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Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: VU Games
Developer: Day 1 Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Nearly two years after its debut on the PC and a year after its next-gen debut on the Xbox 360, F.E.A.R. has finally found its way over to the PS3. Although it manages to retain the atmosphere and gameplay that made the other two versions popular, watered-down visuals and a number of technical issues combine to make the PS3 version feel like a rushed port.

Much like the 360 game Condemned, F.E.A.R. uses dark, moody lighting to produce a creepy atmosphere. Nearly every area you enter is dark with the only light sources being fires, and a few dull emergency lights that cast dark shadows. The atmosphere produces several instances where you'll find yourself jumping at nearly every shadow - some imagined, some not. Environments also feature interactive aspects like realistically shattering glass and loads of particle effects. Even better, the A.I. is fully aware of these effects and will use them to its advantage.

Your first clue that F.E.A.R. has issues are the visuals. Compared to both the PC and 360 versions of the same game, the PS3 version comes up short. The creepy atmosphere is there, which is arguably the most important aspect of the game, though it simply doesn't shine - at least on a technical level. Texture work is extremely muddy and characters are a little blockier. There are even a few noticeable issues with shadows. Some light sources create them, while others do not.

The conversion over to the PS3 isn't all gloom and doom - especially when it comes to sound, which seems to have made the progression with no problems at all. Opposing troops will comment on your location and even react to your tactics and actions. It's one thing to have a friend tell you you're awesome, but when the in-game enemies do, it feels so much cooler.

Sound also helps to expand the game's creepy atmosphere. Most of the time the game is quiet, giving a little more impact to the roar of gunfire that breaks out during fire fights. There are also instances where you'll hear your heart beating.

F.E.A.R., or First Encounter Assault Recon, is a government group charged with investigating supernatural occurrences that pose a threat to national security. Think of it as the X-Files if Mulder and Scully were highly-trained special forces members. As a rookie member of the group, you are dropped into a mission involving a group of super soldier clones whose telepathic leader, Paxton Fettel, has gone mad. As is the case with this sort of thing, everything is not as it seems. Early into the operation, you discover that Fettel is somehow tied to a young, red-clad girl named Alma, who appears throughout the game and seems to take pleasure in torturing your psyche.

The story doesn't always make the most sense, though it is successful at drawing from psychological thrillers to create a different FPS experience. As you walk down dark, narrow corridors, you may catch a glimpse of a little girl's shadow run across the doorway. Upon investigation, you see nothing but a dark corner until you turn around and see her standing at the other end of the hall. It's moments like these that make F.E.A.R. worth playing.

Of course, F.E.A.R. isn't just about jump scares and screwing with your perceptions - there are also well-executed fire fights with Fettel's clone soldiers. There's little to say about fights other than they feel right. Unlike other shooters, where there is always that feeling that you are still playing a game, the way guns handle in F.E.A.R. lend the game a more realistic feel.

Another of F.E.A.R.'s selling points are your reflex abilities. These can be activated in short bursts and create a bullet-time effect. Although this may not seem all that special - after all, nearly every game has attempted some sort of bullet-time in the past few years - it is handled in such a way that mastering when to use the skill is vital to your success considering how smart and numerous enemies are.

If you really want to test your skills, you can enter Instant Action Mode. Here you are dropped into a situation where you simply have to shoot your way out. There are no story sequences and none of Alma's tricks - it's just you, your guns and a bunch of soldiers. If you score high enough in this Mode, your scores are uploaded to an Online Leaderboard, allowing you to compare your skills against others.

If comparing stats isn't your thing, you can also jump into Multiplayer. F.E.A.R. features a dozen maps and a handful of FPS standard game types like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. The lack of voice chat hurts the play experience, though it runs smoothly and there is little lag.

Enemy soldiers are incredibly smart. If you aren't careful, you can quickly find yourself in a bad situation. If an enemy spots you, he'll immediately call for help. There are even times where one will keep you distracted and pinned down in a location, while another outflanks you from the side or behind. There are a few times where they'll show a lapse in judgment, though these instances are rare.

Enemies will even use their environment to their advantage by hiding behind objects or anything that could obstruct your view or bullets. They'll even use the game's physics system to knock over objects to create cover if it doesn't already exist.

Even though you can dodge bullets, you will still take plenty of damage. Health and Armor packs are available, and you can even hold on to up to 10 health packs for later use. A forgiving checkpoint system is used, which alleviates having to backtrack though entire levels after you die.

Game Mechanics:
F.E.A.R. doesn't use the SIXAXIS' motion controls and uses a controller setup similar to the 360. The general layout is handled well, though it isn't completely intuitive since there are times when you will accidentally toss a grenade when you want to use a health pack.

Each section of the game is preceded by long load times. These range anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute - killing the game's pacing. The time is well spent since it gives you time to recap events and objectives, but at the same time, they can become maddening when you remember this wasn't a feature in previous versions.

Technical issues aren't limited to long load times. The PS3 version also plays home to a host of other issues including framerate drops and slowdown when you aren't using the slowdown mechanic. Other issues include enemies clipping through walls or dead enemies twitching around like seizure patients. Were these present in other versions they wouldn't be a big deal, but since they seem limited to this version and are so numerous, it is hard to not notice them.

Compared to other versions, the PS3 version of F.E.A.R. has its issues; it doesn't look all that great, features long load times and is home to a number of bugs. Despite all of its problems, it still captures the more important gameplay aspects that made the game fun in the first place. If you've already played the game on PC or 360, there's no reason at all to check out the PS3 version since you are getting a low-quality port. For PS3 owners who can't play the game anywhere else, the experience is still solid and worth at least a rental.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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