F.E.A.R. Single-Player Hands-On

The hit action horror shooter is coming to the PlayStation 3, and we took a preview version out for a spin to battle clones and a scary little girl.

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Could a game with a scary little girl be the next big shooter for the PlayStation 3? Sierra certainly hopes so with F.E.A.R., its hit action game that has previously made the rounds on the Xbox 360 and the PC. This paranormal-themed first-person shooter features intense combat along with horror elements inspired by recent movies, most notably The Ring. We got our hands on a work-in-progress of the PS3 version to see what's up.

First, we should note that the PlayStation 3 game seems pretty much identical to last year's Xbox 360 game, which itself was entirely derived from the 2005 hit PC game. So if you've played F.E.A.R. on the PC or the Xbox 360, you can probably safely skip over the PS3 version, as there's nothing really new here. If you haven't played F.E.A.R. though, you can expect some of the best firefights seen in a shooter to date.

You play as the unnamed "point man" in the military's elite First Encounter Assault Recon team, sort of a Delta Force that handles the paranormal. And you'll be in high demand after some very strange events occur in Auburn, a nondescript American city where some guy named Paxton Fettel is killing people and eating their bodies. Oh yeah, and he has an army of heavily armed clones to back him up. The police, the regular military, and even the vaunted Delta Force have all failed to stop him, so now it comes down to your team.

F.E.A.R. is aptly named thanks to its mix of action and horror.
F.E.A.R. is aptly named thanks to its mix of action and horror.

At your disposal will be a variety of high-tech firearms, including pistols and submachine guns (which can be dual-wielded so you hold one in each hand), shotguns, assault rifles, and even some exotic weaponry such as particle beam weapons. You're also armed with some melee attacks, from using whatever weapon that's in your hands for a good old-fashioned pistol whip, to being able to martial arts kick. And then there are your enhanced reflexes, which let you move at superhuman speed for brief periods of time. This is effectively a bullet-time mode, as you can enter a room full of bad guys, activate your reflex powers, and take them out while dodging their bullets easily.

One of the hallmarks of F.E.A.R. is the intense nature of the firefights, and this remains intact on the PlayStation 3 version. The particle effects are intense as dust and debris fill the air along with thick, acrid gunsmoke. Plenty of objects in the environment shatter when hit, and bullets will gouge walls. Even more impressive is the artificial intelligence at work in the game. Enemies are constantly thinking and moving. One guy might shoot at you and then fall back through a maze of rooms, all the while firing to keep you suppressed. Others will try to flank you, or toss grenades to flush you out.

It's not all just heavily armed clones in F.E.A.R., though. Throughout the game you'll encounter paranormal phenomena designed to creep you out. Objects will suddenly rattle as you approach; you'll have strange, disturbing visions; and a little girl in a dress will have a nasty habit of appearing and turning everyone around her into a smoldering skeleton. To find out what's going on, you'll have to pick up the many clues scattered throughout the game. These can be found by listening in on someone's voicemail in their office, or hacking into computers and laptops.

The early levels are very industrial in nature, so you'll battle in warehouses and water treatment plants before the game transitions to an office tower and other environs. The action takes place at night for the most part, but thankfully you can use a flashlight to navigate some of the darker levels. Unfortunately, the flashlight also operates under the contrived rules of first-person shooters. Apparently, no one in the F.E.A.R. universe has heard of Duracell or Energizer, so flashlights last for about 20 or 30 seconds before they run out of power and have to recharge.

The firefights in the game are immensely satisfying.
The firefights in the game are immensely satisfying.

If the Xbox 360 version is any indication, you can expect the campaign to last anywhere between 8 and 12 hours, depending on your style of play, though experienced shooter fans will certainly get through the game quicker. In addition to the single-player campaign, there's an instant action mode that pits you in a specific level against waves of enemies--the longer you last, the higher your score. You can then compare your score against others using the leaderboards. There's also a fairly robust multiplayer suite with eight modes, such as deathmatch and capture the flag, and support for up to 16 players.

On a visual front, the PlayStation 3 version looked somewhat fuzzy compared to the crisp Xbox 360 version, even on an HDMI connection, but the graphics were otherwise identical in terms of content and textures. Meanwhile, the frame rate remained smooth and steady through our play session.

F.E.A.R. for the PlayStation 3 should deliver the same amount of thrills and chills as the PC and Xbox 360 versions, and it's not surprising that Sierra and developer Day 1 Studios took the safe road of porting over the excellent Xbox 360 game. F.E.AR.'s mix of kinetic action and creepy horror is an effective one, and the game should hit the PlayStation 3 in March.

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