F.E.A.R. Series Catch-All

I realized I failed to mention a couple of positive aspects of my experience, given my less-than-stellar overall impression.

* Awesome performance - My computer is decent, but my no means a frame-chewing, frothing beast (3.16 C2D, 4G RAM, Radeon 5850), and FEAR 3 always ran smoothly. I never experienced any skipped frames or lousy lag; that's with maxing everything in the graphic options. I am fully pleased with having a slightly-behind-the-curve graphic engine run beautifully, rather than a slight-ahead-of-the-curve graphic engine run poorly.

* Stability I only had one crash in my entire 14+ hour playtime; the last game I can remember exhibiting that level of stability was Plants vs. Zombies.

Under-the-bridge "dog hunt" made me quit the game and never look back. Perhaps I`m getting old.

ShynDarkly wrote:

From those folks who've dabbled in the multiplayer and been playing online co-op rather than split screen, has the online side of things been behaving?

Can't comment on too much yet. I haven't unlocked F*cking Run yet and the few matches I played of Soul King was with 1-2 other players. Latency is okay but when you think that all their online modes are capped at 4 players, it should be a bit smoother. Matchmaking was speedy.

Soul King swings abruptly between total chaotic fun to teeth-grinding frustration.

Maclintok wrote:
ShynDarkly wrote:

From those folks who've dabbled in the multiplayer and been playing online co-op rather than split screen, has the online side of things been behaving?

Can't comment on too much yet. I haven't unlocked F*cking Run yet and the few matches I played of Soul King was with 1-2 other players. Latency is okay but when you think that all their online modes are capped at 4 players, it should be a bit smoother. Matchmaking was speedy.

Soul King swings abruptly between total chaotic fun to teeth-grinding frustration.

Thanks for the info, it was the studios first outing with Steamworks handling all the comms for the PC version; its hard to fully evaluate that sort of tech without a beta or similar in real world conditions and decide whether we adopt the Valve tech more fully for our next titles

Just finished the solo game over the weekend and it was 'meh', especially the latter half of the game where I just wanted them to get on with it and stop feeding me the same boss battles over and over again.

I was ready to shelf this thing for a while when a rare visit from a friend gave us a good excuse to try out the local co-op. Whoa... the game was really fun. The asymmetrical co-op balance between Fettel and Point Man doesn't get too deep but it made every single battle that much more interesting.

So I picked up the complete F.E.A.R. collection when it was only 25 bucks on steam, and I finished FEAR 2 last night. Here's some vaguely chronological thoughts I jotted down along the way:

  • Where are my akimbo pistols? You can't be in a John Woo shoot out with only one pistol. You used to know this Monolith. I'm dropping this thing at first opportunity.
  • The level design in FEAR 2 is way better aesthetically, but in gameplay terms it's worse. Way less room for flanking and the AI to show off. They used to have mini-arenas, now it's a shooting gallery.
  • Well, it's way better once you get out of the post-blast hospital thingy. Aristede's apartment was nice. Devastated streets with crumbling ash-people are nifty. Everything in between is a bore.
  • That said, the combat range shootout was an inspired touch.
  • But the shootout on the school stage was even more inspired. "He's behind the Barn!". I miss witty Monolith.
  • Bonus points for integrating the horror stuff into the gameplay. I was slightly wigged out by the puppet master thingies when I first encountered them, which is more than the first game managed.
  • The mech is awesome. It also makes me wish I was playing SHOGO 2 instead.
  • The silent protagonist bugs me more in this game than it did in the first one. Why won't you speak up about the intel on all the dodgy things Armacam did to your squad? Why do you continually sneak up on your squad instead of telling them you're on your way to save their asses? At least Point Man could claim he's emotionally retarded because he's Alma's lab-baby, and even he shares his f*cking intel. Becket's just a dick.
  • Also, how great would it have been if your character had replied to the vaguely pompous hacker guy's "You can call me...Snake Fist" with "Sure thing...Terry"? So great.
  • I hate the word "telesthetic". It sounds ugly, dull and vaguely corporate.
  • Playing the game on hard way probably a mistake. Being insta-killed by some guy with an assault rifle while still having half my armor and full health got old fast, making me play more conservative and exacerbating the shooting gallery problem. I don't remember you being that fragile in the first game when I replayed it earlier this year. That last turret section finally broke me, and made me switch to normal, but there was like one more fight in the game after that.
  • Speaking of that last turrent section, what was up with that? The sudden switch to some godawful rock music, Morales constantly talking smack. Who got this dudebro bullsh*t in my F.E.A.R.?
  • I did not find Almas final, um...assault to be nearly as disturbing as I probably should have.
  • Speaking of Alma and the plot, does she have any intentionality at all? I get the sense her mojo's so strong all that that weird sh*t simply happens in her wake.
    Spoiler:

