|Developer(s)||Monolith Productions (PC)
Day 1 Studios (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
|Engine||Lithtech: Jupiter EX|
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, survival horror|
|Distribution||CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc|
F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon is a survival horror first-person shooter developed by Monolith Productions and published by Vivendi. It was released on October 17, 2005, for Windows, and ported by Day 1 Studios to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Timegate Studios has released two expansion packs, F.E.A.R. Extraction Point in October 2006, and F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate in November 2007. A direct sequel titled F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, was released in February 2009, and a second sequel, F.3.A.R., was released in June 2011, though it was developed by Day 1 Studios (now known as Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore), not by Monolith Productions.
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 must uncover the secrets of a paranormal menace in the form of a little girl.
F.E.A.R. was well received by critics, scoring 89% on Game Rankings, and The New York Times calling it "as thrilling and involving as Half-Life." A "Director's Edition" DVD version of the game was also released. The DVD included a "Making of" documentary, a director's commentary, a short live-action prequel and the exclusive first episode of the promotional P.A.N.I.C.S. machinima. A related Dark Horse comic book was also packaged with the DVD. Along with the Director's Edition, F.E.A.R. Gold Edition was released. Gold Edition included the Director's Edition and Extraction Point. F.E.A.R. Platinum Edition features the original game and two expansion packs.
F.E.A.R. simulates combat from a first person perspective. The protagonist's body is fully present, allowing the player to see his or her character's torso and feet while looking down. Within scripted sequences, when rising from a lying position or fast-roping from a helicopter for example, or climbing ladders, the hands and legs of the protagonist can be seen performing the relevant actions.
A prominent gameplay element is "reflex time," which slows down the game world while still allowing the player to aim and react at normal speeds. This effect is used to simulate the character'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 they are an action movie hero."
The game contains weapons based on non-fictional firearms, such as pistols, assault rifles, and submachine guns, as well as entirely fictional armaments like particle beam weapons. Each firearm differs in terms of ammunition type, accuracy, range, fire rate, damage, and bulkiness. The latter characteristic is crucial, as more powerful/specialized weapons tend to be more cumbersome and slow the player's maneuvers. Unlike other games of the genre where lighter/smaller weapons tend to be useless, F.E.A.R. does not scale guns on a curve, so any firearm is potentially deadly in most situations. 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." 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 player may carry only three firearms at a time; thus, strategy is required when using and selecting weapons.
Compared to other shooters where melee is usually a last resort, F.E.A.R.'s melee is a viable instant-kill alternative for taking down enemies. The stocks of all firearms can be used in close combat. Lighter weapons, while being less powerful, allow the player to move around more quickly, increasing their chances of melee. Movement speed is maximized if a player holsters their weapon, which also allows them to engage in hand-to-hand attacks with maneuvers including punches, kicks, and slides.
F.E.A.R.'s 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 player, 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," and earn the #2 ranking on AIGameDev's "Most Influential AI Games."
F.E.A.R.'s multiplayer component includes mainstay gameplay modes, such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and last man standing. "Control" and "Conquer All" gametypes were later added through a patch. Some gametypes in F.E.A.R.'s multiplayer use the "reflex time" effect: SlowMo deathmatch, SlowMo team deathmatch, and SlowMo capture the flag. Only one player can use/carry the reflex power-up; when fully charged they can activate it and give themselves (and the rest of their team if applicable) a speed advantage over opposing players. However, the one carrying the power-up will have a bluish glow, and they will show up on a foe's HUD.
On August 17, 2006, F.E.A.R.'s multiplayer component was retitled F.E.A.R. Combat and made available for free download. Downloaders of F.E.A.R. Combat and owners of F.E.A.R.'s retail edition may play together online. On December 19, 2012 Gamespy Industries announced the end of its Gamespy Open Program, which ended F.E.A.R. Combat 's online multiplayer functionality.
The PC version of the game uses the PunkBuster program to prevent cheating. However, in December 2007, Even Balance discontinued PunkBuster support for F.E.A.R. in favor of the second expansion, F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate. While PunkBuster-enabled servers will still check for and protect against known cheats, the program will no longer automatically update. Because of this, many players with an outdated version of PunkBuster are unable to play in PunkBuster-enabled servers without being automatically kicked from the game.
A core element of F.E.A.R. is its horror theme, which is 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". 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". Lead level designer John Mulkey stated, "Creating expectation and then messing with that expectation is extremely important, predictability ruins a scary mood".
The main source of the game's horror is Alma, 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?" While Alma has been compared to the character Samara from The Ring, 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." Developers Dave Matthews and Nathan Hendrickson say the name 'Alma' comes from the character Alma Mobley in Peter Straub's novel Ghost Story.
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, using 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 is present in order to "... allow players to fill in the space, which lets their imagination create their own personal horror".
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, when players least expect it."
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." 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." 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."
