Although Extraction Point's a bit on the short side, superb visuals and stunning atmosphere make it a great expansion.
FEAR, or First Encounter Assault Recon, is a US military organization, assigned to deal with paranormal threats. As introduced in the first game, a bloodthirsty guy named Paxton Fettel took charge of Replica forces, a battalion of supersoldiers, which, being telepathically linked with him, were a huge threat to the world. Harlan Wade, a scientist working at the ATC (Armacham Technology Corporation), used his own DNA to breed the Replica, wanting to use it for self purposes. Unfortunately, he never thought the Replica could be a huge threat to the ATC itself. After ten intense chapters of fighting against the enemy forces, you’re about to sweep the ATC from the ground. F.E.A.R.’s chopper picks you up and ends the first game.
Extraction Point kicks off a couple of hours after the explosion of the ATC facility, with you and two of your team mates – Jim-Sun Kwon and Douglas Holiday, trying to get out of the crash-site in a deserted city after your chopper landed… not so well. Walking into the darkness of the city, you see the Replica forces dormant - a phenomenon caused by Paxton’s death. Funnily, after fearlessly kicking them in the face one by one for a couple of minutes, I got spooked after a sudden twist of the story, which I’m not too eager to spoil, since the game is a bit on the short side, anyway. On the other hand, what should you expect – Extraction Point is an expansion pack, not a whole new separate game.
Those who are new to the series shouldn’t find the controls hard to get used to. Even if you’re not familiar with the settings, they are introduced in the opening chapter. Extraction Point is friendly in that aspect, as you get a description on what a weapon or a gadget does the first time you pick it, not to mention the tips and tricks depicted when loading a level or savegame. It’s always good to know, as there is quite a big variety of gadgets you’ll get to use throughout the game, including fragmentation grenades, proximity grenades, health and reflex boosters, and more.
One of the key aspects that made F.E.A.R stand out on top of the other games was its excellent atmosphere – the nightmares Alma and Paxton sent you telepathically are in the expansion, as well, and this time they work even better - often you may find yourself stuffing all your shotgun shells into an opponent just to see it’s all a nightmare and all your precious ammo’s wasted. While most of the nightmares require you to kill the foe, sometimes they just pop out of the corner to freak you out and quickly disappear. These so-called horror sequences aren’t the only things that make Extraction Point creepy. Sometimes you may walk along a corridor fearlessly when suddenly all the lights go out, or a door closes right in front of your nose. Minor creeps like these make the cut, as well, but frankly, there aren’t so many of them in EP as there were in F.E.A.R.
Sound adds a lot to the atmosphere, and Extraction Point delivers it top-notch. F.E.A.R.’s atmospheric music made the game even creepier to play at night, and EP continues that trend by adding a couple of new soundtracks. There’s little time you won’t hear any music at all, as the ambient takes you into the game a lot faster. The sounds of weapons are done very well, too, and so are the voices of NPCs – if you shoot them, they’ll scream in pain asking for help, or fearlessly fight back. Knowing that Extraction Point is rated M, you’ll have to face a solid amount of swearing in-game.
The variety of enemies has developed a little. Casual Replicas aside, you‘ll get to comfront foes that are robot-like, athletic or even barely visible. Every type has different pros and cons, so you‘ve to use appropriate weapons to deal with them, or you‘ll soon be dry on ammo. Fortunately, that happens on very rare occasions, and when it does, getting the weapons of dead NPCs restores your ammo supplies really quick. If there aren‘t any around, though, you can fight weaponlessly – using the right mouse button, you can kick the enemies with the butt-end of your weapon, which also helps when opening doors or even breaking the locks on them. Pressing certain button combinations lets you perform other moves, like a side kick or a so-called bycycle kick.
There‘s a big asortment of firearms to use in Extraction Point, varying from a pistol to a multirocket launcher. While all the weapons from F.E.A.R. are back, including the SMG, the shotgun, the assault rifle and others, EP offers two new additions – the plasma rifle and the minigun. Having a big firepower they both make good add-ons to the game, although the minigun suffers pretty much from big recoil, so it‘s better-used at close range. Just like enemies, every weapon has its pros and cons – the pistol is precise, but it doesn‘t do much damage to tougher opponents, whereas the assault rifle, being less precise, does a lot more damage, especially from close range.
Zooming in with your weapon and crouching are good ways of improving accuracy – so is using the slow-motion ability – when enabled, it slows down time making your shots more precise. The Slow-Mo is a very useful feature, especially when dealing with multiple enemies at once, which happens more than often. It‘s also a great way of seeing the whole beauty of graphical effects, as it highlights all the blood and weapon power a ton, which is one of the things that makes F.E.A.R. a realistic and satisfying experience. The environments in the game may feel a little repetive after a while, but it‘s not necessarily a bad thing, as they all look basically the same after a big firefight. Every single bullet you shoot leaves a trace, making the everything around you fall apart as you fight the enemy, hence it feels almost like watching a movie, not playing a video game. Alas, the Slow-Motion can‘t be used for an infinite amount of time - it needs to recharge after being used.
To increase the length of using Slow-Mo, there are Reflex Boosters – one out a handful of gadgets available. Health boosters are in-game, as well – they raise your health by 25 points. Sometimes gadgets are in locations clearly visible, but mostly they‘re well hidden, hence if you‘re on low health, you will get to check every corner, and every little room. Depending on the difficulty setting, though, your health restores up to 25 points, if it‘s below. Four difficulties are available to choose from - Normal to Extreme. Depending on what you choose, the strength of enemies vary, making your weapons less effective.
You don‘t have to buy Extraction Point to play it‘s multiplayer, as it‘s a separate game. F.E.A.R. Combat is available to download for free, and, having a large playerbase, it‘s a game well worth to try out. Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Elimination... although they all miss the slow-mo ability, there‘s an exclusive gamemode for that – Slow-Mo Deathmatch. Having pretty much all the features included in the singleplayer campaign, Combat makes a great download for every FPS fan.
There are five intervals in Extraction Point‘s singleplayer campaign, each featuring around five chapters which can easily be passed in four to six hours on the moderate difficulty. It may feel a bit too little for a F.E.A.R. fan, but having superb visual quality and sound, EP is well worth the money, as even after you‘re done with the singleplayer campaign, there‘s this awesome multiplayer mode to try out, for free!