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F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon

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F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon
FEAR DVD box art
Developer(s)
Monolith Productions
Publisher
Vivendi
Release Date
October 18, 2005 (PC)

October 31, 2006 (XBOX 360)

April 24, 2007 (PS3)
ESRB rating
Mature (M)
Platform(s):
PC
Playstation 3
XBOX 360
This is the article about the video game. For the organization of the same name, see F.E.A.R. (Organization).

F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon is a first-person shooter developed by Monolith Productions and published by Vivendi. It was released on October 18, 2005, with XBOX 360 and PS3 ports following in 2006 and 2007. An expansion pack, F.E.A.R. Extraction Point, was released by TimeGate Studios in October 2006. The second expansion, F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate, was released in November 2007. A direct sequel was announced by Monolith Productions, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and was released in February of 2009. A multiplayer version of the game, F.E.A.R. Combat, was released on PC August 17, 2006.

The game's story revolves around a supernatural phenomenon, which F.E.A.R. — a fictional special forces team — is called to contain. The player assumes the role of F.E.A.R.'s Point Man, who possesses superhuman reflexes and combats an army of cloned soldiers, and at the same time uncovers the secrets of a paranormal menace in the form of a little girl.

GameplayEdit

F.E.A.R. simulates combat from a first-person perspective. The Point Man's body is fully present, allowing the player to see the character's torso and feet while looking down. Within scripted sequences, when rising from a lying position or fast-roping from a helicopter or climbing ladders, the hands and legs of the Point Man can be seen performing the relevant actions.

FEAR screenshot3
The Point Man uses Slow-Mo while firing on a group of Replicas.

A prominent gameplay element is "Slow-Mo," which slows down the game world while allowing the Point Man to aim and react at normal speeds. This effect is used to simulate the Point Man's superhuman reflexes. Reflex time is represented by stylized visual effects, such as bullets in flight that cause air distortion or interact with the game's particle effects. F.E.A.R. lead designer Craig Hubbard stated that Monolith Productions' primary goal was "to make combat as intense as the tea house shootout at the beginning of John Woo's Hard-Boiled." He continued on to say that "defeat[ing]... enemies... with style" was crucial to this goal and that reflex time plays a large role in "mak[ing] the player feel like an action movie hero." [1]

The game contains weapons based on non-fictional firearms, such as pistols, assault rifles and submachine guns, as well as entirely fictional armaments such as particle beam weapons. Each firearm differs in terms of ammunition type, accuracy, range, fire rate, damage and bulkiness. The latter characteristic affects the Point Man, as more cumbersome weapons slow his maneuvers. F.E.A.R., unlike many other FPS games, does not scale weapons on a curve, therefore any firearm is potentially dangerous in most given situations for most given enemies. Monolith Productions stated that it aimed for "a balanced arsenal where each weapon serves a specific function," rather than "just going with a bunch of real-world submachine guns and assault rifles." [2] F.E.A.R.'s heads-up display crosshair's size dynamically shows where shots will fall based on movement, aim and the weapon in use. The Point Man may carry only three firearms at a time; thus, strategy is required when using and selecting weapons. All weapons possess mêlée attacks, and a hand-to-hand combat system allows the Point Man to attack unarmed with maneuvers including punches and kicks.

F.E.A.R. artificial intelligence allows computer-controlled characters a large degree of action. Enemies can duck to travel under crawlspaces, jump through windows, vault over railings, climb ladders and push over large objects to create cover. Various opponents may act as a team, taking back routes to surprise the Point Man, using suppressive fire or taking cover if under fire. The game's artificial intelligence is often cited as being highly advanced, and its efficiency helped the game win GameSpot's "2005 Best AI Award."[3]

AtmosphereEdit

A core element of F.E.A.R. is its horror theme, which was heavily inspired by Japanese horror. The design team attempted to keep "[the] psychology of the encounter" in the player's mind at all times, in order to "get under [the player's] skin", as opposed to the "in your face 'monsters jumping out of closets' approach".[4] Lead designer Craig Hubbard stated in an interview that "horror is extremely fragile... you can kill it by spelling things out too clearly and you can undermine it with too much ambiguity". He remarked that he attempted to strike a balance with the narrative elements of F.E.A.R., to give players "enough clues so that [they] can form [their] own theories about what's going on, but ideally [they will] be left with some uncertainty".[5] Lead level designer John Mulkey stated, "Creating expectation and then messing with that expectation is extremely important, predictability ruins a scary mood".[6]

250px-CorridorAlma
A horror sequence.

