Do you know the meaning of FEAR? After playing through the demo of this new shooter, I sure as heck do.
First Encounter Assault Recon
OK, so don't get cocky - yes, that's the actual acronym. The F.E.A.R. team (damn, all those full stops are annoying) are a group of soldiers who are called in when there appears to be a situation that's a little bit paranormal. The demo contains the intro to the game, as well as the first section of the level, which guides you though the mechanics of being an elite fighting unit with amazing reflexes.
The black blur you can see in that enlarged cornea is the form of a little girl. She's disturbing. In the vein of all the best horror films, it's the cute, innocent-yet-psychopathic toddlers that have it in for you. In the intro sequence to the game, you see her drive some chap absolutely bonkers, to the point where he goes off on a killing (and eating, erk) spree.
Much to the annoyance of my pants, she pops up at various places throughout the introductory level, just in case all the darkness hadn't quite given you enough of the heeby-jeebies. Her appearance is accompanied by a cute little playground-laugh - if I could play this game from behind the sofa, I would. Doom 3 ain't got nothing on this.
As if the psychological horror wasn't quite enough for you, there's gore too. By the bucket load. The introductory sequence sees a man feasting on another poor chap, and the in-game action is accompanied by copious amounts of the red stuff. To add to the grit, the enemy troopers swear like... well, troopers, missing no opportunity to shout the F-word at their colleagues. This is a grown up game in every, single, sense.
In terms of actual gameplay - dare we say it - it seems a fairly 'by the numbers' FPS. There's people to blow up, objectives to complete and a fairly linear level structure. Perhaps the major difference is the bullet time feature, which we've seen before in Max Payne but not in a FPS.
However, there are some majorly cool bits here and there. The world is incredibly destructible - you've seen bullet-marks in walls before, but not like this.
The best bit is undoubtedly the A.I. The performance of the enemy soldiers is nothing short of outrageously good. The soldiers flank, gang up, take cover - so far, so mundane. But they also jump through windows, crawl through blocked areas to avoid grenades, work in conjunction with their team mates to take you down, and are generally rock solid. This is not an easy game to beat.
Three people shooting
If I had to pick one stand-out moment from the demo, it would probably be the first moment you hear the little girl walk past you. You see nothing but her shadow on the wall, and hear her laugh. Turn around nothing. Creepy as hell. But don't take my word for it...
I've been following this game a lot via the various preview videos that have been released by Monolith thus far, and I have to say that this taster certainly does not kill my excitement for F.E.A.R. I'm still looking forward to this game as much as I was when I saw the first preview video at the end of last year.
Those who thought Doom 3 had a great atmosphere are in for a rude awakening when they play through this sneak peek - it's fast paced, the AI rocks, it gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing up and is designed to get under your skin. To say that I can't wait for the full version of this game would be an understatement - its on course to be the best shooter of 2005.
Well it's creepy enough. Could it be a little creepier? Probably, but the demo is only a taster. I love the A.I. and definitely dig the fact that the walls are destructable, even though some of the world detail could be better. And, let's face it, facial movements and lip-synching are no Source engine.
I like the weapons and the fact you can only hold 3 at a hold time. Stand out moment? Realising that I could throw a grenade, then go bullet time and shoot it in the air, blowing it out just where I wanted it.