the elevator urgently towards me….
Sure, if I played it again, it’d be a bit more cheesy, but I think its testament to the immersion that whole level provided to the game….easily the best level in the game.
FEAR is good too – though I agree, the ending becomes predictable half-way through….
Hey Corsair: I agree completely! re: fear scary and thief deadly shadows! Only two gameS! I wonder if Bioshock will deliver…
The expansion fear I actually found scarier (if that’s even possible) and more disturbing.
In deadly shadows there was something about hearing a spider that had spotted you in the dark which you couldn’t see, swinging wildly in front of you
Bioshock is a great game, but it’s not particularly scary. Creepy, but not scary.
I enjoyed what I played of FEAR. I honestly didn’t think that it was particularly groundbreaking or anything like that but it was entertaining. There were some annoying parts and such, but combat was generally pretty entertaining. It would have been a bit better if you didn’t feel like you were fighting the same guy over and over and over and over and over again, though.
One thing that I definitely have to praise Monolith for is the engine. FEAR looks awesome and runs great on my system (P4 2.8, no hyperthreading, AGP GF6600GT) despite some newer games both looking and playing worse on the same setup.
I didn’t think much of FEAR, to my mind it had a good atmosphere that was ruined by the FPS.
I loved fear, it was just a little creepy, enough to keep me on my toes. I really don’t get afraid often in real life.
Many people didn’t like the expansion, but I loved it. Harder fights and much more creepy for me. I’ve never thought of a game being scary until I played the fear expansion.
In the expansion you go to a hospital, usual stuff except the rooms are white. Then you get out of an elevator, you’re in the maternity ward, there’s blood everywhere and a baby is crying somewhere close by. “Shit. This isn’t going to go well.”
Ah, yeah. FEAR was pretty cool. It does tend to get a little samey as you go on, but there are some really great combat setpieces, some fun weapons (the long-distance sniper zapper is highly entertaining), and some exceptionally creepy bits. The part where the creepy stuff happens out of the corner of your eye always gets me, too. You head down a hall, and a little girl runs across the doorway ahead of you, and when you get there, there’s noplace she could have gone, but she’s not there. Eeeeek.
Once you’ve finished FEAR, try Stalker. 8)
I found that FEAR was not quite as scary as System Shock 2, but then they focus on horror from different angles: SS2 focused more on the isolation of being on a dead ship, and FEAR was more about the whole “what’s in that shadow” effect.
That said, it’s still a respectably creepy game.
I did feel that the BGM of the game detracted somewhat from the spooky factor, though; the Scare Chords which played every time you came across something gruesome or creepy began to feel utterly cheesy after a while.
@Oters34: One reason I didn’t really want to shoot at every shadow was due to the real life problem of ammunition conservation, while another was that I was worried that if I shot at something that was not really there, the gunshots would alert whatever more mundane enemy forces were in the area.
Incidentally, as for the Ocean View hotel sequence in VTM Bloodlines, I didn’t find it all that creepy after the first three minutes, because that was about how long it took me to realize that yes, it’s a spooky haunted hotel with ghosts, but I’m a freaking vampire. It’s not like whatever they can do to me is much worse than what’s already happened.
Ah, FEAR was an… interesting game.
I didn’t really like it. Not a huge fan of scary things, simply because most of the time it’s just about showing something quickly to startle you, or showing something so you wonder “is it real?”. After playing through STALKER, I got kinda jaded about that stuff (Bloodsuckers everywhere, DAMN IT!). I stopped caring the third time I saw that little girl rounding a corner or appearing suddenly in a flash, or the fifth time I saw something weird (soldiers being flayed alive, those poltergeists).
The gameplay was very nice, had a great pace. The game was very well designed and executed. I’d give it a 4 out of 5, just because it got damn repetitive after the first supernatural tricks appared. It came to the point I started to try and guess what would happen as soon as I turned that next corner. By the end of the game I was guessing right most of the time already.
@ dev null (although given that name, replying could be a little futile :P):
The reason all little girls in the genres seem to some form of possessed/vampire/other scary thing is that is has more of a visceral effect if you take the normally innocent and sweet and make it attack you. Little girls are supposed, forgive my chauvinism, to be protected by society, more so than boys, and so have most impact
It’s not too scary until you pee your pants.
Well, that’s why they won’t let my best friend make haunted houses anymore… ;-)
A friend and I were playing games in his dining room at around 1 or 2 pm once, he was playing FEAR, and every time he saw or thought he saw Alma he fell out of his chair and started twitching. I chose not to play that game….
I spoke to the guy who recommended the game. He suggested playing as different clans for more plot flexibility. Apparently Malkavians (the insane vampires) are particularly interesting…
The Hotel in VTM was indeed great, and I found myself wishing they’d made a general World of Darkness game so I could run through it once more with a Mage and fuck with the ghosts.
Regarding a general World of Darkness game: Looks like the developers of EVE Online and White Wolf are, indeed, working on such a game, though it’ll likely be in MMO format (and for nWoD). See here: http://www.eve-online.com/pressreleases/default.asp?pressReleaseID=26
As for FEAR, I gotta disagree about the expansion being scary. It was a run-and-gun game, to a much greater degree than the original. The encounters seemed far more scripted, with fewer ways to out-think your enemy that leads to more “spam Penetrator shots until they’re dead” scenarios. Case in point: I recall one particularly railroaded fight, ironically in a subway station, in which they closed all the gates and started firing rocket salvos while standard assault-rifle-wielding mooks came up the stairs at you. It was tough, but there was none of the cover or other interesting elements to add any thought to the fight, so it was really more tedious than anything. Also, 90% of the scares become “BOO!” with a ghost, rather than mood-based and subtle. I was highly disappointed. And don’t even get me started on that ending…
My first impression was that this game feels very much like the original Half-Life, in feel of execution, and I think it’s Vivendi and Monolith’s answer to Valve and Half-Life 2, now that Valve and VU are no longer talking.
