Wednesday, October 26, 2005

F.E.A.R.: D.O.N.E.

Some more comments about the real-time strategy game F.E.A.R.

Yeah, I know. Saying that Civilization is a real-time strategy game, even in a casual conversation with my wife, is like saying Christians turn toward Mecca five times a day to pray.

Remember that I'm the same person who, after playing Tropico for 100+ hours, called it a real-time strategy game instead of a world simulation or whatever the hell it was. This was one of my favorite games of all time and I couldn't even put it in the right genre.

I have an infinite capacity for mistakes. I prefer to call it unlimited potential.

All right, back to F.E.A.R.

In all the years that I've played games (20+), I have never been so baffled by a game's high review scores.

I made it to Interval eight (out of eleven). So I was approximately two-thirds of the way through the game, and the Ten Steps of F.E.A.R. had not changed.

Yes, it got better. No, it did not get better all the way to "good" or "excellent."

This is one of the most repetitive games I've ever played. Walk, shoot. Walk, shoot. One thousand times. A warehouse, an office building, a dilapidated apartment building. No outdoor environments. The warehouse and office building don't even feel like large spaces--they feel like small spaces copied seven or eight times.

Creativity? Zip. Humor? Well, there are a couple of funny office moments (TPS Reports on desks and a motivational poster titled "Potential," but those moments are few and far between. It's hard to even believe that Monolith developed this game--their trademark sense of wit is completely missing.

Fear? We've got a pine tree in our backyard. It has this gnarly fungus, which is killing it, and this nasty white sap is oozing out of the trunk in a really disgusting manner. Here--I found a picture of what it looks like:
Believe me, that pine tree is scarier than anything I saw in F.E.A.R.

It's also entirely missing the sensation of speed. That was one of the things that Half-Life 2 did very well--there was velocity. You had levels that conveyed an amazing sense of speed. That's one of the biggest problems with F.E.A.R.--pacing is entirely controlled by introducing a few more enemies at key moments. Your speed never changes.

Here's one more question: why is it so hard for developers to understand how to use a freaking flashlight? Doom 3 had the most screwed-up use of a flashlight ever. F.E.A.R. does marginally better, but the flashlight only shines for about thirty seconds, and then the battery is drained. It recharges in a few seconds, but that means some levels consist of pressing "x" about a hundred times to see what's going on. This is supposed to be an elite force--do you think that maybe they would have working flashlights?

Like I said before, the enemy A.I. is generally terrific, and that in itself is entertaining. Some of the weapons are very cool. And if you really enjoy firefights, then this is your game. Five hours of walking and five hours of shooting. That's what you get for your fifty bucks.

If the game gets great in the last three intervals, I don't care. The single player campaign is so short that I'm not willing to wait until the very end of the game to get interested.

Now I am absolutely in the minority of this game as far as reviewers go. Everyone else seems to love it. But the e-mail I'm getting indicates that you guys aren't any more impressed than I was.

I stopped last night because I realized the only reason I was still playing was that I couldn't believe there wasn't some spectacular brilliance right around the corner. I never found any, though, and after seven hours, I'd had enough.

If you're looking for a game to be scary, F.E.A.R. is the worst use of fifty dollars ever. Go buy a used Xbox and a copy of Fatal Frame II. Play it in the dark with headphones on. You won't ever forget it.

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