The big guns of the first-person shooter world are coming out to play this week, with F.E.A.R. and Quake 4 both released on the PC. Our sister site Metacritic is placing F.E.A.R. slightly in the lead over the Doom 3-powered sequel to Quake, so we freed up some of our busy schedule to see what all the fuss was about.
Despite sharing the name of a famous Ian Brown song, the game doesn't see you cast as a simian-like Mancunian with a penchant for shuffling beats and looping grooves. Nope, F.E.A.R. has a pretty standard videogame plot -- you play an elite soldier in a hard-ass government agency named First Encounter Assault Recon (see what they did there?). You're also the product of some Frankenstein's monster experiment -- tinkered with genetically to give you some game-friendly special powers.
Far from quitting and joining the X-Men, your new skills seem to extend simply to making gun combat much more stylish -- you can concentrate and make time slow down, allowing you to take a room full of bad guys down before they even know you're there. And conveniently for the marketing men, this makes F.E.A.R. look like an interactive version of The Matrix. Grenades explode, sending shockwaves through glass windows and creating a shower of glass, enemies fly backwards from the power of the blast you've just inflicted on their face, while return fire whizzes past your head as its trajectory is marked out as a ripple in the air.
Thankfully it's not all post-modern style over substance -- it's actually a bloody hard shooter. Enemies take cover, they'll swing a gun in your face if you're too close, and they'll toss grenades into whatever hole you try to hide in. The whole experience is pretty nerve-shattering, combining the paranormal scare tactics of Eternal Darkness, the bullet-time combat of Max Payne and the graphics of Doom 3. No wonder Raven Software is struggling to keep up with Quake 4.
While the single-player game is already being heralded as the PC experience of the year, the multiplayer game is supposedly not as strong. We'll abuse a corporate network later on and update you on our online schenanigans. With Pro Evolution Soccer 5 released today, we can see our entire weekend mapped out. -GC