I have a serious beef with VU as a company, however, and so won’t be purchasing the game.
I found that FEAR wasn’t particularly scary once you realized one critical fact:
Alma can’t hurt you. Aside from the “SHOOT THE CHARGING GHOST, WIN AN IPOD” sequences, NOTHING she did could hurt you, the startup of most of them was telegraphed by your radio acting up, and there were never any soldiers around at the same time. Never got the expansion, so I can’t comment on it.
Anyway, I consider FEAR more a super-soldier simualtor than a horror game. It’s _Set_ in a horror movie, except that you’re the most dangerous thing in it.
Btw Shamus, you use the term Circlestrafe in your article. That rang a bell here and I remember a Quake 3 Arena mod called DeFRaG. You should check it out, seriously.
Been a while since this has been updated but the online community seems still to be alive.
If you wonder what that is…
seems to be circle strafing :)…
Ah…Circlestrafing. I bought a Logitech joystick with a spinner on it designed just for that purpose. I could kick all kinds of a$$ in Duke Nukem with that thing! I should find out if you can still get drivers for it, cause it would make me INVINCIBLE in FarCry! INVINCIBLE, I say! Of course, using the hat switch to look was a bit dodgy…but who needs to look up or down when you’re CIRCLESTRAFING!!!1!
The Hollywood remake of “The Ring” was definitely not scary. The original Japanese version “Ring” was ambiently creepy right the way throughout and the end of it totally blew me away.
As for F.E.A.R., I first played it with a 7800gtx and the graphics were awesome even then but I couldn’t get full detail. I loved it and it scared the hell out of me even the second time through.
I recently finished the expansion pack “Extraction Point” (or XP for short) with SLId 8800gts cards for fantastic graphics realism but it just didn’t have the same impact. Sure, parts of it were still freaky (especially in the hospital, sheesh) but the end of the story lost the entire purpose of the game and left me very dissatisfied overall.
I found the expansion to be very railroading, even in some of the environments where invisible walls were created to prevent the player from gaining a tactical placement advantage over the enemy.
Oh yes, the game does use SecuROM. I had major issues with it telling me to turn off my DVD region override software. Then I updated to v1.05 and it stopped working entirely because of an incompatibility with my LG DVD drives that I needed to approach SecuROM directly to get a new fear.exe file.
I’m using Pioneer drives now and don’t have any incompatibility issues.
The reason I liked the expansion was because creepy shit could put the hurt on you.
I picked this up over the weekend and had the following reactions:
1. Whenever “Random scary, dead thing” flashed by, I tried to shoot it and was confused why my gun wasn’t working.
2. Whenever “Creepy Evil Girl from the Ring” popped up, I tried to put a round in her head and was confused why she wouldn’t react to a gunshot to the face.
3. Whenever there was a shadow or other hallucination nearby, I tried to shoot it.
4. The AI is fairly smart, but you can abuse it by learning how it reacts to certain tactical choices and then giggle when it does the predictable counter to your move and eats a gun stock to the face.
5. The submachine gun in this game has a really weird spread pattern.
6. I almost put a round in bad guy 001 at the very beginning before he put me down. I wonder how anti-climactic it would be if you made a game where if the player was fast enough he could kill the main bad guy before the game really god started.
7. I figured out the story in record time. =( It’s not that it was bad cliche, it’s just I think I’ve seen or read every possible reference this game works around – so the plot was fairly obvious.
Based on these reactions I learned that:
A. My “fear” response is broken when playing videogames. My first reaction to any threat is to put a round into its head before going, “CRAP! I wasted a round on a stupid hallucination!” So fear turns into frustration as I have to reload and grumble about “Stupid ghosts wasting my time.”
B. I really need to get out more and stop playing so many games that I get the plot in the first 30 minutes of playing a game.
I quite liked FEAR (although I didn’t find it particularly scary, it did have a good level of creepiness), and both the game and story aspects were done fairly well, I think. The expansion, however (which was done by someone else) sacrifices almost all of the story, so it’s nowhere near as good. It’s still fairly entertaining, but it’s nowhere near as good as the original was.
I’ve noticed an interesting pattern in horror games and films. People who are frightened by horror games very often seem not to be significantly affected by watching horror films, and vice versa – I suspect it’s something to do with the fact that you’re in control in the former, and a passive observer in the latter, but I’m not sure exactly why this might be.
Creepy Little Girls ™ seem a little overused in horror stories of any medium – possibly because if your scriptwriting is falling below expectations and you’re having trouble getting stuff to scare people, CLGs are all but guaranteed to kick in the horror atmosphere’s afterburners. Perhaps it would be fun to create an authoritative list of instances – just offhand, I can think of Kubrick’s The Shining, Life on Mars, Asimov’s Foundation and Earth (technically that one was a hermaphrodite), Bioshock, FEAR, COC:Dark Corners of the Earth, Ringu (although that one’s less “creepy” and more “stroke-inducingly terrifying”), Silent Hill, some of the darker versions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice (If you’re interested in the stuff of real nightmares, check out the one by Jan Svankmajer), and I’m sure there are plenty of others.
That said, however, I’m one of those people who’s willing to forgive a tired old cliche if only it’s done really masterfully well – one of my all time favourites of this particular one is the testcard girl in Life on Mars. I think it’s that subversion of something so utterly familiar and apparently harmless, something that everyone could see every day before the advent of 24/7 broadcasting and had practically become a cultural item, that makes it work so well.
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