The main source of the game's horror is Alma Wade, a ghostly little girl. Craig Hubbard remarked that "a guy in a mask chasing co-eds with a meat cleaver can be scary, but on some level you're thinking to yourself you could probably kick his ass if you got the drop on him... but when a spooky little girl takes out an entire Delta Force squad, how are you supposed to deal with that?"[7] While Alma has been compared to the character Samara from The Ring (Sadako in the original Japanese)[8], Craig Hubbard stated that she "was born out of a tradition of eerie, faceless female ghosts" and not "as an answer to any specific movie character". Hubbard acknowledged that Alma "admittedly bears some visual resemblance to the ghosts in Dark Water or Séance," but "creepy little girls have been freaking [him] out since The Shining".[9]

F.E.A.R.'s audio was designed in the style of Japanese horror films, with the sound engineers using inexpensive equipment to create sound effects, utilizing methods including dragging metal across different surfaces and recording pump sounds. Monolith Productions commented, "The sound designers had to be concerned with avoiding predictability," since "[l]isteners are smart ... they will recognize your formula quickly and then you won't be able to scare them anymore." Silence was also utilized in order to "allow players to fill in the space, which lets their imagination create their own personal horror".[10]

Monolith Productions composed F.E.A.R.'s music in reaction to scenes, instead of "creating a formula that would consistently produce music throughout the game". The design team called F.E.A.R.'s music structure "more cerebral and tailored to each individual event", and continued that "sometimes the music is used to ratchet up the tension to toy with players... [it] will build to a terrifying crescendo before cutting off without a corresponding event, only to later have the silence shattered by Alma Wade, when players least expect it."[11]

F.E.A.R.'s horror theme was praised by critics. Game Informer claimed that "...the frequent spooky head trips that Monolith has so skillfully woven together make an experience that demands to be played."[12] IGN opined that "the environment has been so well-crafted to keep you edgy and watchful... [that] playing the game for a few hours straight can get a little draining."[13]GameSpot reacted similarly, calling F.E.A.R.'s horror "exceedingly effective," and agreeing that it "can leave you a bit emotionally exhausted after a while."[14]

PlotEdit

Alma Young
Alma Wade, the core of the F.E.A.R. story.

The story of F.E.A.R. is presented in such a way that only a few minor plot elements are presented in the game's beginning, thus allowing players to experience the adventure as "the hero[es] in [their] own spine-tingling epic of action, tension and terror." The manual briefly mentions the player character's recent induction as "Point Man" to F.E.A.R., a secret special operations group of the U.S. government specializing in dealing with paranormal threats. The character's extraordinarily reactive reflexes are described as well, hinting that the government is interested in his abilities. When the game begins, the Point Man witnesses a man named Paxton Fettel taking command of a battalion of telepathically controlled clone supersoldiers, seizing control of the Armacham Technology Corporation structure and killing all of its occupants.

The Point Man attends a briefing held by Commissioner Rodney Betters, in the company of his F.E.A.R. team mates Spencer Jankowski and Jin Sun-Kwon. The team's mission consists of eliminating Paxton Fettel, operating in conjunction with Delta Force.

Fettel is located by means of a satellite tracking device and hunted by F.E.A.R. and Delta Force over several locations. The search for Fettel begins at the South River Wastewater Treatment Plant and later continues at Armacham Technology Corporation Headquarters. While the villain evades capture by the special forces, the Point Man witnesses unexplained and occasionally life-threatening paranormal phenomena, including frequent hallucinations, all of which center around a little girl in a red dress named Alma Wade. Laptops found during the course of the mission, hacked by Commissioner Rowdy Betters, provide details regarding the background story. The Point Man learns that Fettel was raised to become a telepathic military commander as part of a top secret Armacham Technology Corporation project called Project Origin. He is the son of Alma Wade, who is described as being a powerful psychic. The Point Man also learns of the existence of another child of Alma, who was born before Fettel.

FEAR screenshot2
A firefight against Replica soldiers.

