I never really understood why the F.E.A.R franchise got so popular and spawned so many sequels. I mean they’re not technically bad games, but when you line them and describe them on paper they can be kind of underwhelming. A horror, first person shooter starring a nameless silent protagonist who battles an army of clones controlled by a psychic cannibal while being stalked by a haunting little girl.
I have played all three F.E.A.R games (not including the add-ons and DLC) and I didn’t really understand… until I really dove into them and started to really analyze them. Let’s begin with the first game.
The first F.E.A.R game has you playing as a protagonist named simply “Point Man” as part of a Recon team called “First Encounter Assault Recon”, whose main objective throughout this game is to apprehend a murderous cannibal named Paxton Fettel.
While on your mission, you will have many encounters with a mysterious ghostly little girl named Alma who seems to stalk you where ever you go. Now, the gameplay of this game is really boring and way too repetitive. You spend most of the game fighting the same looking soldiers in the most bland and dark environments you can put in a video game. If you love warehouses, offices buildings and hallways, then you’ll simply adore this game.
Point Man also has enhanced reflexes where he can slow down time so that you can get precise shots and shoot the enemy before they get a chance to even aim at you. So you can fight the same looking soldiers in most bland and dark environments… but in slow motion, not terribly exciting.
Now, if the the gameplay is nothing to get excited about, then the horror aspect should be something to marvel at. F.E.A.R is marketed as a horror first-person shooter game, not a first-person shooter horror game. Well, not really because F.E.A.R doesn’t really do anything to really scare you.
They just show you a room covered in blood or a dead body and expect you to have a scared reaction. Even the ghostly girl Alma isn’t really that scary because she just appears on screen and then disappears within seconds, sometimes you’ll just miss her or can’t even find her. It almost feels like the game is trying too hard to scare you while not being that scary to begin with which is a shame because F.E.A.R took a lot from Japanese horror.
So what is so good about the first F.E.A.R game that made it so popular? Well, in my opinion, the story is actually pretty good and even offers some unexpected twists and surprises. The story follows Point Man as he learns the origins of Alma and Paxton Fettel, and why he has caught both of their attentions.
Also, while tracking down Paxton, you are asked to escort a man named Harlan Wade to safety along with his daughter named Alice Wade. Well, as you move along in the game, you find out that Harlan Wade spearheaded a experiment project called “Project Origin” to test Alma’s psychic abilities, but it become too cruel an experiment.
However, we then learn that Alma’s full name is “Alma Wade”; the daughter of Harlan Wade and that he made his own daughter do those tests for his own selfish needs. Then we find out that Alma was impregnated twice with her own DNA and gave birth to two boys, one was Paxton Fettel; who was hunting Alma throughout the game. The other boy that Alma gave birth to was you, the Point Man and that she has been trying to telepathically communicate to you and ultimately destroy you because of what her family has done to her.
So, alright, the first F.E.A.R game had a pretty detailed and kind of awesome story with an interesting antagonist, but what about F.E.A.R 2. Well, in F.E.A.R 2, you play as a completely new silent protagonist. Yes, apparently you become more powerful the less you talk in the world of F.E.A.R.
You play as Sgt. Michael Becket, a Delta Force operative, who has been assigned to take Genevieve Aristride into protective custody approximately thirty minutes before the ending of the first F.E.A.R game. Unfortunately, Genevieve tricked him into some sort of experiment that physically alters him and he now emits a psychic signal; now Alma wants to stalk him and “absorb” him.
F.E.A.R 2’s story is a massive downgrade from the first game because there is no real twist that you can’t guess halfway through the game and the silent protagonist in this game is even more bland then Point Man because they don’t really involve him into the story and we don’t really learn that much about him.
The gameplay isn’t much better because it’s the same one note of killing the same looking soldiers, even in slow motion, and it’s just as repetitive and boring as it was in the first game. They did, however, give us more variety in the environments, even though they still don’t look very engaging. But still, it’s an improvement from the first game where we can actually get some variety.
So if the story was downgraded and the gameplay still isn’t that great, what good is there in this game? Well, I thought F.E.A.R 2 got a lot creepier. The developers knew exactly where to place an Alma scare and knew exactly when it would be most effective.
Alma even has more bite in this game, because she actually attacks Becket and really wants to harm him! You really have to stay on guard to fight her off. The red glow draped over a scary moment and the lighting make it perfect, and there are even points in the game where to have to fend off ghosts that just keep coming at you in dark rooms.
I’m not saying the game is a horror masterpiece, but it’s still a major improvement over the first game that only felt like it was trying too hard to scare. Here, they pretty much hit it dead on but there is still one more game in the franchise… F.E.A.R. 3 or F.3.A.R.
Now, the third F.E.A.R game takes place sometime after F.E.A.R 2 because Point Man is locked up in some kind of prison; I’m guessing a plot point I missed in one of the DLC add-ons, and Paxton Fettel breaks him out to find their mother and confront her one last time because she’s apparently pregnant from the events of F.E.A.R 2.
The reason the two brothers need to confront Alma is because her contractions are, for some reason, tearing the world apart and that’s pretty much it. That is the whole story in a nutshell and it is probably the weakest one of the trilogy. We learn nothing new about our characters or Alma and there is no real exciting conclusion to the story of these three games.
What about the horror aspect of the game? Well unfortunately F.3.A.R takes a huge step backwards and has the same problem from the first F.E.A.R game as it tries too hard to scare you. They just expect you to go into a room with some lit candles and a picture on the wall, and expect you have a scared reaction. Yeah, it may creep you out at first, but after you see that same picture a hundred times, it can stop being scary very quickly. You also barely see Alma in this game, you see a glimpse of her in the first level but after that the game literally stops trying to scare you.
So once again, the story is probably the worst of the series and it isn’t remotely frightening but what is good about this game? Well, lastly, the gameplay is really a lot of fun because F.3.A.R. introduces cooperative gameplay for the first time in the trilogy.
One player plays as Point Man and the other player plays as Paxton Fettel, and each of them have their own special abilities and can bring something to the table. Point Man has the same gameplay from the first game with the ability to slow down time and get precise shots against the enemy and can use jumping and sliding melee attacks.
However, Paxton is where the real fun is to be had because, even though he can’t use weapons, he can possess enemy soldiers and play as them to fight the enemy. He can also lift enemies up and make them as easy target for himself and the other player. The co-op works really well and when you get going, it’s really fun. When a group of enemies approach you, Paxton can possess one of them and Point Man can slow time down and then the two of them can go to town on the enemy and it’s a real blast.
So now… let’s recap.
The first F.E.A.R. game had a terrific storyline that offered good characters, great twists and one hell of an ending, but lacked gameplay variety and horror. F.E.A.R. 2, however, has a lot of creepy moments and even gave the ghostly antagonist more bite in her scares, but still lacked decent gameplay and downgraded the story and characters. Then F.3.A.R. had amazingly fun and creative gameplay that you could share with a friend, but also had the weakest storyline of trilogy and borrowed the horror problems of the first game.
So all in all, all three F.E.A.R. games pretty much have something for everyone. If you love a good, well-written and complex story in a game, then I highly recommend the first game. If you love games with a creepy atmosphere with more of a bite with the horror aspect, then F.E.A.R 2 is a game you should definitely try out. Lastly, if you love fun gameplay that you can share with a friend, then I say check out the third game.
Granted, I don’t consider any of these really great games or even groundbreaking games, even if most people thought about that of the first game. However, I’m glad I was able to find something to enjoy in each game because they are at least entertaining in their own way. The trilogy hits each of the important points it was trying to make and they are done extremely well. It just would have been nice to have a game with all three of these elements.