FEAR: Ending

By Shamus
on Sep 20, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Total spoilers ahead. If you think you might pick the game up someday, skip the stuff below. The most important thing to know is that they forsake the traditional “Boss Fight” mechanics to deliver something different and (in my opinion) more rewarding. (For a longer review with less spoilers, check out this FEAR review from Alan De Smet.)

So let’s compare how this game worked to how it might have gone if it were a more pedestrian first-person shooter.

Paxton Fettel

What Most Games Would Do: Once you caught up with him, Paxton would jump into one of those walking tanks / powered armor deals, only his would have three times the hit points and infinite rockets. You’d have to fight him in a mostly open room (maybe a few pillars) while he repeated the same three or four taunts throughout the course of the fight. Maybe there would be some trick to the fight. As in: Wait until he charges at you, then step out of the way. When he hits the wall, shoot him in the back! Or perhaps we would get the ever popular: He’s invincible until he starts shouting with his arms over his head. Then aim for his weak spot. Keep doing this until he’s defeated! Yawn. We were there, did that, bought the t-shirt. In fact, this idea is so old that the t-shirt has become faded, torn, and was cut up into scraps to be used in dusting around the house.

Pulled into his madeness, you can’t let this nutjob live.  On the other hand, he’s kneeling in front of you, unarmed. Either he doesn’t understand what he’s seeing, or he doesn’t think you’ll do it.
Pulled into his madeness, you can’t let this nutjob live. On the other hand, he’s kneeling in front of you, unarmed. Either he doesn’t understand what he’s seeing, or he doesn’t think you’ll do it.
What FEAR Gave Us: As you get close to paxton, you begin to take part in his hallucinations. Maybe he’s doing this to you on purpose. Maybe he can’t help it. True to his nature, he makes no effort to defend himself. He’s designed to guide soldiers with his mind, not fight. He’s not even armed. He shows you many disturbing things, but a single round to the head silences him forever. The moment he dies, the visions end and his soldiers become catatonic. The designers traded the clichéd “boss fight” idea and instead gave the player some thought-provoking drama.

Whoever came up with this idea should get a medal. And a fresh t-shirt.

Alma

What Most Games Would Do: We would most likely fight Alma in some sort of nightmare dream world. The other possible venue for this showdown would be her containment sphere – the big ball of liquid chrome that held her mind for so long. In any case, you would first discover a room filled with every weapon in the game, all ammo, a Sam’s Club size box of Heath Kits, and some body armor. Once you were topped off, you would enter the room and fight Alma, who would be hovering above the battlefield, wreathed in particle effects. She would shoot energy bits at you, and every once in a while she would summon a handful of speed bump nasties for you to dispatch. She would repeat the same half-dozen taunts (mostly laughing and screaming “DIE!”) every fifteen seconds or so until you brought her down. Congratulations! You’ve defeated a malevolent apparition by shooting it! With bullets! Roll credits.

A screenshot can’t really do this justice.  That cloud is moving fast and tearing the city apart as it comes.  Seeing this wall advance on you is a thrilling moment.
A screenshot can’t really do this justice. That cloud is moving fast and tearing the city apart as it comes. Seeing this wall advance on you is a thrilling moment.
What FEAR Gave Us: Just sabotage the “reactor” (okay, it’s not that original) and run for it. Fight your way to the surface. As you escape into daylight, the reactor goes boom. I can’t really do justice to these final moments. You’re not really caught in the explosion (which took place far underground) but in the above-ground shockwave. Seeing the city begin to fly apart as that wall of force, debris, and sound rush towards you is a truly thrilling moment. Again, the designers went for drama instead of combat, and the result was a thrilling finale.

The approach they took with both the spooky setting and the final encounters made the game very emotionally potent. The downside to this approach is that the game loses almost all replay value. Since most of the fear comes from not knowing what is going to happen next, the second time through the game I just didn’t have anything to be afraid of.

Still, this was a daring move in a genre famous for absurd boss fights. I admire anyone willing to try something new, and I admire them even more when it pays off as well as it did here. Hats off to Monolith. Nicely done.

Alan De Smet has a good review as well.

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1624 comments. (That's 10 in Hexadecimal.)

From the Archives:

  1. Henebry says:

    A compelling review, Seamus.

    Is there any way, though, that I can talk you into using the word “clichéd” when you mean the adjective and reserving the word “cliché” for the noun?

    Two examples: “The designers traded the clichéd “boss fight” idea …” (here it’s an adjective modifying the noun “idea”
    “The designers traded the cliché of a “boss fight” … ” (here it’s a noun)

    Maybe I’m being a grammar nazi, but I think you should set a better example for the American youth that read your blog. ;-)

  2. Samrobb says:

    “In any case, you would first discover a room filled with every weapon in the game, all ammo, a Sam’s Club size box of Heath Kits…”

    It’s a game balance thing. See, if they let you have that beowulf cluster of PS3s, you’d be able to take down the final boss too easily. No satisfaction there at all.

