Monday, October 24, 2005

F.E.A.R. (Intervals 1-4 of 11)

Here's one of the URL's that Vivendi has purchased for F.E.A.R.:

Well, you know what it says in Proverbs: Pride goeth before a fall, bitches.

I will freely admit that I haven't finished this game, as you can tell by the title of this post. However, I still feel like I can ask this question: game of what year? The year before computer games were invented?

Because so far F.E.A.R. is, as they say, weak sauce.

Allow me to fully summarize the first three "intervals" (levels) of this game. I call it The Ten Steps of F.E.A.R.:
1. Walk down a corridor.
2. See lights flickering on and off.
3. Hear a radio asking for a report. This complex sound cue is meant to tell you that a soldier is near.
4. Find the soldier.
5. Shoot the solider.
6. Hear the soldier yell "Oh, shit!" and "I need backup!"
7. Shoot more soldiers when they show up.
8. Listen to a phone message. It will say "Where are you guys? I heard an explosion and now I can't reach anyone!"
9. Watch the screen go all red as a person appears in front of you, then disintegrates. Damn, that's some scary shit.
10. Repeat one one thousand times.

It's about as dramatic as watching paint dry. If the developers think this is scary, they should play Fatal Frame II. They'd pee their pants in the first fifteen minutes.

Now does this game do some things very well? Absolutely. The soldier's A.I. is excellent--truly impressive. Bodies react quite impressively to getting shot. And it's fun to watch the huge holes your weapons blast in the wall. It's also very pretty.

The plot so far, though, is straight out of an Id game. That's, um, not good. My favorite moment was after this long, long stretch of The Ten Steps of F.E.A.R. when I'm FINALLY reunited with my team. Do the other two people say something like "Where the HELL have you been?" or "It's a miracle you're alive!" No. They barely even acknowledge my presence until one tells me to get moving and opens a door for me. And then I get sent off on my own to find Mr. Evil. Again.

I could handle that five years ago. I really could. But in 2005, that qualifies as hack work. Poor, poor writing.

Even worse, this is from Monolith! I've never thought that any Monolith game was fun from beginning to end, but I always gave them tremendous credit for being witty and creative. F.E.A.R., though, is unbelievably formulaic in every conceivable way, particularly in level design.
Interval Four does get better, at least marginally. Hooray. I'm over a quarter of the way through the game and it's sucking less. Champagne all around.

Now I fully expect this game to get better--much better. It must be--all those 90% reviews can't be based on the quality of the first three levels. And I plan to keep going to see what the fuss is about. When the single-player campaign clocks in at around ten hours, though, how many hours are left that can be good? Seven?

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