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F.E.A.R. Files


I remember being enamored with F.E.A.R. when it originally came out on the PC. Monolith Games knew exactly how to terrify gamers across the globe and reignite the horror genre on PC / consoles. Unfortunately, they had nothing to do with the sequel F.E.A.R. Files. Instead, Sierra offered the job to TimeGate & Day 1 Studios and the lack of the original talent couldnít be any more evident.

F.E.A.R. Files is a combination of two expansions, both new to the Xbox 360. Extraction Point picks up where the original story left off. The large scale explosion kicks off and you are evacuated by helicopter. The helicopter conveniently crashes and another battle with the elusive Paxton Fettel ensues. Perseus Mandate begins halfway through the original F.E.A.R. and follows a second squad of soldiers sent into the situation to investigate ATC / Fettelís troops. What they find is a third faction of super-soldiers seeking the DNA of the chilling Alma. Itís up to this squad to stop the release of her DNA and save the day. The narrative struggles to keep up with the production value of the original story and eventually falls into mediocrity about halfway through each single player campaign.

Gameplay

At its core, the game is identical to the original. Itís a first person shooter putting the gamer into the role of a super-soldier that has the ability to slow down time similar to Max Payne. Thereís a variety of health / reflex boosters to collect and the same limitation of 3 weapons exists on your characterís inventory. The enemy A.I. is still fantastic on the higher level of difficulty and uses squad tactics / cover perfectly. And yes, Alma occasionally pops out during a vision and does the angry little girl routine.

The game does toss a couple of new enemies / weapons into the mix in the PM campaign. The elite Nightcrawlers are a modified version of what you faced in the earlier campaign. These tough guys require a huge amount of ammo to take down and they perform acrobatic jumps out the wazoo. Unless you have a full slow-down meter ready to go before a fight, you will likely be shooting at air while the Nightcrawlers are ripping you to shreds. These enemies also carry the chain lightning gun or the grenade launcher. I never found the lightning gun to be an overly powerful weapon, but itís great for pulling off distance kills similar to the ASP rifle. There is also a new ghost-like enemy in the darker levels that uses invisibility to its advantage. They are easily taken down with the shotty though.

Detracting from the entertainment value, the main problems with both campaigns are level repetition and a general absence of friendly A.I. Each level has a distinct linearity and a drab appearance. While the original F.E.A.R. occasionally offered path choices along the way, F.E.A.R. Files doesnít offer such luxuries. Itís also very much a solo campaign and squad elements are kept to a minimum once again. Even when the squad is helping, they couldnít hit an enemy solider if they had a chain gun and unlimited ammo.

Another minor annoyance is the lack of supplementary information from the telephones / answering machines. The original offered up small pieces of the story to help explain the characters. The messages in the Extraction point campaign are nothing more than calls from people wondering where their loved ones are at. Itís truly pointless to listen to any of the calls with the exception of a measly 15 point achievement.

The multiplayer content is nothing more than a collection of new maps. The game modes are exactly the same and without extra frills. Add in an unhealthy online base and it starts to become a tired experience. The developers also saw fit to include the instant action mode from the first game. Itís almost identical to the previous version, just on a different set of 8 levels. While extremely short, the levels do provide more entertainment value than the single player campaigns as a whole. The fast paced scenarios offer a welcome challenge to shooter veterans and F.E.A.R. fanatics.

The achievements are split fairly evenly between the two campaigns, multiplayer and instant action mode. Nearly half of the points can be racked up by simply playing through the two campaigns, more if you choose to play on the extreme level of difficulty. Most notably, the achievement set is vastly more balanced than the achievement set of the original. There are no silly achievements like completing the entire campaign without dying. Itís a group of achievements thatís vastly more accessible to casual gamers.

Graphics

There has never been a more bland combination of gray, blue and black shades of color in recent memory. Visually, the graphics engine shows tremendous age and general lack of detail is profoundly evident. The lack of improvement over the original appearance of the first F.E.A.R. title is unfortunate. The occasional smattering of blood doesnít help much either. Even a first generation Xbox 360 title like Condemned is vastly more detailed and atmospheric than F.E.A.R. Files. The repetition of level environments is nauseating and incredibly monotonous. The only real plus the game has going for it a rock solid frame rate, perhaps due to the dated nature of the game.

Audio

The voice work in both expansions is certainly on par with the original and seems to offer a slice of authenticity to the title. The music is exactly the same as the previous title. The same eerie notes emanate from the game when entering the supposed ďfrighteningĒ moments of the title. The sound effects are also an area of reused audio files and brought little to nothing new to the table, as far as my ears could tell anyway.

Overall

I have to wonder who would be interested in this title with the vast majority of higher quality shooters available for the Xbox 360. The narrative of either expansion doesnít even come close to offering a satisfying conclusion to the original story and the multiplayer options are humdrum to say the least. More specifically, the true disservice to the original F.E.A.R. is a complete failure to instill actual fear in the player. There wasnít one point in F.E.A.R Files that I had to pause because the game was getting too intense and atmospheric. Overall, F.E.A.R. Files is simply disappointing and deserves little attention this holiday season.