F.E.A.R. and Unicorns

So, what connection does Monolith’s FPS “F.E.A.R.” have with unicorns?

Well, honestly, no connection at all, but I had to stomp down hard on my urge to title this “F.E.A.R. and Loathing”, and I think I deserve some credit for the restraint.

Anyway, F.E… you know, let’s just drop the periods… FEAR.  Which is what I’ve been playing on the PC lately.

FEAR is … OK, we’re dropping the excessive capitalization, too, I don’t care that it’s officially an acronym… Fear is a shooter with occasional creepy bits.  Unfortunately, what I was hoping for was a creepy game with occasional shooty bits, because I’ve been quite enjoying the creepy games of late.

I’ve been told that the game gets seriously creepy the closer you get to the end.  I hope that’s true; the best scare the game has delivered so far was back in level 3 – and, if you’ve played the game, I expect you’ll know what I mean when I say “the ladder bit.”

I have three levels left to go, so we’ll see how that works out.

Creepiness or lack thereof aside, it’s a pretty solid shooty game with a heavy emphasis on a particular gimmick.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  You can make everything move in slow motion, letting you aim more carefully while watching bullets zip past making little ripple contrails in the air.  I think they used it in a movie or two.

To make sure you make use of this particular gimmick, the game is tough as nails even on “moderate” difficulty.  Most enemy encounters see you outnumbered by at least four-to-one odds, and the enemy AI is just a little too smart for its own good; they use cover, flank you, throw grenades into your nice safe hidey holes, and blind-fire around corners with surprising accuracy.

Now I will explain why on earth I have been playing on “moderate” instead of “easy”.

Let me be clear: I was TRYING to be a wimp.  I started the game on moderate, played through the first level, got a little bit into the second level and decided that things were just too damn hard, at which point I restarted the game on “easy”, played through until I got to the point where I’d left off in “moderate”, saved and took a break.

Unbeknownst to me, when you load a saved game, it loads at the default difficulty, in this case moderate, so I played through levels 2 through most of 8 at “moderate” difficulty, thinking that I was playing on “easy”, which caused a certain degree of frustration, especially in places where I died five or six times in a row.

Fear eventually took pity on me and pointed this out, in somewhat roundabout fashion.

When you die, during the loading screen, the game pops up little tips, like “don’t forget slow mo” and “try using grenades and proximity mines when you’re outnumbered” and “you can adjust the game difficulty at any time.”

I saw this last tip several times, and every time I had more-or-less the same reaction, which was to scowl at the screen and say “I’m already playing on easy. Tell me something useful!”

However, during a particularly nasty bit of the game where I was reloading more than usual, I decided to go into the options screen and check that assumption; you are invited to guess my reaction upon doing so.

The difference is fairly dramatic.  It’s not that it made me invincible or anything – the AI is still smart enough to get a few kills in – but I’m seeing a lot less of the loading screen and I’m starting to enjoy the game a lot more, even if it’s not quite as creepy as I was hoping.

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