    Did I just play a horror game where the main threat is a teenaged girl who goes outside her house for the first time, spots a guy and spends all her time after that going "OMG you're totally hot! Please make out with me! I'll even make myself pretty for you, please make out with me pretty pleasepleaseplease*"?

    *Her actions when she finds you all tied up are of course deeply wrong, but still. Somehow she's just become a lot less scary.

Right, I'm off to play Reborn.

I notice I forgot to include one thing on the above list:

  • Wait when did I find out about that? I'm pretty sure that didn't happen. Or did I black out?
    Have I gone senile? Oh. Apparentently my mental faculties are still intact, the game just decided to use objectives and a loading sceen to spoil an upcoming cutscene.

Also, finished Reborn. Which was quite good fun.

Monolith's game environments are a bit weird. They mostly work for gameplay, at first glance they seem like real places, but if you step back look at them for more than 10 seconds you'd have to think the architect was M.C. Escher.

Yah. I think it'd help especially the FEAR games if the levels contained clear landmarks, both to tease upcoming locations, and to force them to keep their spaces relatively plausible. Plus, you'd know *why* you're heading in a particular location, instead of feeling like the only reason you're going that way is because it's the only direction you can go.

To be fair, a lot of developers make nonsensical environments too. The trick is making it so you don't care or don't notice, Monolith's games probably suffer more than most as they're commonly contemporary real world environments, so it's not far fetched for a player to expect them to be like the real world they experience.

True, you get a lot less leeway in real world environments. I don't remember the environments in the NOLF games being as nonsensical as the ones in FEAR though, although that might be the rose-colored glasses talking.

F.E.A.R. 3 -- which I just finished -- also does a lot better job of it than either of the previous games. In general, I thougt F.E.A.R. 3 was a real step up from the second game. Yeah, the atmosphere and story is pushed to the backseat, but since the horror part never really worked for me, I'm more than happy to see it focus on combat, combat and more combat, and there it delivered lots of dynamic firefights, and bigger, stompier mech sequences. If only it could have had the insane amount of debris from the first game as well, It would've clinched the position as the franchise's go-to game when I'm itching for a replay.

Besides, nothing in the story could be scarier than Point Man's haircut anyway, so why bother trying?

Alien Love Gardener wrote:

[*]Speaking of that last turret section, what was up with that? The sudden switch to some godawful rock music, Morales constantly talking smack. Who got this dudebro bullsh*t in my F.E.A.R.?

I always felt that was supposed to be an intentional parody but it both wasn't obvious enough and it was put at the wrong time (right at the end). His change in character is really drastic making those corny statements out of the blue, and if you actually pay attention to the bad rock music, it's actually saying ridiculous words related to the game like "Snakefist!"

Also, I agree with you that the combat in the third game is really good and matches the tactical situations of the first, but the stale environments that don't react to your firefights kind of bring it down. Even the mech sections don't have the destructibility that the 2nd game had other than the specific doors they wanted you to destroy. There's something satisfying where you have a gunfight and the area looks like it actually happened.

Good combat or not, one of the things that drags the series down for me after the first was that they seem to want an ongoing plot but never want to conclude anything. The first was a good standalone, but I it just seems there wasn't enough in it story-wise to support 3 games, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them try for more.

It's weird because the whole premise of the franchise was a military unit that dealt with paranormal threats so I thought they would have gone with a completely different scenario in each game.

