By Sam Coles:
The horror genre can come in predictable forms with jump scares and monsters but there are certain games within the genre that switch gears in an instant. F.E.A.R is one of those games, if you watch reviews on Youtube or on other blogs; people often harp on about the combat and the “advanced” A.I. However that is only one half of the game and I want to go over why F.E.A.R’s atmosphere is totally unique, and will completely catch you off guard.
The game begins with main antagonist Paxton Fettle breaking out of confinement; however he has a unique ability to take control of a clone army known as “Replicas” telepathically. You are then sent in to investigate and bring Fettle in, but it doesn’t go to plan where he knocks you out and taunts you for a bit. It is a typical villain set up, but it’s not the story that captivates in Fear it is the atmosphere where it can juxtapose from high octane action to unnerving horror. There is also a child named Alma stalking you throughout the game, with her intentions unknown.
The game starts off as a gruff military shooter, where you are fast roping out of a helicopter and gunning down Replicas as they rag doll in their as meaty giblets fly in the air as you spray buckshot at them. However in most cases when a firefight finishes, what do you hear? Nothing! This is what always gets to me in Fear, after having a lot of fun in a gunning down soldiers in slow motion it suddenly switches gears and becomes very quiet with nothing more than the sound of your footsteps.
Like Monolith’s other game Condemned which released the same year as Fear, it likes to play with your expectations because when you walk down a corridor and there is a suspicious corner your natural human instincts think there is going to be a jump scare. However when you turn the corner there is nothing there. This is what elevates the atmosphere as you think you know all the tricks that the game has but the game plays with you and almost taunts you, and catches you off guard after a gunfight as most would think that this is a standard action game.
The music or lack thereof is what also increases the tension of the atmosphere, as the game goes for more audio ques instead of a traditional soundtrack. You will mostly here diegetic sounds this can consist of objects falling off shelves, moaning of unnatural entities and just general industrial hums as you traverse in the darkness. It is this oppressive weight you feel in these moments, that I get twitchy and paranoid when I’m playing late at night.
As I said earlier you are stalked by a child named Alma, her back story is dark as she was experimented on by her own father we she has become this godlike figure where she can literally make people explode with her mind. She is always there watching you throughout the game, what I like about this is that you can miss her sometimes as she is in the darker corners of an area, or you see her shadow as she slinks away into the shadows. It creates a paranoia within the player, especially when you clamber down ladders she has a strange fascination with ladders and it still gets me with the audio ques and her playful yet creepy laugh as she taunts you.
F.E.A.R’s tense atmosphere is something that catches you off guard as it uses the downtime in between firefights to play with your expectations. If you haven’t played the 2005 classic I would recommend it, you can play it on 360, PS3 and PC the PC option is probably easiest option.