    They could at least let you have a couple of C64’s, though.

  3. Stephan says:

    Nice review, Shamus.

    I think you should try Star Wars Republic Commando.

  4. Huckleberry says:

    @Henebry: “cliché” as an adjective *is* listed in some dictionaries (eg. in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary) as an alternative to “clichéd” or “cliched” …

  5. GWvsJohn says:

    Henebry, much like the real Nazis, you are wrong. Cliche is undoubtedly an adjective. If you feel the need to be a jerk and correct Shamus’ grammar and spelling, you should probably look in a dictionary first.

    Also, awesome review. I think reading your spoilers has made me want to play the game.

  6. Daktylo says:

    The usage of clique is to “be one of the exclusive group”. Like, join the popular FPS clique, which does all the offensive FPS cliche things.

    But very true on the kudos to Monolith. They released the ever-popular Shogo too. (Of course, they did release Rages of Mages too, but we’ll conveniently forget about that…)

  7. Alan De Smet says:

    The ending to FEAR is rock solid. From my longer review:

    “The game has one of the most satisfying endings I’ve played in a long time. The hardest portions of the game are near the end, but not at the end. While the endgame presented enough challenge to keep me at the edge of my seat, it was easy enough that I played the last half hour or so without needing to load a saved game. The story came to a climax and I played through it without being distracted by save games. I’d had my great dose of action, and now the action took a back seat to plot. It was the right choice. In the end instead of feeling, “wow, that took forever to beat,” I was entirely immersed and enjoyed being part of the story.”

  8. Henebry says:

    GWvsJohn: What are you, a member of Seamus’ posse? I figure Seamus can look after himself. He’s a big boy.

    And, yes, I did look in a dictionary, the American Heritage:
    http://www.bartleby.com/61/43/C0404300.html

    I hadn’t known that some dictionaries (Random House) allow cliché as an adjective. But just because some will let you get away with this usage as a variant doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. People judge you on your word choice. Sure you can get away with wearing a powder blue tux to the prom — like the grammar police, the fashion police is just a metaphorical institution — but that doesn’t make dressing that way a good idea.

    Anyway, I wrote because I figured that Seamus, with his attention to detail on this site, probably cares that it read well. But, looking back, I can see that I should have written him privately. My apologies to all for interrupting a very interesting discussion of video game design: believable realism vs. replay value.

  9. ArchU says:

    I’ve been partial to Monolith games for quite a while. I have a few of their old games, dating right back to Get Medieval. Whilst not at all original it’s fun for a romp, especially multiplayer.

    As for F.E.A.R., I agree with everything Shamus wrote. The end was like a rollercoaster ride. Out of interest, before the last cutscene involving Fettel you can drop all your weapons a little way up the hall (since you lose them during that cutscene). Then go back and collect them again once you’re done with him – not that you need anything larger than a pistol to finish the game with.

  10. lplimac says:

    Hehe… I spent the last bit of the game trying to jump back into the building to avoid the shock wave :D I will say one thing…. I’ve worked for the Military/Industrial complex for many years and I’ve never seen any of that cool equipment… must have been with the wrong companies :p Heck they took the guns away from the guards!

    F.E.A.R. was definitely worth the money… I’m looking forward to the next one.

  11. Rich says:

    Easy folks. While this is all in fun, this comment:

    “Henebry, much like the real Nazis, you are wrong”

    Sucks.

    Please see this for further elucidation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

    While the very first comment used the term “grammar nazi” with a winky at the end, I personally don’t use the term at all. I guess YMMV.

  12. lxs says:

    There is a pre-existing solution to recycling narrative-based media. Wait a few years :)

    If you still remember the position of every facehugger, you need a) a trauma counsel, b) OCD meds, c) more recreational drugs.

  13. Jez says:

    I think you really should invest in getting Fear: Extraction Point. It doesn’t offer anything completely new in terms of gameplay, but it contains some arguably even scarier moments and solves a lot of questions regarding Paxton Fettel.

  14. Space Ace says:

    I always figured that killing Fettel was necessary to set Alma free. This also explains why she didn’t splatter the PC’s fragile, meaty body all over the wall. I recall him muttering something to the effect that it was intentional, at least.

    Also, I didn’t like Extraction Point very much. Not made by the same developers and offering pretty much zero story. Good action and creepy atmosphere, but not much beyond that.

  15. StashAugustine says:

    I would just like to note from the future that this is basically a blow for blow description of the endgame of FEAR 3.

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