F.E.A.R. Single-Player Demo

The F.E.A.R. logotype

I woke up this morning to a freshly downloaded copy of the installer for F.E.A.R. – First Encounter Assault Recon, after failed attempts to download it yesterday (It came out at 1 PM EST, so I wasn’t surprised). So, here are my first-time impressions from my first play through of the demo.

F.E.A.R. looks good and it actually manages to be a bit scary, but I’m still getting used to playing it. As with most new shooters, it takes me a little while to get adjusted to the feel of movement, the style of the play, the rhythm of the action and gunplay. I admit that I was highly skeptical of the scare-factor, but it really did manage to elicit some fear. Not much, but the play time on the demo was probably around 20 minutes, if that, so they didn’t have too long to get me in the right mindset. I hope they can manage to keep it subtle throughout the game (at least in the beginning), because what I saw was some nice subtlety mixed with intensity.

The graphics are nice, but I didn’t have them cranked up yet (I’ll be playing with those next), so I’ll reserve judgement on their quality. However, the real-time dynamic shadowing, which is becoming more common, goes a long way towards making the game intense and scary. In fact, seeing my own shadow rendered that clearly added a layer of realism and intensity that I didn’t expect. You can now jump at your own shadow in a videogame.

There’s a slow-mo trigger in the game that functions similarly to the slow-mo in Max Payne and Enter The Matrix, but is less about acrobatics and more about getting an edge in the cramped and intense gunfights. From what I can tell, it’s is well implemented. The sound and visuals all stretch and slow, giving the gunfights an interesting mechanic. Plus, they aren’t stingy about refilling the meter, so you can really make use of it. The enemy A.I. is pretty damn convincing, too. Enemy soldiers take evasive maneuvers, call out when they see a flashlight or grenade, and seem to take up good positions, but I only had a few cramped gunfights so far, so it remains to be seen how well it holds up. Also, I admit I was playing on easy, so I just flicked on slow-mo and kicked all types of ass a lot of the time and they didn’t have too much time to be tactical.

The variety of weapon types was pretty extensive for a demo that short, but I gather the demo is actually a bit of patchwork from various parts of the full game, so that may explain it. The weapons have decent variety, but I had a hard time telling the automatics apart. I’m guessing that more time with them will clear that up.

Two big suggestions to Monolith for the full release: 1) the H.U.D. for the ammo display is miniscule and hard to read in some situations, please either make it larger or make the type sturdier. A lot of the interface type seems a bit small, in fact. I had the screen res at 1024 x 768. Not sure if that played a part in that. 2) I wasn’t impressed by the audio for the guns. Some of them felt weak to me. I want a bass-y thudding or a piercing crack when I’m firing off rounds, I want to hear the air warp and sizzle and the machinery thrum when I fire off a crazy futuristic pusle weapon. When I let loose with an automatic weapon, I want it to roar. Right now, it’s more like I’m hearing gun sounds, not the sound of a gun in my hands. The weapons need a more weighty punch. The contrast between the roar of gunplay and the silence of the fear-inducing sections would be thrown into higher relief, as well.

I’ll keep playing the demo to get myself warmed up to the feel of the game, but I have high hopes for F.E.A.R.. I’m not all hyped up and crazy for it, like many people seem to be, but they’ve convinced me to give it a try.

You can also check out IGN’s coverage of F.E.A.R..

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