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