F.E.A.R. First Look

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By: Gareth Von Kallenbach

Recently Vivendi Universal and Monolith hosted a hands on look at the multiplay portion of their upcoming 3D shooter F.E.A.R. Over the course of the afternoon, I was not only able to play the game, but was able to discuss the game and offer suggestions to the design team who were not only very gracious hosts, but openly asked us for feedback and suggestions.

At first glance, First Encounter Assault and Recon or F.E.A. R. looks like a standard 3D shooter that will delight fans with its solid mix
of weapons, cutting edge graphics, and detailed maps. But what is revealed over the course of the playtest showed that the folks at Monolith are not content to coast on the success of their success with Alien VS Predator 2, Tron and No One Lives Forever series,
instead they have been working hard to progress the advancement of the genre.

Over the course of two multiplay maps, it became evident that F.E.A.R. will be a shooter that blends the old and new to create a solid and exciting game that will delight fans and set new standards for the genre.

One of the nice new features is the very detailed shockwave effects that emanate from grenades as you can visibly see the warping and distortion caused by the detonation and destruction of the explosives. Another innovative feature is the inclusion of a slow motion mode where once a team has charged the needed device and activated it, players move at reduced rate for a limited time, while enemies move at an even slower rate.

While some may say this is simply a copy of the bullet time effect
from the Max Payne series, this would be highly inaccurate as not only do character voices play at a greatly reduced rate, but the weapons make great trails as they fire and impact a target. The first time I got the drop on another player in slow time and
dispatched him was thrilling as you could see the course of the projectiles as they hit the target then flung him over a railing in a pile.

The game engine also created very good smoke effects as I was able to use the smoke to hide before pouncing on enemies to do my favorite attack, guns blazing, then dropping a grenade when I was about to buy
it so I could take some of them with me. The splatter effects were very detailed as on more than once occasion, I decorated large sections of a wall/hallway with the remains of a dispatched foe.

Another unique feature in the game is the unarmed attack mode that
allows you to instantly dispatch an opponent via a combat move. One of the most common was a sliding attack into an opponent or my favorite, the flying scissor kick. I watched a designer take out a squad of three enemies in close proximity without firing a single shot with this move.

Another interesting feature of the multiplay portion is the
limitation of each player to three weapons slots. When a player enters a multiplay match, they must select from a weapons menu and use that weapon until they are defeated. They may pick up some weapons on the map such as a rocket launcher, frag and proximity
grenades and a portable howitzer weapon that in close quarters caused my opponent to shatter when he met the business end.

Weapons that were included were as follows:

Dual Pistols

Shotgun

Sub Machine Gun

Assault Machine Gun

Plasma Weapon

and a Nail Gun.

Each weapon has their own strengths and weaknesses such as accuracy, effective distance, reload times, and weight. Weight is very important as the rate of a players movement is determined by the type of weapon they brandished. The plasma gun is effective with its one shot kills and impressive energy discharge, but it is a heavy weapon to lug around.

One feature that was missing was the reported supernatural powers
that players would have in the solo version of the game. It was explained to me by a member of the design team that this had to be removed from the game as it simply was not working well with the blend of the game as it developed.

The sound of the weapons was solid and accurate to their real-world counterparts. I was delighted when a near hit from a rocket resulted in a ringing noise in my ears and disorientation making it hard to
hear commands from those around me and to shoot upcoming enemies.

The layout of the maps was solid as they offered numerous locations to scout and attack enemies as well as lay traps with the proximity grenades. Armor and health packs were available though not abundant making the need to circle back to spawn points vital. There were several destructible points on the maps, as glass and walls often became littered with holes and weapons scoring or outright destroyed.

From this early look and playtest, F.E.A.R. is a solid and entertaining multiplayer game that will delight action gamers. If the solo game is half as fun as the multiplay, F.E.A.R. may easily be one of the best releases of 2005.

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