The story of F.E.A.R. is presented in such a way that only a few minor elements are revealed 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 ops group of the U.S. government specialized 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 player witnesses a man named Paxton Fettel taking command of a battalion of telepathically controlled clone supersoldiers, seizing control of Armacham Technology Corporation (ATC) headquarters, and killing all its occupants.
Now fully in control of the Point Man, the player attends a briefing held by Commissioner Rowdy Betters, in the company of his F.E.A.R. team-mates Spen Jankowski and Jin Sun-Kwon. The team's mission is to eliminate 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. While the villain evades capture by the special forces, the player witnesses unexplained, and occasionally life-threatening, paranormal phenomena, including hallucinations that frequently afflict him, all of which are centered around a red-dressed little girl named Alma. Laptops found in the course of the mission, remotely hacked by Commissioner Betters, provide details regarding the background story; the player learns how Fettel was raised to become a telepathic military commander, that he is the son of Alma, who is described as being a powerful psychic as part of Project Origin, and the existence of another child of Alma, who was born before Fettel.
All clues lead F.E.A.R. to believe Fettel is under control of Alma, who was locked in the Origin facility when ATC closed down the project owing to the danger the woman posed; Fettel is searching for that same facility to free his mother. The player takes the Point Man to the abandoned structure, fighting back both the clone soldiers and ATC guards, who have received orders to cover up the whole affair. When the protagonist comes to finally face Fettel, he is drawn into a hallucination where the player learns how the Point Man is Alma's first son and is thereafter enabled to kill Fettel himself. The story does not end here however, as Alma is nonetheless freed when her storage chamber is opened by ATC researcher and leader of Project Origin, Harlan Wade, who felt guilty over the company's treatment of Alma and who was actually her father. The player is then called to sabotage the structure's reactor, running a gauntlet against Alma's ghosts before the whole location explodes. In the aftermath of the detonation, a Delta Force Black Hawk helicopter extracts the Point Man from the rubble, rescuing him. While the player and the survivors of the F.E.A.R. team survey the results of the explosion from the helicopter, Alma makes one last sudden appearance over the side of the helicopter, preparing to pull herself up into the cabin: the destruction of the Origin facility has not stopped her quest to get closer to her son.
After the game's credits, the player can listen to a phone call between a mysterious senator and ATC president Aristide, which offers some further explanation: the woman considers the project under control and deems the "first prototype" (presumably a reference to the Point Man) a success.
Characters and organizations
During the course of the game, the player interacts with a number of different characters from various organizations. Some of them are allies, such as the F.E.A.R. and Delta Force team members, while others are hostile, such as Fettel's soldiers and some ATC personnel. The player's character never speaks, and instead participates in one-sided discussions with other characters. On occasion, the Point Man is required to hand a communicator to other characters, allowing them to speak over the F.E.A.R. team radio. No artificial intelligence-controlled characters fight alongside the player in F.E.A.R., except for some sequences in the expansions Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate.
F.E.A.R. was announced at an E3 2004 pre-show, though its existence as an untitled project was 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." 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, using elements like a silent, nameless protagonist with an unknown background, and allowing the player to see the protagonist's body when looking down or sideways.
During 2005, F.E.A.R. made playable appearances at 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." After the release of a single-player demo, Vivendi allowed gaming journalists to play through the first four levels of the game, which received even more positive reaction than before. F.E.A.R. eventually released on October 18, 2005. Alongside the basic CD-ROM edition, a "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 "Developers' commentary" documentaries 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 roundtable commentary," producer Chris Hewitt reveals, "We had a whole level in the game where we had this car chase sequence [...] we spent about two months on that thing...." "[B]ut 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."
F.E.A.R. is 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 Havok physics and the Havok "Vehicle Kit," which adds support for common vehicle behavior. The latter feature goes mostly unused in F.E.A.R., as no vehicles appear outside of scripted sequences.
Graphically, F.E.A.R. uses normal mapping and parallax mapping to give textures a more realistic appearance; the latter is used to give the appearance of depth to flat bullet hole sprites 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.
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 Computer Gaming World calling it "... one of the year's top single-player shooters ..." and PC Gamer regarding it as "... the first game to convincingly channel the kinetic exhilaration of 'John Woo violence' in the FPS format."
IGN claimed that "Monolith forges new shooter territory with some truly freaky elements, challenge, fun, and beauty." GameSpy praised the game's plot, later awarding it their "Best Story" Game of the Year award. 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." The game has also received criticism for its system requirements, which called for an extremely powerful PC for its time. The Xbox 360 port has also received positive reviews, almost 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. GameSpot gave the game 8.6. while IGN rated it 9.1
The PlayStation 3 port received less favorable reviews than the other two versions, but still had positive reviews overall. It contained a different longer bonus mission than the one included in the Xbox 360 port, but the chief complaints of the negative reviewers were downgraded graphics and long loading times. GameSpot has given the port a 7.1, making it the third lowest rating of the F.E.A.R. franchise in GameSpot.
