The sound is just fantastic. In 5.1 surround the positional effects are just great. On more than one occasion I brushed past a can or paint pot only to have it clatter to the ground behind me a few moments later causing my heart to leap and swing around gun at the ready to face a perceived threat. The music is fantastic too, although you cant really call it music, more like sound effects or ambience. Dull, dark repetitive tones repeat themselves over and over, and really contribute to the eeriness of the game, and enhance the sense apprehension as you progress, building and dying back to create tension. The cinematics too contribute greatly to the atmosphere of the game. Some rather gruesome flashbacks and snippets of past events, as well as alternate reality scenes complete with hallways filled with blood really grab your attention and draw you into to the game world.
These dream style sequences get more and more frequent as the game draws to a close and the last couple of levels hit a terrifying peak my spine was shivering the whole way through the final level. In fact, you are a braver man than I if you manage to finish the game without a sick feeling in your stomach, a palpable sense of relief and a pair of extremely sweaty paws. All this sounds very good, although I do have one major criticism of F.E.A.R. lack of variety.
There are very few environments, and the game mostly takes place in either offices or basements. While this works with the atmosphere Monolith are trying to create, it would have been nice to get outside for a breath of fresh air, or a change of scenery in a couple of levels. Even an action sequence other than the set-pieces would have been nice. Imagine some kind of car chase down the streets in slow motion now that would have been something. It would also have been nice to see more variety in enemies. While those present in F.E.A.R. are really rather excellent, some of the best ones (my favorite being the guys wearing some kind of optical camouflage) dont appear too often, and in general you are facing off against the same type of soldier throughout most of the game. Again, something new here would have been nice from time to time. Another little niggle is your team mates if you can call them that. They are obviously more aware of the severity of the situation than you, seeing as they always seem to find a reason not to follow you into the action. So, dont expect fancy team work you are pretty much on your own the whole way through, bar the odd short appearance of one operative or another. If Monolith decide to follow up F.E.A.R. with a sequel, then it would be nice to see a couple of levels involving friendly NPCs and a little team work. On the whole though, this is a minor criticism of what is in general a fantastic and compelling single player experience.
F.E.A.R. is the first notable attempt in a year at toppling the crown of valves epic Half-Life 2; a game that also seemed to have some similarities to busses where time keeping is concerned, although none at all when it comes to a rewarding experience. What we looked at then seemed extremely promising but have Monolith come up with a classic, and should we all be searching for a spare pair of pants?
As many of you will be aware, F.E.A.R (or First Encounter Assault & Recon for short) involves a rather mysterious looking girl in a red dress, a man with an unappetising taste for human flesh, and some rather flashy action set pieces al la' The Matrix. All of this is brought together by one of the best game engines around. There has been a great amount of talk surrounding this game of late, and as we here at Guru 3d aim to please, it was decided we would take a quick pre-release look at both single player and multiplayer aspects of this game, with some preliminary testing and benchmark results, to give you an idea of just what to expect, and whether your brand spanking new 7800GTX will be just as scared of that Girl in the Red Dress as you!