All clues lead F.E.A.R. to believe Fettel is under the control of Alma, who was buried within the Origin Facility when Armacham Technology Corporation closed down the project because of the danger she posed. Now Fettel is searching for that same facility to free his mother. The Point Man eventually reaches an abandoned structure, fighting back both the clone soldiers and ATC security guards, who have received orders to cover up the whole affair. When the Point Man finally comes face-to-face with Fettel, he is drawn into a hallucination where he learns that he is Alma's first son. During this hallucination, the Point Man kills Paxton Fettel.

Nonetheless, Alma is freed when her storage chamber is opened by an Armacham Technology Corporation researcher, Harlan Wade, who feels guilty about the company's treatment of her. Eventually, it is revealed Alma shares Wade's name, and that he is her father. The Point Man is then called upon to sabotage the structure's reactor, to destroy the facility. In the aftermath of the detonation, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter extracts the Point Man from the rubble. While the Point Man and the survivors of the first F.E.A.R. team survey the results of the explosion from the helicopter, Alma makes one last appearance, preparing to pull herself up into the helicopter's cabin. The destruction of the Origin Facility has not stopped her quest for revenge.

After the game's credits, the player can listen to a phone call between a mysterious Senator and ATC president Genevieve Aristide, which offers some further explanation: Genevieve considers the project under control and deems the Point Man a success.

Bonus missionEdit

F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon has a bonus mission that appears in the PS3 and XBOX 360 versions of the game.

In the Xbox 360 version of F.E.A.R., Douglas Holiday, a Delta Force unit leader, must protect Aldus Bishop and lead him to the Black Hawk for evacuation. Holiday lacks the Slow-Mo ability possessed by the Point Man, making him a more challenging character to play.

In the PS3 version, the player is a Special Force Operational Detachment (SFOD) soldier that must investigate the original Armacham disturbance. The soldier and his squad are eventually liquified by Alma in Armacham HQ.

DevelopmentEdit

F.E.A.R
2004 E3 demo part 1.
F.E.A.R
2004 E3 demo part 2.

F.E.A.R. was announced at an E3 2004 pre-show, though its existence as an untitled project had been revealed prior to this announcement. The game's first trailer later premiered at E3 2004 and was well-received by critics. During the E3 2004 showing, F.E.A.R.'s lead designer, Craig Hubbard, stated that the game "evolved out of a concept we started developing right after Shogo that we've been dying to work on."[15] Monolith Productions' director of technology, Kevin Stephens, later elaborated that this concept was "to make an action movie in a first-person shooter, where you really feel like an action star." To this effect, the team focused on immersing the player, utilizing elements like a silent, nameless protagonist with an unknown background, and only allowing the player to see the protagonist's body when looking down or sideways.[16]

During 2005, F.E.A.R. made playable appearances at the Consumer Electronics Show, Game Developers Conference and E3, all of which were well-received. Its showing at E3 garnered it the Game Critics Award for "Best Action Game."[17] Vivendi allowed gaming journalists to play through the first four levels of the game, which received even more positive reaction than before.[18]

F.E.A.R. eventually released on October 18, 2005. Alongside the basic CD-ROM edition, the Director's Cut DVD version of F.E.A.R. was released with a number of extra features. A Dark Horse Entertainment comic book and a series of live action vignettes help clarify a number of plot elements depicted in the game, while the Making of F.E.A.R. and director's and developer's commentary offer several insights and trivia into the game's development through interviews with employees of Monolith Productions and Vivendi. Also included is the exclusive first episode of the F.E.A.R. machinima, P.A.N.I.C.S., created by Rooster Teeth Productions.

Over the course of the "Developer's round table commentary," producer Chris Hewitt revealed, "We had a whole level in the game where we had this car chase sequence... we spent about two months on that thing...." "But the car chase sequence didn't work the way we hoped it would," adds designer Craig Hubbard, commenting on the choice to remove that level from the game. Hewitt also comments that, "Actually we started off with two villains, and Fettel was one of them until we merged them together...." Craig Hubbard also remarks that "his jacket actually used to belong to another villain we had in the game named Conrad Krieg, whom we combined with Fettel pretty literally."[19]

Engine technologyEdit

F.E.A.R. was the first game developed using the newest iteration of Monolith's Lithtech engine. Codenamed "Jupiter EX," the F.E.A.R. engine is driven by a DirectX 9 renderer and has seen major advancements from its direct precursor, "Jupiter." The new engine includes both the Havok Physics Engine and the Havok "Vehicle Kit," which adds support for common vehicle behavior. This latter feature goes mostly unused in F.E.A.R., as no vehicles appear outside of scripted sequences.

