That was then...
Well, actually none of the above has changed for Day One studio’s PS3 conversion. The locations are still a bit monotonous, the gameplay still lacks variety, but the action itself remains totally fantastic. Nearly two years on I don’t think there’s a game to touch F.E.A.R.
for the core combat experience – not Ghost Recon
, not Gears of War
, not S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
, not nothing.
In this respect, it’s a perfect port, and I was surprised playing it through again how exciting the game still was. Sure, some of the big fright moments have lost their edge, but those playing it through for the first time will still find some effective shocks in store. The freaky little girl, the sudden, swirling visions and the corridors of blood still had the power to creep me out from time to time.
Contrary to some early reports, the AI in PS3 F.E.A.R.
is just as good as it was in the PC original. The first time you’re outflanked while one foe while you’re concentrating on the rest of his squad still comes as an unwelcome surprise, and watching enemies vault over rails and somersault across openings is still a fairly gob-smacking experience. Even on many more recent FPS games you can afford to duck behind cover, aim and wait for a hostile head to pop up out of hiding, but in F.E.A.R.
unseen foes don’t sit still and play fair; they sneak around and try to bushwhack you from behind.
Once the game throws in its fast-moving, camouflaged cyber-ninjas, you know you need to stay on your toes in order to survive. At one point, one actually disappeared into a hole in the ceiling then out of another hole behind me, and the only thing that clued me in was the distinctive, stifled noise they make when they move. Suffer from tense, nervous head-aches? Well, don’t play F.E.A.R.
Save yourself, if you can
In fact, one crucial difference makes F.E.A.R.
all the more unnerving. Like most console FPS games you’re restricted to a checkpoint-based save system, meaning the old days of saving after each encounter or before you reach the point where you died last time have gone. As a result, each firefight in F.E.A.R.
is now twice as unnerving, as you now have more to lose than just a quick trip back to the load game screen. Luckily, Day One hasn’t stretched this too far.
With a few exceptions, checkpoints are sensibly and evenly spaced, and you’ll rarely have to repeat more than five or ten minutes of play. Admittedly, the lack of saves does make the already annoying Unauthorized Personnel section, where you face constant attacks from automated gun turrets, roughly twice as irritating, and there are a few set-pieces where you might wish for a checkpoint just before. Otherwise, however, the checkpoint system merely adds to the heart-racing, pulse-pounding appeal.
In general terms this is as straight as ports get, with no major diversions from the F.E.A.R.
you may already know and love. In other words, there are only two reasons why you might want this version if you’ve already played through the PC original. Firstly, you get an instant-action mode where you can play through four short levels in a bid to win a place on the online high-score table. The maps are tightly designed and quite good fun, but of limited lasting appeal.
The bonus mission, meanwhile, seems more than a little half-assed. As an ordinary trooper from the Delta Force squad you’re accompanied through portions of the Armacham building (which you’ll already be tired of from the main game) by an AI buddy of questionable IQ and confronted by Replica foes who seem to have lost more than a few points from theirs. It’s dull, contributes little to the game or the back-story, and looks and feels like an amateur mod. That just leaves you with the online mode, but this lacks many of the features, modes and options of the PC version and at the time of writing doesn’t appear to be up and running yet. Oh dear.