Dan let me borrow the game F.E.A.R. to try out and I have to say I am impressed. It is one of those rare games that make you glad you upgraded your graphics card (though in my case it was a while ago and my 6600GT can just about keep up with it, I would love to see it at full detail settings). It combines a lot of elements I’ve seen in other games, but never at the same time…

The Music
The music is almost perfect. The samples merge together flawlessly and nearly always reflect exactly what’s going on, you’ll be walking down a corridoor with a haunting (and slightly addictive) track playing in the background and suddenly you’ll hear snatches of conversation from further up ahead and the music will ramp up in tempo. Then there’s the areas with no music at all, a lot of games forget how incredibly atmospheric it can be for the music to drop out and leave you in complete silence just praying for something, anything, to happen to break the tension that mounts up.

The Levels
Some of the nicest level designs I’ve seen, especially when combined with all the things going on around you, from the corpses laying in pools of their own blood to strip lights that suddenly break free and swing from the power cord on one end (and the lighting effects coming off of them are spot on). Speaking of corpses, that’s another thing, finally a game not scared of showing us a litle gore. Shoot someone in the neck and blood spurts out, throw a grenade into an eclosed space containing someone and it pretty much redefines red mist. And just to go off topic even more, grenades… well, explosives in general, I just love the effect they produce. Think the ripple effect when the helicopter hits the side of the building in The Matrix except in mid-air rather than across the windows and you’re pretty much there.

The Storyline
Admittedly I haven’t played through too many of the levels yet, but already it has me thinking and wondering exactly what’s really going on. Plus anything with a scary devil girl is a winner for me. It slowly reveals the story in flashes, though where the flashes are from you aren’t told, that’s for you to work out =P

The AI
A game where the bad guys act vaguely intelligently? At long last. If you shoot at them they will warn their mates and… wait for it… take cover *shock* A game where they will take cover when shot at rather than running at you like idiots, something that is long overdue (yes I know it’s been done before, but it is honestly few and far between). Not only that but the other guys will try to circle round to flank you, they will vault over obstacles to get to you or away from you, they will basically try to work as a team while preserving themselves. Scripted or not, it’s quite impressive to watch.

Think that’s enough rambling for now, just trust me that the game is worth it if you’re into FPSs and you have a relatively beefy system. The 3GHz processor and 1GB or RAM recommended configuration is more of a minimum for it to look good, my setup is currently mainly suffering on the cpu side rather than the gpu side from what I can tell.

A quick list of other things that don’t seem to make it into most games but are in F.E.A.R., small things that really make the game:
Guys limping after being shot in the leg, guys being knocked over if they’re at the edge of a blast, guys being caught in the open and running away from you while firing blindly behind them to make you duck out of the way and keep you from getting a clear shot at their back.

My prediction is that as the graphics in games gets as close to reality as possible, the only place to put the extra hardware abilities is into the physics engines and making everything that’s not graphics as realistic as possible. Also, some optimising wouldn’t go amiss, considering the current philosophy of not bothering because the systems should be able to handle it, games really don’t need 4GB of data to look how they do.

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