Graphically, F.E.A.R. utilizes normal mapping and parallax mapping to give textures a more realistic appearance; the latter is a bump mapping technique and is most notably used to give the appearance of depth to flat bullet hole decals on walls. volumetric lighting and lightmapping are included with the addition of a per-pixel lighting model, allowing complex lighting effects to be developed. Vertex, pixel and high-level shaders, including a host of additional special effects, are also featured in Jupiter EX.

ReceptionEdit

Prior to release, F.E.A.R. generated large amounts of hype from computer game journalists. Upon release, F.E.A.R. received critical acclaim, with aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic giving the PC version 88.94% and 88/100,[20] [21], the Xbox 360 version garnering an 84.19% and 85/100[22] [23], and the PlayStation 3 version 73.29% and 72/100[24] [25]. Computer Gaming World called it "one of the year's top single-player shooters"[26] and PC Gamer regarding it as "the first game to convincingly channel the kinetic exhilaration of 'John Woo violence' in the FPS format."[27]

IGN claimed that "Monolith forges new shooter territory with some truly freaky elements, challenge, fun, and beauty."[28] GameSpy praised the game's plot, later awarding it their "Best Story" Game of the Year award.[29] The New York Times thought differently, stating "I was never quite clear on what was going on in the game. I knew my goal — track down a psychic, escort a corporate executive's daughter out of danger — but I didn't ever care who these people were nor did I understand their motives."[30] The game has also received criticism for its system requirements, which call for an extremely powerful PC.

Maximum PC stated that "Monolith did a great job with both the in-game sounds and the soundtrack... the spooky audio makes exploring deserted ruins creepy, and the positional sound works to great effect; sinister noises like breaking bottles and creaking metal come from your rear channels with just the right frequency to freak you out," but "after eight hours of battling the exact same opponents, in a perfectly linear environment, it’s tough to remain enthusiastic."[31] GameSpot also found the game slightly repetitive, but still called it "quite easily one of the most intense and atmospheric games that you'll play."[32]

The Xbox 360 port has also received positive reviews, but not quite as favorable as the PC version. The multiplayer and instant-action mode were praised for better gameplay, but the control scheme was negatively viewed. Reviews have also stated that it lacked bonus features, despite the new mission included in the game and the all-new Watson Automatic Shotgun. GameSpot gave the game 8.6[33], while IGN rated it 9.1.[34]

The PlayStation 3 port received less favorable reviews than the other two versions, but still had positive reviews overall. It contains a Bonus Mission, but the chief complaints of the negative reviewers were downgraded graphics and long loading times. GameSpot has given the port a 7.1[35], making it the lowest rating of the three versions of F.E.A.R. on GameSpot.

TriviaEdit

  • The term "Strong Language" is misspelled when the ESRB rating is shown at the beginning of the game.
  • The level included in the single-player demo was an amalgam, comprised of elements from several maps stitched together. It is not an actual level from the final build.
  • The music that is heard in the cinematic introductory sequence was originally slated to be played at the ending of the game. The team found that it fit the sequence's pacing and moved it to the beginning. Originally, the music chosen for the sequence was not supposed to remain; it was simply a placeholder until a more appropriate musical piece was constructed. However, the development team liked the placeholder music so much that it remained through the development phase to the final version.
  • A car chase sequence was originally planned for and even had extensive drafting during the development of the game, but was eventually removed as, in the words of Craig Hubbard, "It didn't work out the way we hoped it would". The car itself, however, made it into the game in a limited capacity; it is the same one that Rodney Betters drives the protagonist to the Birthing Facility in.
  • As promotional material, and for the sake of elucidating some of the game's backstory, publisher Vivendi Universal filmed a series of minute long, live action vignettes which served as a prequel to the events in the game. The series centers on a particular interview with Alma conducted by an Armacham scientist, Dr. Green, who initially tries to develop a rapport with her interviewee but gives up when Alma is clearly unreceptive to her questions. She is slowly driven insane by Alma's psychic powers and, at the end of the series, she is seen cowering in fear and muttering incoherently, the psi-horror having taken its toll on her sanity.
  • Many of the cacti seen throughout the Armacham HQ are mature flowering Peyote cacti.
  • Many model "8311 XHT" fume hoods are seen throughout the labs in the Armacham HQ and Origin Facility. This is most likely a tip of the hat to the science fiction film THX 1138.
  • As very prominent product placement, all the laptops in the game bear the Alienware logo and name.
  • When in the elevator with Alice Wade, the music that is playing is exactly the same music that can be heard in the movie The Blues Brothers, when Jake and Elwood are in the elevator.

