|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Timegate / Day 1 Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Vivendi / Sierra||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 6, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16 (online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matt Cabral
F.E.A.R Files for the Xbox 360 isn't a sequel to the scary shooter that introduced us to creepy girl-ghost Alma. Nor is it the stand-alone expansion pack Extraction Point released last year for the PC version of the fright-filled franchise. It's actually the Extraction Point expansion plus a brand new (to PC as well) chapter entitled Perseus Mandate. The two expansions combine for a lengthy and content-packed title that practically equals a new game, and its less-than-next-gen $49.99 price tag reflects this.
We say "practically" because despite offering hours of new time-slowing, super-soldier-slaying content, F.E.A.R. Files feels very much like the original F.E.A.R.. That's not entirely bad; we loved the first entry. Its mix of intense first-person shooting and spine-chilling horror themes was a refreshing twist on the standard FPS corridor-crawler. Cloned soldiers, the aforementioned Alma factor, and some creepy level design--complete with occasional surprise, jump-outta-your-seat frights made F.E.A.R. a pleasure to playthrough, especially with the sound turned up and the lights turned off. An awesome time-slowing mechanic also made for some gritty, gory, and extremely entertaining gunplay; reducing enemies to a slo-mo blur of blood is still one of gaming's most eye-pleasing effects. And F.E.A.R.'s excellent selection of weapons offered an ear-pleasing pop that had players relishing the discharge of each Kevlar-piercing round. F.E.A.R.'s excellent A.I. was, at the time, a groundbreaking effort; responding realistically to grenade tosses and flanking if you remained immobile for too long made other game's baddies seem like pushovers. We could go on and on about how much we loved playing through F.E.A.R.'s first entry, but this is, after all, a review of its double expansion follow-up. And as much as we appreciate the franchise's fright-fueled formula of shooting and scares, we can't help but feel a bit let down by F.E.A.R. Files familiarity; it just feels too much like the original game. Sure, it does offer more neck-hair-raising moments and heart-pumping firefights, but isn't the inherent purpose of an expansion pack to evolve the franchise in some way, not just rehash it?
Even F.E.A.R., as good as it was, had its share of problems. Most notable, its super-repetitive level design; its strong horror vibe and creepy ambience couldn't completely contain the fact that most of the action took place in abandoned office buildings, medical labs, warehouses, and parking lots. These familiar-feeling environments dominate most of Files design as well, so you can expect to trudge through hours of variety-starved levels. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Files visuals are identical to its predecessor's; F.E.A.R. looked pretty good a year ago, but next to the evolving graphic technology of Gears of War or BioShock it looks a bit dated.
Files does add some fresh content in an attempt to amp up the frights and fun. New weapons such as the laser carbine pack a sweet punch--especially in slo-mo--and the auto turret comes in handy when you're outnumbered by replicant soldiers. And enemies, like the nightcrawlers--a sickening sort of zombie/ghost hybrid--add a nice terrifying touch, while breaking up the monotony of killing countless cloned soldiers. The story also gets advanced a bit--just a bit. Extraction Point sees original F.E.A.R. baddie Paxton Fettel on the loose again in a five or so hour campaign picking up immediately after the events of the original. Sadly, the added narrative isn't very meaty and really only serves to continue the chase you started in F.E.A.R.. The Perseus Mandate expansion takes a different approach, having you relive some of the same time-line as F.E.A.R.'s protagonist, but through the eyes of a new hero. This actually would've been a great opportunity to add a substantial new slo-mo power or at least some significant differentiating factor, but mostly you'll feel as though you're playing the same character through another similar four to five hour campaign.
Files packs some new Instant Action maps, extending the play with some nice bite-sized, fast-moving firefights. And you can still bring slo-mo death-dealing online with some basic multiplayer modes. The package certainly isn't lacking content, it just would've been nice if that content felt a bit fresher and didn't rely so much on an if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach. If you liked F.E.A.R., and are looking for more of the same, then Files will more than meet your expectations. In fact, even with its familiar feel and lack of innovation, it was moderately fun to revisit the shadowy, blood-stained corridors, experience the nightmarish hallucinations, and be creeped out again by Alma. But in a season offering bar-raising FPS experiences like Call of Duty 4, it's difficult to justify sinking your valuable game time--and money--into an experience that'll provide more nostalgic de ja vu than fresh fun.
CCC Freelance Writer