F.E.A.R.
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9.5
6.7

What is FEAR(.com)? Well, I could say that it's a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of Paul Daniels (n) , but that would be silly as this is a game review. I could also tell you that it's Monolith's horror-drenched FPS in which you play a member of the First Encounter Assault Recon squad sent to investigate the disturbing and violent goings-on at some science place in town. Goings-on started by a strange chap with telekinetic powers called Paxton Fettel and his army of cloned soldiers, but which take a more-than-slightly-Japanese-horror-film-inspired tangent. If I told you this, it would be true. I could even flesh it out a bit by saying that the Japanese influence takes the shape of a messy little girl who really should be in school getting an education for her future, but is instead an ethereal presence who has a penchant for randomly appearing and stripping flesh from bone using the power of her mind (just like Paul Daniels, then). Further veracity could be found in me saying that the plot frankly baffles in places – who everyone is, and what their relationship with each other is, isn't exactly well explained. Well, it may be, it just then adds another confusing subtext to it all which muddies the waters and makes you go “meh”.

If I told you all of the above, no fibs would've passed my lips, but I still wouldn't have, in my opinion, answered the question “What is FEAR?”. Because, for me, FEAR is a slow-motion gunfest of the highest calibre. Plain and simple. You see, what I didn't mention above is that your character has a special talent which makes him, to put it bluntly, hard as nails. You can activate slow motion at any point in the game, providing you have enough charged (shown by a “reflexes” bar at the bottom of the screen), and lay absolute waste with it. You know the drill by now: Bullet Time – you move and fire at close to normal speed, the bad guys flounder around like a herd of cows with guns. Combine this with weapons that feel solid, and just right, and the feeling of being a one-man tsunami of gore is giddying. Countless times I've walked into a new area, filled with clones and utterly slaughtered them - limbs flying everywhere, blood spouting from stumps. I once even shotgunned someone at point blank range, catapulting his body down the corridor, but leaving his head spinning in the air where he had stood! Absolutely awesome! The feeling of invincibility is further enhanced by the radio chatter from the cloned soldiers – they're terrified of you. Terrified to the point of bad language in places, which just emphasises your awesome power.

And, to my mind, that's all you need to know really. The level design is generic to the point of despair (no open spaces and often just a repeated cs_office template) and isn't helped by some of the blandest textures this side of Mr. Ben. Yes, I know it's almost 2 years old, but they were grey and flat upon release and now make the game look like it's set in Slough. Sound, however, is excellent – the pacing of the music is tremendous and the sound effects create an atmosphere that the architecture forgot about. Special mention must go to the animation as well – the clones fight back with vigour; throwing barriers down, vaulting walls and jumping through windows with style. Oh, and I can't forget the Invisi-ninjas – brilliant, if stupidly underused.

Look, it just does guns and mayhem so damn well. Give me dual pistols, a room full of bad guys, and slow motion and I'm happy. Put it all together this well and I just can't stop smiling. I've completed FEAR four times now and I don't know if I'll ever tire of it's cannon ballet. No game comes close to making killing people so satisfying and, for that alone, I have to give it top marks.