See alsoEdit

F.E.A.R. E3: for differences between the E3 version and commercial version of the game.

GalleryEdit

For a complete list of images pertaining to F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon, please visit the F.E.A.R. images category.

VideosEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/i_craighubbard_fear Craig Hubbard interview with Eurogamer
  2. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/previews/fear-qanda-story-weapons-multiplayer-6121461/ GameSpot interview
  3. http://aigamedev.com/open/review/top-ai-games/ AI Games Top 10 List
  4. http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/09/23/fear-2 IGN Level Design Interview
  5. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/previews/fear-qanda-story-weapons-multiplayer-6121461/ GameSpot interview
  6. http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/09/23/fear-2 IGN Level Design Interview
  7. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/i_craighubbard_fear Craig Hubbard interview with Eurogamer
  8. http://xbox360.gamespy.com/xbox-360/fear/705001p1.html Gamespy F.E.A.R. review
  9. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/i_craighubbard_fear Craig Hubbard interview with Eurogamer
  10. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/previews/fear-designer-diary-2-audio-and-music-6134936/ F.E.A.R. Music Interview
  11. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/previews/fear-designer-diary-2-audio-and-music-6134936/ F.E.A.R. Music Interview
  12. http://web.archive.org/web/20071011072933/http://www.gameinformer.com/NR/exeres/9FA7ADDB-EA75-454E-AA1A-6EF52A4DFF0A.htm?CS_pid=645831 Game Informer review of F.E.A.R.
  13. http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/10/13/fear?page=3 IGN F.E.A.R. review
  14. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/reviews/fear-review-6135744/?page=2 GameSpot review of F.E.A.R.
  15. http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/fear/513626p1.html Gamespy F.E.A.R. preview
  16. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/i_fear_pc_jan2005 Eurogamer - Setting the Scene for F.E.A.R.
  17. http://web.archive.org/web/20070518132042/http://www.gamecriticsawards.com/2005wins.html Game Critics 2005 Awards
  18. http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/08/16/fear-hands-on-2 IGN - F.E.A.R. Hands-on
  19. F.E.A.R. Developer's Commentary (2005)
  20. http://www.gamerankings.com/pc/920744-fear/index.html F.E.A.R. review by Game Rankings
  21. http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/fear F.E.A.R. score at Metacritic
  22. http://www.gamerankings.com/xbox360/932585-fear/index.html F.E.A.R. XBOX review at Game Rankings
  23. http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/fear F.E.A.R. XBOX score at Metacritic
  24. http://www.gamerankings.com/ps3/935058-fear/index.html Game Rankings F.E.A.R. PS3 review
  25. http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-3/fear F.E.A.R. PS3 reviews at Metacritic
  26. http://www.1up.com/reviews/fear_2 1Up.com review of F.E.A.R.
  27. PC Gamer F.E.A.R. review (2005)
  28. http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/10/13/fear F.E.A.R. review at IGN
  29. http://goty.gamespy.com/2005/pc/index22.html GameSpy Game of the Year 2005
  30. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/29/sports/othersports/29game.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 NY Times F.E.A.R. review
  31. http://www.maximumpc.com/article/F-E-A-R- Maximum PC F.E.A.R. review
  32. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/reviews/fear-review-6160869/?page=2 GameSpot F.E.A.R. review
  33. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/reviews/fear-review-6160869/?tag=tabs%3Breviews GameSpot XBOX review
  34. http://www.ign.com/articles/2006/10/25/fear-review-2?page=3 XBOX 360 F.E.A.R. review on IGN
  35. http://www.gamespot.com/f-e-a-r/reviews/fear-review-6169771/?tag=tabs%3Breviews GameSpot F.E.A.R. PS3 review
F.E.A.R. games v · e · d
Main series
Expansions
Non-canon
Compilations
Production

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