It's quite common these days to see first person shooters originally designed or planned for the PC come across to the top consoles. Typically the PC
FPS is a genre where PC gaming is at its most technically impressive, so hardware conditions in previous console generations were not usually well suited to
keep up with the latest PC shooters, and while this will very likely remain true soon enough as PC gaming develops further, right now the 360 and PS3 are
doing a pretty good job with many of the latest
and greatest shooters. One such original PC FPS which managed to bridge across to the console world well was F.E.A.R. Although it saw release on the
360 a full year after the PC, the horror based action shooting gameplay translated effectively from mouse to gamepad, creating a new fan base for the
series. While the PC fan base has been treated to two expansion packs since release, the newer Xbox 360 fan base has only the one original release to go off
- until now that is. Sierra Entertainment and
developers Day 1 Studios have recently released a new Xbox 360 title known as F.E.A.R. Files, which combines both the aforementioned two PC expansion
packs. Gamers can expect the same spooky shooting action, but unfortunately not much more.
It was interesting to see how Day 1 Studios were going to approach the combination of two expansion packs into the one game with Files, and they've
done it in more or less the most practical and cost effective way imaginable - by placing both campaigns on the main menu so you can choose
directly which one to play. The two campaigns are of course 'Extraction Point' and 'Perseus Mandate', which covers the activities of two different 'F.E.A.R.'
units as they cover the events after the original F.E.A.R.,
which brings us to the first potential snag with Files - you have to be familiar with the original F.E.A.R. or this game won't make much
sense to you at all.
This is of course to be expected, but nevertheless it's a less than desirable outcome for a console shooter. I'm sure Day 1 Studios could have made it so
gamers needed the original title to play Files but that doesn't really seem like much of a solution either. Perhaps it would have been a good
idea to include some sort of summary for what the original F.E.A.R. was all about so new gamers can pick up Files and understand enough to
enjoy the game, but this was not done. So the result
is Files is really for the gamers out there that have played F.E.A.R., but even these gamers won't necessarily find instant attraction. This is
because of two issues that leaves Files somewhat short of appeal to anyone who is less than a hardcore fan of the series - the gameplay is very
similar to the original, and the storyline featured across both expansion packs adds little to the series.
First of all, lets get a few things straight - the gameplay in Files is very good. I'm a big fan of the F.E.A.R. series and naturally
Files extends this style nicely. The shooting is brutal and savage with a nice array of weapons that cover just about everything you can think of -
there is even an ultra awesome laser gun that sends out a constant beam of destruction torching baddies and leaving nasty looking marks on walls and objects
alike. Better yet, the targets you're firing all these
weapons at really are quite intelligent, featuring some of the better AI seen in a FPS to date. Baddies will find and sometimes even create cover, use
grenades very well, and work in a group (which they are often in) with intelligence, spreading out and moving on the offensive with cover fire to really keep
you on your toes. Even though the combat can sometimes feel like it's following a pattern, there is no doubting the shooting gameplay in Files is top
And it's not just the X's and O's of the gameplay, the atmosphere in Files is great too. The levels and environments you find yourself in are
almost always very dark and gloomy, often requiring the use of your rechargeable torch which adds a lot to the mood and feel the game is trying to achieve.
Being a horror based game a lot of emphasis is put on trying to make the environments look scary including regular events in the game which invoke some
paranormal presence, often taking you to temporary
surreal surroundings haunted by demons and the likes. Now I won't go as far as to say you will be changing your pants every 10 minutes while playing
Files - the scare tactics used are a little cliche at times - but the horror elements to the storyline and gameplay are represented very well.
For those that do like to take their FPS gaming online, Files features 16 player MP action via Live allowing you to play ranked or unranked quick
matches across quite a few modes, including the normal deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, as well as CTF, and some modes involving the use of the game's
'slo-mo' functionality. There is also a new rather cool 'Instant Action' mode which allows you to load any level and kill an unlimited amount of baddies in
15 minutes (or until you're dead), where you are
given a score at the end. While this is not multiplayer per se, your score is uploaded to a leaderboard allowing you to compare scores with gamers worldwide.
With the dual campaign singleplayer and multiplayer combined, Files is definitely a well made package.
Unfortunately though, most of the above positives apply the original F.E.A.R too. In fact, outside of the few new weapons which you only
occasionally get to use anyway, both the expansions in Files could very well just be two hidden campaigns included in the original game. Now, I know
expansion packs are meant to be just that - expansions to the game and not sequels - but it doesn't change the fact both Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate
are remarkably similar to the original F.E.A.R.
Even the environments you run around in range from being either almost exactly the same to very similar, and the enemies themselves are likewise not
only mostly unchanged from the original, but unvaried throughout the expansion campaigns themselves. On top of this, as mentioned the
storyline in these expansions are more 'in the now' than anything and don't really contribute much if anything at all to the storyline of the series as a
whole. All of this wouldn't be such a huge deal if F.E.A.R. was
the best FPS ever made, but it had its shortcomings itself - it was a tad repetitive with 'rinse and repeat' style combat situations, so doing it all over
again with only very slight changes and little in the way of storyline advancements was never going to be an easy thing to pull off successfully.
Ultimately, the problem with F.E.A.R. Files is you really have to be familiar with the original to fully comprehend what it's going on about
- after all, Files is based on two PC expansion packs so playing the original F.E.A.R. is basically a must which is a rather unproven
formula for console FPS success. It's a tad disappointing to see little in the way of any significant storyline advancements with these two packs
but I guess that is being saved for a possible full on sequel which is fair enough, but it does put more importance on the gameplay of Files and
while it is good quality FPS gameplay, it's not much different from the original at all - same sort of enemies, same sort of environments, with a few new
weapons you occasionally get to use although you mainly use the same weapons too. With this said, F.E.A.R. Files is in a bit of a catch 22 -
it's not very suitable for new comers, and at the same time it's not enough of an upgrade to make it
an automatic purchase for everyone who enjoyed the Xbox 360 original. F.E.A.R. Files is really only for those who can't get enough of
F.E.A.R. and don't require much in the way of new content to get through another 12 levels or so of basically the same gameplay. By itself it is
a good to very good console FPS but the circumstances simply make F.E.A.R. Files too niche of a game for much impact to be had.
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