Vivendi is having a rather nice time of it lately with its PC first person titles. Half-Life 2 was huge and seen as a game that wouldn't be topped for quite some time by anyone on any platform. However Vivendi had something secretly in development while Half-Life 2 was finished, something that could have easily taken the shine from Valve had the information leaked out or was released early and that game is FEAR. FEAR is the next game from Monolith responsible for some of the better first person titles and they are using their expertise, Vivendi's budget and the latest technology to create what should become one of the PC's games of the year. We recently went hands on with a single player build to see what all the fuss is about.
Vivendi is being a bit mum on the storyline of the game thus far but what we do know is you are part of the FEAR team. First Encounter Assistance Recon, responsible for going in when it all seems just a bit to strange to the FBI and CIA and they won't deal with it. The demo began with a speech amongst characters about what is going on and you learn their disdain for each other rather quickly with many sexist comments being splayed about the place and a healthy dose of coarse language. From there the demo begins and indications suggest Vivendi are not going to release much if any of the background story before the game is released.
The game is a first person shooter but has a lot of aspects which differentiate it from the competition. First of all it is a very scary game. I was sitting in a well lit office with people around and it still managed to evoke fear inside me and terrified me at times. We started off pretty much moving through rooms removing enemies in a fairly traditional way but one thing which adds to the atmosphere is the HUD only appears when required by pressing tab. Other than that, you're completely immersed into the game and like HL2 you will never actually see your character in a third person perspective. Characters talk directly towards the screen at you, and this also enhances how much fear ('scuse the pun) you will feel playing this game. Vivendi better make a Huggies + Fear pack for those who want to play in the dark late at night.
The game continuously throws curve balls at you. At a few stages you will see a young girl run into seemingly no where and characters appear out of no where. Other times the game will completely change to something like the drugged sequence from Max Payne which completely comes out of no where and scares you. Other unique features include the ability to slow down time. Now this is very cool because you can actually see the latest version of Havoc physics in action in super slow motion. Just think of the latest slow mo cameras they use in sports where muscles ripple, and you generally have an idea of just how slow the game becomes. This is also useful when taking on huge amounts of enemies.
The AI is some of the most advanced we have seen. They will chase you into the darkness, recognise you from shadows, and see you torchlight approaching. They will then take cover and if you're getting the upper hand, run away to hide and ambush you. Generally, you can't count an enemy defeated or passed until they have been hit and that's the way it should be. The weaponry we saw was only a small portion of what will be on offer. You can carry up to three main weapons so you will have to choose the best weapon for the right situation. One of the coolest weapons is the plasma gun which is like a sniper rifle. When in slow motion the game looks phenomenal with this weapon.
The first thing we noticed when playing the game is the graphics. They are absolutely jaw dropping stunning, so much so my draw did actually drop. Huge amounts of detail are already in the game and Vivendi is promising even more improvement when the new generation of graphics cards are released. Also they are promising the game is quite scalable but once you see what it looks like running on a p4 3.4ghz with X850XT you won't want to go back to some weaker graphics card. The sound is already on a stunning level as well, evoking fear in the player and generally giving the game the freaky atmosphere you come to expect from a game like FEAR.
If the single player is anything to go by FEAR could top Half-Life 2. The fact it's coming out of no where, no storyline, insane graphics plus unique features such as slow motion makes this a game to watch and one that will surprise around every corner upon release in a few months time.