A great game that mixes FPS and horror and achieves a wonderful balance of action and caution.
+ Overall I would say this game feels like a spiritual successor to Half-Life except it's coated in a horror atmosphere instead of sci-fi. From the start the game plays like any other FPS. You can carry up to three guns and replace any gun whenever you come across a new one. The gun selection seems kind of weak at first, but by the end it turned out to be just the right amount of weapons with their own unique functions. Most of the time you'll stick with one of the two standard assault rifles, and then leave the other two slots for either pistols, shotgun, or some of the more powerful and rare weapons. You have to balance how much ammo you have, how accurate the weapon is, and also how cumbersome it is (the larger the weapon the slower you move). There are also grenades including a standard kind that explodes after a few seconds or immediately on contact with an enemy, but there are also proximity grenades and remote grenades.
One unique feature that F.E.A.R. does offer is the various melee attacks. If you holster your weapon you can throw punches. If you melee with a weapon, you slam your weapon at them. But you can also jump kick, do a roundhouse kick, and slide kick. What's great is that these melee attacks can be extremely useful and are a lot of fun. They conserve ammo and they are very powerful (but you do have to risk being real close to an enemy).
The other real unique feature is the reflex mode, which basically slows down time but makes you just a little faster than the enemies. When you start reflex mode, a bar on your HUD will continually drain and then refill once you exit the mode. This feature is fundamental to taking on most of the enemies in the game. Often the enemies will come at you in packs and it's just not smart to rush at them head-on. Instead, by combining reflex mode you can pick off some enemies from a distance, and then melee other enemies that are near you. There have been games that have used this technique before (like Max Payne) but I think it's presented so much better in F.E.A.R. and makes things feel so much more dramatic and fun.
Another strong point of this game is the AI. The enemies coordinate in groups and will respond and react to your movements. They do tend to vocalize what their intentions are a little too much, but that's also just a gameplay technique to let you know what they are up to. If they see your flashlight they will alert everyone around, or even if you knock over an object and make a loud noise they will become alert. The enemies also don't stay glued to one spot and will move around, crouch and uncrouch, and even approach you depending on what your actions are. On Moderate difficulty their bullets do a lot of damage but thankfully you will have plenty of health packs throughout the game (just make sure to watch your health meter because often times you might need to use a health pack in the middle of a gun fight).
The game also rewards exploration because throughout the levels there are Health boosters and Reflex boosters that permanently increase your health and reflex meter. They are usually out of the way, so you should take the time to explore the environment. I might add here that the level design is well-crafted and not just a straight corridor. There are a number of opportunities where you can choose how to approach a group of enemies (whether directly or whether you can find a hidden way of flanking them).
Overall the game manages to combine everything into a very solid experience. There are moments of pure FPS action where you must use your reflex mode and take on five enemies at once. But there are plenty of other moments where you're terrified to turn the corner and have to slowly approach each hallway in case a hidden spook will sneak up and scare you.
+ The story is mysterious and frightening, and the presentation is top-notch. You start off the game not really knowing much of what is going on, but you slowly pick up pieces here and there and uncover what happened. Every now and then you will get a flashback/hallucination which will frighten and confuse you, but all the while it keeps you moving ahead. You are able to listen to people's answering machines to also gather more information about what exactly happened. It's not until the very end when everything falls into place, but overall the pace seemed appropriate. It's hard to deny how well they made the environment feel, from the sound of dripping blood, to the flashing of lights, to the hallucinations--it all adds to the immersion.
+ For a six year old game I was impressed with how the graphics held up. There aren't many characters but the ones that exist seem to have had a lot of care put into them. The textures are put together nicely and even the small details that you stumble upon in the office buildings, for example, really stood out as a good thing. The graphics during the reflex mode seem spot-on with the flashing lights after a bullet is shot out, to the streaks in the air that the bullets make. Bullets also do noticeable damage to the surrounding environment and after a gunfight you can see huge chunks of concrete torn out in certain places. Similarly, after a grenade explodes or your bullets hit a certain type of object there will be a thick dust cloud that rises up. It looks so believable and is really hard to see through, just like I imagine it would actually do.
+ It took me about 8-9 hours to beat the game, which is a decent amount for a FPS. More importantly, I thought it was the appropriate length for the game. Any shorter and it would have been too short, and any longer and the game might have seemed too long. It was long enough to get an enjoyable experience and really appreciate the game. The game does (did?) have multiplayer but unfortunately I don't think anyone plays it anymore. Still, I would definitely recommend anyone to pick this up. It is a wonderful game that seems to succeed at everything it attempts.