‘F.E.A.R. Online’ Preview

F.E.A.R. is a first-person shooter survival horror series that first launched on the PC in 2005, developed by Monolith Productions – the same studio behind this year’s Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. It made its console debut on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Since then, the series has spawned two sequels. All games carry Metacritic ratings of over 70, suggesting critical success.

Some three years after the release of F.E.A.R. 3 (2011), Korean based studio Inplay Interactive and publisher Aeria Games are bringing the series back. However, rather than being a paid console and PC title, their game, F.E.A.R. Online, will be a free-to-play PC only title. The game runs on an updated version of the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine, last seen in Gotham City Imposters, and utilises the source code from F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. Analog Addiction was given a chance to try the game before its Open Beta launched on October 8. Here are our thoughts.

Nathan: When I think F.E.A.R., I think horror. While I was playing through the tutorial of F.E.A.R. Online I was definitely on edge. Exploring the eerie hospital you suddenly wake up in is intense as you are all alone – isolated. Oh, and not to mention the supernatural elements making draws in a morgue suddenly fling open. The first time I saw a Gollum-like enemy scurrying at me, I unloaded a full clip of my pistol into it, having been caught by surprise. Despite the fact that I scare easily, the atmosphere present in this tutorial level had me excited for a quality single player horror experience in the free-to-play format.

F.E.A.R. Online features both player versus player game modes, and a scenario based co-operative experience. I was expecting the co-operative experience to be similar to the tutorial in which you participate in a story based mission while being scared half to death. However, what I got was a generic co-operative game mode in which hoards of stagnant, bullet sponge enemies harassed my team while we tried to complete objectives (editors note: when playing on the easier difficulty the enemies take less bullets to kill). While it was not a bad experience, it was not what I was expecting from a horror title. The co-operative scenario we had access to – subway panic – was also extremely difficult on the normal difficulty. I had two play-throughs of it and did not complete it either time.

Vlad, what did you think of the small slice of the co-operative mode?

Vlad: In my opinion, the co-operative mode missions feature the exact same traits as F.E.A.R. Online‘s tutorial: weak voice-acting, generic, featuring bland environments, and to top it all off, they include really cheap horror scenes – if you could call them that – resorting to the overused jump-scares. Gunning-down countless hordes of creatures and soldiers, defusing some bombs and then going into another area to complete the exact same objectives is not something I would enjoy doing over and over again.

On the PvP side, F.E.A.R Online provides players with six maps spread across its three modes – Team Deathmatch, Demolition, and Knife Fight. Unfortunately, most of these feel like a giant set of corridors instead of actual arenas of death. Not to mention the fact that they’re pretty generic (war-torn city streets, a laboratory etc.). And don’t even get me started on the re-spawning system, which puts you in the exact same location every time you die, practically inviting the enemy to spawn-camp. Any thoughts on PvP?

Nathan: I quite enjoyed the multiplayer modes. I spent most of my time playing Team Deathmatch, and it was a lot of fun. Even though the maps are definitely quite generic, I found them to be just the right size for the 16 player count and designed in a way that forces both teams towards choke points so you can be in the action as quickly as possible. I did notice the potential for spawn trapping, but a few grenades got us out of that situation with minimal casualties. Hopefully the community will be large enough to keep the game populated. With that said, I would love to see some Asian or Australian based servers at launch because I experienced a bit of lag having to play on the American servers.

Thankfully, the gun-play in F.E.A.R. Online is great. The game ran at a smooth frame rate for my entire playtime and the shooting mechanics felt extremely responsive. This is just a personal preference, but I would love the ability to decide whether you want to have aiming down the sights as a toggle or hold option. I prefer holding the right mouse button to aim down my sights so I can simply release it when I am done. However, the only way to play at the moment is with the requirement to press the right mouse button to aim, then again to hip fire. Nevertheless, this is a minor issue on my part, on the back of some solid shooting mechanics.

While each gun felt just as powerful as the next, I did notice that the shotgun, which can only be unlocked by levelling up, had a fairly long range that made it feel over powered compared to the other lower level choices.

Were the shooting mechanics up to your high standards, Vlad?

Vlad: The shooting mechanics are fine; nothing special, but they’re competent enough. I actually prefer not to hold down the right mouse-button, so that wasn’t an issue on my end. And yes – the shotguns are a bit overpowered.

Moving on, let’s talk a bit about the crafting and perks systems. At the end of each match, players are given a random set of materials, and collecting a specific amount – in addition to spending some in-game cash – allows them to craft unique weapons that can’t be purchased otherwise. It’s a nice gesture, but ultimately pointless, seeing as the usual weapons do the job just fine. Finally, every one of your soldiers can be equipped with up to three psionic abilities, which basically are passive enhancements like receiving no damage from falling, keeping your main weapon after getting killed, regenerating your health, and a few others. Unfortunately, these abilities are also limited by time, meaning that you have to re-purchase them after they expire, which downright annoys me.

Nathan: I totally agree about both the crafting system and perk system. None of the abilities I equipped felt like they gave me any advantage over my opposition – which is a good thing balance wise, I guess. Although, equipping a perk that meant my grenades did no damage to me was awesome, considering how many times my grenade throws hit walls and bounce back to me. I do not want to comment on the crafting system and how effective the guns will be compared to the store options because I did not play enough to have the required materials to craft more than the one you are given in the tutorial. However, based on the materials awarded after completing one match, it looks like it might be quite of a grind to acquire those crafted goodies.

Based on F.E.A.R. Online’s close release date, I do not expect much to change before launch. F.E.A.R. Online is not attempting to do anything new – one could go so far as to call it generic – however, the mechanics at play should provide for a solid free-to-play experience if you are looking for a new multiplayer and co-operative shooter.

Vlad: I really wanted to like F.E.A.R. Online, simply because I’m a big fan of the series. Even so, from the moment I heard about it, I was incredibly sceptical. It turns out my feelings were right. The only thing the game managed to do right is make me reinstall the original trilogy. Publisher Warner Bros. should just let Monolith Productions reboot the franchise. The studio has done an amazing job with the first two entries.