I guess once something sticks you tend to play it safe. Kind of like how I thought Assassin's Creed would be cool because every game would have you in a different time period and setting. Instead it turned into "actually we can get all the info we need going back into Altair and Ezio a few more times and then wrap this trilogy up."

kaptainbarbosa wrote:
Alien Love Gardener wrote:

[*]Speaking of that last turret section, what was up with that? The sudden switch to some godawful rock music, Morales constantly talking smack. Who got this dudebro bullsh*t in my F.E.A.R.?

I always felt that was supposed to be an intentional parody but it both wasn't obvious enough and it was put at the wrong time (right at the end). His change in character is really drastic making those corny statements out of the blue, and if you actually pay attention to the bad rock music, it's actually saying ridiculous words related to the game like "Snakefist!"

I guess I can sort of see that, but making the final big battle -- there's only one more fight after that, and it's decidedly smaller in scale -- of a game that so far has taken itself so very seriously a parody feels incongruous to say the least. Intentional goof or no, it's really misjudged.

Also: turret sequence. Blegh.

Alien Love Gardener wrote:

Also: turret sequence. Blegh.

A single turret sequence? Pedestrian. You, my good man(?), need to play Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3: The Turret Experience™.

I bought a lot of shooters this year and I don't begrudge getting FEAR 3 at near full-price. The inclusion of Fettel as a playable character makes me want to do a second playthrough - wait for that spring/summer games drought in 2012 - and even the split screen co-op was pretty fun for the couple hours of it I tried.

However I'm least looking forward to the recycled boss battles. Those who finished the game should know what I mean.

Deadmonkeys wrote:
Alien Love Gardener wrote:

Also: turret sequence. Blegh.

A single turret sequence? Pedestrian. You, my good man(?), need to play Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3: The Turret Experience™.

It was actually the second in the game, and I really don't. I hate turret sequences. You have to earn the right to take away half of my gameplay vocabulary and usually they really don't.

They were especially painful in Fear 2, since hard difficulty makes you really fragile, and you can't dodge anymore. Taking a second look at the first couple of Intervals on normal and playing through Fear 3 on hard really drove home that the difficulty is out of whack in in Fear 2. Normal is piss easy, and hard leaves almost no margin for error. There really needed to be something in between.

Scratched wrote:

Good combat or not, one of the things that drags the series down for me after the first was that they seem to want an ongoing plot but never want to conclude anything. The first was a good standalone, but I it just seems there wasn't enough in it story-wise to support 3 games, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them try for more.

They gave themselves *some* room to continue, but I do think they've worn Alma into the ground. She's gone from furious avenging angel of death, to lovesick stalker, to

Spoiler:

err...being pregnant and scared of memories of her abusive dad, and possibly killed and eaten by her insane son.

She's creepy looking and her very presense causes weird sh*t to happen, but I'm not really scared of *her*. Mostly I feel like giving her a big hug.

Alma is probably the problem, although from the way she's written as being treated as one step above an artificial womb and then no real motivation beyond 'revenge'.

I really liked FEAR1 as the supernatural elements were in the background, but from then on it's just vaguely "Stop Alma", but she's not a very well developed main 'villain' (depending whether you call her a villain) with no obvious motive or method that she causes her destruction (there's no "Frost ray doomsday weapon" she wields). She's pretty much just chaos.

If anything, all the secondary characters and their actions are stronger, and perhaps the story is weakened by having Alma around. If the city was just a centre for psychic weirdness after the ending of FEAR1 maybe those secondary plotlines would come across more favorably.

Started F3AR, and I gotta say, I'm disappointed so far.

I'm still in the prison section of the game, but something put me off almost immediately.
It wasn't until 20 minutes into the game that I realized what it was: the textures.

Even with the texture setting at max (no framerate issues so far), everything looks like it's been smeared with a thin layer of vaseline. FEAR 2 had sharp, contrasting textures which helped you pick out enemies from the environment and gave you a sense of place. So far, F3AR has blurry-ass everything which makes me think the devs are trying to mask something. I opened the video menu in search of a blur option, but I couldn't find one. Shame.

I've only seen the prison area, so bear with me, but the smudgy wishy-washy textures of F3AR 3 isn't doing the game any favours.

After whipping through previous pages of this thread, I found the Options.cfg file. Turning blur off and increasing the FOV is like popping a sore that's been making you miserable for days.

