First-person shooters don't often explore the realm of horror. When they do so in a successful manner, however, they can make for completely gripping experiences that are truly terrifying. Such is the case with F.E.A.R., the 2005 psychological horror shooter from developer Monolith Productions and publisher Vivendi Universal. While the series has gone in a much less entertaining direction (read: it's gotten pretty bad), this first game is a worthy entry in our month-long 31 Games of Halloween feature here on GameZone.
Of course, if car combat, brutal murder, clowns, and doll masks are more your thing, be sure to hit up our last entry, where we discussed Twisted Metal: Black. For now, let's enter the creepy world of F.E.A.R.
Why it stands out
F.E.A.R. manages to combine several different gameplay elements into one fluid package. You've got straight-up shooting gameplay that makes for some cool action sequences, but you encounter variety throughout the course of the game. Aside from gunning down enemies, melee combat is actually really useful and can come in handier than you'd think for an FPS, making it an integral part of the experience. This helps F.E.A.R. stand out from shooters where you only resort to melee when you're out of ammo and desperate to defend yourself in any possible way.
In addition to the guns, you also have a special psionic ability that allows you to slow down time. While everything around you moves in a sluggish pace, you can still move quite fast, giving you the opportunity to avoid enemy fire and pick off your foes in a much more effective (and totally stylish) manner. Like the John Woo movies that this mechanic draws from, there's a cinematic vibe to slowing time and gunning down threats.
Something that helps F.E.A.R. stand out from other horror games is the fact that it's highly influenced by Japanese horror. Rather than constantly dishing out jump scares (though there are a few of those), the game relies heavily on psychological horror linked to supernatural themes. It's a nice step in a different direction, especially taking into account that this is an FPS.
Is it scary?
The main factor in F.E.A.R. that will actually bring you some chills is its ambiance. Environments are dark, and though there are certainly lonely parts, you never feel truly alone. It's as if there's always someone watching you, but you can't do anything about it, so you just press on ever so uncomfortably. You really have no choice, so you're almost forced into this desperate, haunting atmosphere that fills you with absolute dread.
Due to the fact that F.E.A.R. is rooted in Japanese psychological horror, the whole thing is more of a mind f*ck than anything else. If you're not into typical, straightforward scares that pop out at you and make you scream, and you prefer something that will just mess with your head to the point of making you tense and uneasy, F.E.A.R. delivers that type of horror gameplay quite triumphantly.
Oh, but you shouldn't worry if you're into jump scares, as you're bound to encounter a few of those along your mission. It's not a matter of overkill (thankfully), but it's likely that you'll literally gasp or jump when something pops out right at you.
Why play it on Halloween?
Not everyone likes FPS titles, so it's safe to say that F.E.A.R. won't please some. Fans of the genre, however, should play this game without delay. This especially holds true if you like horror movies — Japanese psychological horror flicks, to be exact. It's not quite what you'd expect from a shooter, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Quite the contrary: F.E.A.R. succeeds because it dares to be a different kind of shooter and a different kind of horror experience.
So if you fancy yourself a big fan of Halloween, the FPS genre, and creepy-as-hell Japanese horror, it'd be in your best interest to sit back and enjoy what is easily the best game in the F.E.A.R. series on Halloween. Aside from just being a really great shooter, this particular title is a solid, worthwhile play during the month of October. Seriously, Alma is freakin' creepy!
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