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Come on, you know you love the nightmares

by Kenny Lindsay

From the latest Resident Evil all the way back to Doom, I’ve always been a fan of creepy thriller-type games, but they come with a price. I can recall numerous and very graphic nightmares of being chased around by moaning zombies and flesh-eating monsters, armed only with a gun that didn’t work or a club that I couldn’t manage to swing. In any case, you might think I would have learned my lesson. But on the contrary, after hearing so many good things from the media about FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon, I said what the hell, and decided to pick it up – knowing full well what the consequences might be.

Published by Sierra and developed by Monolith Productions, FEAR is a first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 PC and Playstation 3 based on a modern combat scenario. The storyline is about a military experiment using some kind of telepathy to control soldiers that – much to our surprise – goes terribly wrong. It’s up to you to infiltrate and basically kill everything that comes across your path, with few exceptions. Pretty straightforward.

It starts out fairly strong, leaving the player with little information and wanting to figure out what the hell is going on. Unfortunately it stays that way for quite some time. Throughout the game you’re able to tediously check phone messages and personal laptops that are supposed to reveal what the game is all about, but in hindsight the scenario still remains rather vague. On occasion you’ll run across a scary little girl, corpses and freshly killed bodies. You’re left with a feeling that something supernatural is going on. You’ll also hear voices and witness cut scenes of this vampire-like spook that constantly seems to want to get into your head and let you know that you are somehow linked to all of the misfortune that is going down.

And let’s not forget about the little girl. Nothing is freakier than a creepy-ass little girl with long, black stringy hair in a red dress lurching around on bloodstained floors. Now and then her whispers can be heard: “Kill them… kill them all.” And she’ll frequently make surprise visits when you least expect. In one such scenario I was merrily going about my business looking for power-ups and ammo and she came crawling out of a dark cubicle like a fiddler crab with inverted hands and feet. I literally jumped in my seat, and the cat that was in my lap at the time left claw marks to prove it. I can’t say I wasn’t expecting a few of those moments, but that particular time really caught me off guard.

The majority of the game takes place in, under and on top of an office building and it becomes somewhat monotonous and even confusing at times. It seems as though your running around in circles and a lot of the hallways, tunnels, and corridors look the same.

Often the combat is in close quarters and it’s a good idea to master the use of your trusty old shotgun – or should I say magic shotgun. Shooting an enemy with this weapon in particular areas can produce dramatic and even stomach-turning results. Blowing off limbs, turning your target into a fine red mist or painting a nearby wall with his blood are just a few of the consequences.

One of the most outstanding attributes to the title is the feature that lets you move in slow time in order to execute an intricate ballet of carnage and destruction. It’s a lot like The Matrix and although we’ve seen it before, it really adds a nice touch.

The game play is extremely smooth with simple controls and sharp response, making it easy to jump right in and start mowing down enemies. The online multiplayer is solid, but get used to sudden death, as it is a frequent occurrence.

Blood and gore get extremely intense and are enhanced even more with exquisite graphics and phenomenal sound effects. The trickle of blood, footsteps, echoes and things that go bump in the night all intensify the eeriness this title offers.

Enemy AI is superb. Not only do they hide themselves well, throw down large fixtures for cover, double back around objects or sneak up behind you, they’ll also be alerted to your presence by any clumsy move you make. In fact, tread softly because your character is a complete lummox, constantly knocking over cans and loose objects that will give away your position. All of this, though, sets the challenge and replay factor in our favor.

FEAR without a doubt is a good game, but it is not by any means extraordinary. I absolutely would not recommend this one for a younger audience, or even to an unstable adult. The violence level is extreme as well as the language and content and – despite how creepy the game gets – I didn’t have any gruesome nightmares, nor did I wake up in the middle of the night trying to strangle my wife in an attempt to rid myself of flesh-gnawing, undead hooligans.

To comment on this column, e-mail Kenny Lindsay at kenny@yesweekly.com.

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