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Mummy! I had a little accident
I apologise in advance for any typing errors that appear in this review. My hands are still shaking, and my pants are still brown as I jump straight from the finale of F.E.A.R. into the review hot seat. This game is scary, possibly the scariest game of all time, but itís not all about making you wet your pants with panic-stricken anxiety. This game has got more slow-motion than football on Sky Sports and more gun battles than a Matrix film. So then, is this the heir to Half Life 2 or are we facing Doom 3ís slightly inbred, diseased half-brother?

Games are designed to immerse you into another reality. So it stands to reason that something needs to fill the gaping hole in the market for horror games. Doom 3 made a valiant, if albeit an American, brain dead; effort at the genre and in my humble opinion missed the mark. The game provided jumps in the same way that a slasher-flick provides screams, sharp fear fixes, knee jerk reflex gasps without any lasting effect. Those games and movies never really make you feel scared because you never really feel like it could be you there. The storyline was too far fetched, the scenarios too contrived, the monsters too overly grotesque. However, Doom 3 is important because it provides us with a context with which to judge F.E.A.R; can an FPS game truly be scary?

The answer is a resounding yes. F.E.A.R. follows the Japanese horror style more closely than the Western equivalent taking massive influences from movies such as The Ring and The Grudge. It doesnít intend to shock you with massive screaming horrible beasts from the underworld but rather creates an environment in which your imagination does it for you. In modern culture is there anything more scary than a little girl, with pasty skin and jet black hair appearing out of nowhere with menacing intent in her eyes. On paper it sounds ridiculous, but in a game when she is scuttling towards you, like a vicious, little red riding hood-cum-human spider out of a darkened corner when you least expect itÖ Itís horrific.

On more than one occasion did both my hands leave my keyboard and mouse as I covered my eyes screaming like a baby. But then, before you know it, sheís gone leaving you with a horrible cackling or a dreaded whisper. For anyone who likes being scared, or anyone who doesnít believe a game can be scary, I challenge you to play this and not soil yourself.

So why does this game succeed where others have failed. Put simply itís down to two reasons. The first, as mentioned, is the style of the game. Minimalistic amounts of jumps, the anticipation, the unexpectedness, the use of sound and light, as video games go this has been expertly directed and itís a massive contributor to why it works.

The second reason, and more importantly to us gamers, is because, despite all this scary nonsense, underneath is a bloody good game that makes you feel like a real special operative. When I get rushed by 8 clone soldiers I want to feel like a neutered dog in a room full of pedigree bitches, I want to feel like if I donít do something special they will kill me, I want to feel like there is no way out. Then, I want to feel the warm security of the slow-mo button as I re-enact my own movie scene and blow each one of them away in what, for all its intents and purposes, is arguably the most beautiful game released.

From a graphical perspective this game is superb. Individual shards of glass scatter, shockwaves emit in all directions as grenades explode, weíve got flames, bodies, blood; lovers of destruction won't be disappointed. Fortunately, the experience is enhanced further by the sound, guns sound realistic, when slow-mo is kicked in you hear individual bullets whiz past your ears, enemy troops speak to each other in desperate attempts to survive your onslaught. Everything feels, looks and sounds realistic, even though the situation is about as detached from reality as it could possibly be.

A fairly limited array of weapons did leave me wanting something new. None of the weapons were as fun as the gravity gun of Half Life 2 but the rail gun style weapon, in which you can rid enemies of their skin and turn them to skeletons did have a certain novelty. The game suffers slightly in that there is only four types of enemy to fight. This is made up for by the fact that these enemies are the best I have seen so far in any game. They work together, communicate and create an experience better than any other FPS has done previously. They are the single biggest reason why the game feels so immersive.

I mentioned earlier that the story, although a good attempt, was a bit vague at best. You as a special operative are sent to stop Paxton Fettel, a man with psychic abilities who has managed to take over a seemingly infinite amount of clone troops. For some reason, which despite completing the game I am yet to discover, Fettel enjoys eating certain humans. Whether or not Fettelís cannibalism has any relevance other than it being disgusting and scary I wasnít able to work out.

As the story progresses you listen to phone conversations and download information from randomly placed laptops to unveil what has happened and more importantly who you are. Unfortunately though, this is not done as well as it could have been. After speaking to four people who have all completed the game none of us really understood everything about it. For some this will be a mild irritation, others will work feverishly on uncovering and cataloguing every bit of the game dialogue to uncover the story and others simply wonít care. Generally the story is not required to have an immersive experience; the atmosphere, enemy AI, slow-mo and environment can do that for you.

Iíve established that this game is no Doom 3 but I am hesitant to put it in the bracket of Half Life 2. For one interaction with non-human based objects in the game is really poor. Unlike Half Life 2 you canít move objects around with freedom. In one example I wanted to climb up into a vent but had no way to do it. In Half Life 2 I may have picked up a box, put it down where required and climbed up that way, however in FEAR I instead had to take out my shotgun and shoot a cardboard box 15 times edging it along the ground so I could use it to jump up. It was stupid and unrealistic, and takes away from the feel of the game.

A second and important issue is the games lack of multiplayer. I say this because when playing FEAR multiplayer I couldnít help but wish they hadnít included it. Compared to other games on the market it feels poor, out of control and random. I hope I never have to play it again and I hope you all take my advice and play it for research purposes only. Generally the maps are poorly made and the lack of being able to do proper slow-mo makes the multiplayer really poor. Go play Half Life, or Battlefield, as this is rubbish.

Overall this is a really good game. Itís not genre defining and there isnít a lot of new stuff. Youíre fighting in that same old washed out office building, warehouse or any other generic game setting and youíre ploughing through seemingly limitless amounts of enemy troops to get to the end. But look at this game as building on the success of Half Life and adding elements to games we have yet to see done successfully. FEAR is a product of platform evolution and as such deserves a place in any self respecting gamerís shelf. My suggestion is for you to go out and buy this game, so we can all soil ourselves together and keep companies like Persil and Daz in business.