The stop and pop gameplay of Point Man also bugs me. Isn't the whole point of slow-mo to run out of cover and cap dudes? The cover system just makes me want to sit in one area and shoot enemies from cover instead of running up and slapping them in the face.

Another bummer is the realization that Alma probably won't provide any scares. She isn't the nebulous force she's been in the previous games, and she's (probably) on your side this time around. *sigh*

Edit: FOV is also reduced. I can live with it, but bluh.

Deadmonkeys wrote:

Another bummer is the realization that Alma probably won't provide any scares. She isn't the nebulous force she's been in the previous games, and she's (probably) on your side this time around. *sigh*

Having played all 3 games and expansions, I think FEAR is a series that story-wise shouldn't have gone on so long without a good direction. They stretched it out too far and too thin. Gameplay-wise, mechanically it's okay, but I think without the strong (at the time) FEAR1 the series wouldn't be worth anything.

I finished Alan Wake last week, and one of the first things his narration says is the Stephen King quote about the supernatural being something you shouldn't explain, and I always felt the FEAR series after the first danced around with that to it's detriment.

I've taken to running out of cover in slo-mo and punching/kicking/shooting dudes at medium range instead of planting myself behind conveniently placed barricades or walls. I've only resorted to hiding behind cover when I'm badly hurt, or when I'm waiting for bullettime to recharge.

This is the F.E.A.R. I remember. Kinda.

Just wrapped up the single player campaign, and I feel conflicted.

The combat was fairly good once I stopped hiding behind cover, but the constant stream of status updates kept putting me off.

The most damning thing I can say about FEAR 3 is that I can't think of any environment that really stood out. The airport is probably the most memorable, followed by the prison, which is memorable only for its drabness.

I like to look at knick-knacks, bits of advertising, signs, and walls of text artists use to flesh out game environments. The Elementary School in FEAR 2 was a gold mine: it had books, toys, videos, posters, projectors, charts the students used, and all sorts of other things which served to anchor the environment and create a strong sense of place. The school had a music room for crying out loud. A goddamn music room with instruments and posters and music stands and all types of crazy sh*t.

FEAR 1's AI limitations required blocky, warehouse environments, which made FEAR 2's locations that much more fascinating.

Off the top of my head, FEAR 2's environments included the opening Apartments, the Hospital, the Elementary School, the Underground Facility, and the Subway Network, all of which are memorable enough that I can describe specific set pieces, events, or encounters I had in those environments.

Unfortunately, FEAR 3 wasn't able to replicate 2's sense of place, and some of the signage in FEAR 3 was of such low resolution (I'm looking at you, fast food menus), that I wasn't able to read anything, even at the highest texture settings.

I found Fettel's cutscene chatter irritating, and Pointman's mute protagonist shtick equally annoying. I wanted to punch each of 'em in the face: to shut Fettel up, and to wipe the perma-frown off Pointman.

Near the end of the game, I got really excited when

Spoiler:

the brothers, as kids, approached a rickety mansion. I thought I'd be playing young Pointman, a la Bioshock 2's little sister, exploring the mansion and the underground laboratory. The actual sequence was still pretty interesting, but it felt like a missed opportunity.

Thoughts on the Ending:

Spoiler:

After watching Pointman's sequence, I youtubed Fettel's ending. I'd hoped for some definite closure, but both endings (kinda) left Pointman intact, and the baby survived. Alma disintegrated/got eaten, but as a being of raw hatred, what's to stop her from coming back?

Overall, I'm disappointed. No one sets out to make a bad game, and this isn't a bad game, but it fell short of its predecessors, and my expectations.

I had a handful of screenshots, but Steam hid them away somewhere. I'll post 'em if I figure out where they ended up.

I thought the electronics store lit with only TV's was pretty memorable, and quite eerie.

I'd agree that Fear 2 had the most memorable environments, but it also had the least functional ones when it came to setting up interesting spaces for firefights.

Alien Love Gardener wrote:

I thought the electronics store lit with only TV's was pretty memorable, and quite eerie.

It definitely was, now that you mention it, but it didn't pop into my head when I was writing about the game.

Alien Love Gardener wrote:

I'd agree that Fear 2 had the most memorable environments, but it also had the least functional ones when it came to setting up interesting spaces for firefights.