Monolith Productions announced a sequel to F.E.A.R., which is titled F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin after Monolith and Warner Bros. regained the rights to the F.E.A.R. name. Prior to September 2008, the sequel was not to be titled F.E.A.R. 2 due to Vivendi's ownership of the F.E.A.R. name. The game was instead to be called Project Origin, which is a name derived from a contest to name the sequel. The sequel remains in the game's existing universe, retaining the original storyline and characters, but centering around a different character. Monolith Productions published the game with Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, which purchased the studio in 2004 while development of F.E.A.R. was under way, after which Vivendi Universal was dropped as publisher. Vivendi Universal published the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ports of the original game, developed by Day 1 Studios.
An expansion pack titled F.E.A.R. Extraction Point was released by TimeGate Studios on October 24, 2006. The second expansion pack, F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate, also from TimeGate Studios, was released in November 2007. F.E.A.R. Files was released simultaneously for the Xbox 360, consisting of both Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate.
In 2005, Rooster Teeth Productions created P.A.N.I.C.S. or PANICS, an acronym for People Acting Normal In Crazy-Ass Situations, is a comic science fiction series based on F.E.A.R. The series was produced primarily by using the machinima technique of synchronizing video footage from video games to pre-recorded dialogue and other audio. The series was produced at the request of Monolith Productions as a part of a tie-in with the Director's Edition of the F.E.A.R., which the Rooster Teeth team used to produce the series. The mini-series consists of five episodes. Four of these have been released on the Rooster Teeth website, and one — episode 0, a prequel — originally shipped exclusively with the F.E.A.R. Director's Edition DVD. It is also included with the game's digital release on GOG.com.
The story centers on a newcomer to Bravo Team, a special military group formed to battle supernatural enemies. As the series begins, Bravo Team has been sent into a military facility at night to investigate the reports of paranormal activity from within. This is a parody of the main scenario used in F.E.A.R.
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- Genevieve Aristide: There was an uprising. Fettel has taken command of the prototypes.
- Betters: This wacko's name is Paxton Fettel. He's the key. If we contain him, we contain the situation. / Jin Sun-Kwon: What's his story? / Betters: Property of Armacham Technology Corporation. They're working on a military contract to develop an army of clones that respond to a psychic commander. Top secret, of course. Fettel was one of the commanders.
- Jin Sun-Kwon: How do we find him? / Betters: That's easy. He's got a transmitter embedded in his head that'll lead us right to him.
- Betters (reading from an ATC laptop): Well, this confirms the point of Perseus was to train telepathic commanders to work with cloned soldiers, although Paxton Fettel was the only commander of the program. The weird thing is they refer to him as the second prototype.
- Betters (reading from an ATC laptop): More info on Origin: the genetic reference they used for the program was apparently a powerful psychic. Makes sense. If you want a telepathic commander, you need a telepath. And it was a woman. Says here she gave live birth to the prototypes. Seems Wade wasn't convinced the psychic characteristics were genetic. He figured there was better chance they'd be passed along if the fetus gestated inside the subject. So they put her in a coma, made her carry a genetically engineered baby to term, then induced labor.
- Betters (reading from an ATC laptop): Here's some more info about Fettel: he's developed as part of a project called Origin. It says the first prototype didn't work out, Fettel was the second, and there was never a third. They just pulled the plug a few years after he was born.
- Betters (reading from an ATC laptop): I figured out what a synchronicity event is. There was an incident when they lost control of Fettel, he just suddenly started freaking out. He was only about ten years old at the time, but I guess he killed a few people. In the investigation, they discovered that there had been a telepathic link between Fettel and Alma even though she was in a coma. They concluded that she was influencing him. That's must've been why they pulled the plug on Origin.
- Betters: It's starting to make sense. The name of the woman they used for Origin is Alma. That's who Fettel's looking for.
- Betters (reading from an ATC laptop): She was just a kid. Says here Alma was eight years old when Origin started up. They used a little girl. No wonder they're so fucking anxious to keep a lid on this mess.
- Fettel: We are brothers, you and I. [...] You and I were born from the same mother.
- Wade: They want to destroy her. But I think she's suffered enough. We put her in there two days before her eighth birthday. She died six days after we pulled the plug.
- Mapes: You have to destroy this facility, before he lets her out. There are four pylons. Damage the reactor cells and you'll trigger a chain reaction. Blow the whole place to hell, where it belongs.
- Holiday: We still don't know the extent of the damage. / Jin Sun-Kwon: We haven't been able to get through to anyone since the explosion. What about Alma? What happened to her? (After a loud crash is heard) What was that sound?
- Genevieve Aristide: I just wanted to assure you that the Origin situation has been resolved. / Senator: But so much for discretion. / Genevieve Aristide: It was unavoidable. There is some good news, however: the first prototype was a complete success.
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