True. I'm a total sucker for immersive environments and atmosphere: S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Metro 2033, and FEAR 2 are among my favourite games for that very reason. Reinstalling FEAR 2 to refresh my memory, and to watch the SMG reload animation. Over, and over, and over.

Deadmonkeys wrote:

Just wrapped up the single player campaign, and I feel conflicted.

I'd like to add that I think F.E.A.R. 3 is an excellent example of what happens to the single player experience when the levels are obviously designed from the ground-up as a co-op synergistic affair. Co-op friendly design is not always a friendly tugboat where there's simply more to shoot if you have a suddenly appearing AI partner/co-op bud and the single-player experience is magically unaffected; it's sometimes soiled from the beginning if you're playing it single-player only, as evidenced in this title.

I like to look at knick-knacks, bits of advertising, signs, and walls of text artists use to flesh out game environments. The Elementary School in FEAR 2 was a gold mine: it had books, toys, videos, posters, projectors, charts the students used, and all sorts of other things which served to anchor the environment and create a strong sense of place. The school had a music room for crying out loud. A goddamn music room with instruments and posters and music stands and all types of crazy sh*t.

Continuing in my drunken, overly-entitled hypothetical rambling, I'd be willing to bet you'd get a lot more of that sort of FEAR 2 detail awesomeness (I'm right there with you - except every time I think of FEAR 2 I think of that f*cking awful dayglo "glasses" HUD) if there was no co-op in FEAR 3. FEAR 3 struck me at times as more of a Homefront-style game than a FEAR game, and that scared me nearly as much as Alma did in the first FEAR game.

For the lawyers: No Co-op in FEAR 3 would have most likely meant more scares, more awesome detail, less shooting.

Basically my feelings on the whole series are:
FEAR - Fantastic combat, great environmental effects, and guns that sound and feel superb, with levels that wear out their welcome in look and feel and probably go on a bit too long.
Expansions - Worth it if you really love the combat, but ultimately skippable, especially the second one.
FEAR 2 - Massive improvement in environments and atmosphere, level design regarding combat suffers as a result, worst HUD of all time.
FEAR 3 - Combat and level design are fantastic again, but the environments are stale and the tone and atmosphere aren't even close. Makes me wonder how the trilogy would have been finished had Monolith done it.

On that note, I'm depressed about the state of Monolith. I'm kind of disillusioned with a lot of FPS titles these days that tend to pull you by the nose and care more about the cinematic experience than the gameplay. Meanwhile, I put Monolith right up there with Valve in terms of making a shooter that might be linear, but makes it feel like you're making tactical decisions and exploring the environment and just naturally figuring out where to head to next because of the clever level design. I find NOLF 2, Condemned and FEAR highly replayable because of that. It's kind of a downer now that it looks like the studio that made some of my favorite single player campaigns seem confined to making downloadable multiplayer titles with skins of Warner licenses on them.

I understand the purpose behind multiplayer modes for FEAR 3 (and 2), but I don't understand why you would go through with it. Did the decision makers at Day1 think multiplayer would increase the shelf life of the game, or keep players from dropping the game off at Gamestop? Or did they think that the multiplayer mode would make the game a major success? Maybe the devs were forced to include these modes by their superiors.

To be fair, people like me don't factor into their thinking process: I don't buy games at launch. I don't trade my games in. Heck, I don't buy games on consoles very often. The reaction of this PC straggler, while somewhat softened by bug fixes and options tweaks, is "what the f*ck were they thinking?"

Sure, the game modes are kinda interesting, but it's a moot point when there's no one online to play them. It's great that they limited their losses by forcing players to host their own matches, but the resources spent on multiplayer could have been used to polish the single player campaign, which is, correct me if I'm wrong, why people play FEAR games in the first place.

If the multiplayer gambit actually increased sales by a significant margin, they made a solid business decision, but I wonder if whoever was in charge ever considered the legacy of the game. As it stands, it's a so-so single player game with a non-existent multiplayer community.

"FEAR 3: We sold a few more copies."

Although I didn't play them for long, I applaud their decision to do some different, funky multiplayer modes.

Maclintok wrote:

Although I didn't play them for long, I applaud their decision to do some different, funky multiplayer modes.

They're intriguing. Sure wish I could play them.