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Critical Reception: Vivendi's/Day 1 Studios' F.E.A.R.

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the recently released PlayStation 3 version of F.E.A.R., a controversial port that critics are alternately calling "a decent shooting experience," and "a port that hasn't been op
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to the recently released PlayStation 3 version of F.E.A.R., a controversial port that critics are alternately calling "a decent shooting experience," and "a port that hasn't been optimized." After finding success on PCs with its initial release in 2005, an Xbox 360 port of F.E.A.R. was released to similar acclaim one year later. Fans anticipated the release of the PlayStation 3 port, which was released last month to mixed reviews. Currently, the PlayStation 3 port of F.E.A.R. pulls in an average review score of 73 out of 100 at Metacritic.com, a significantly lower score than either the Xbox 360 (85 out of 100) or PC version (88 out of 100). Game Informer's Matt Helgeson remains mostly positive in his review, in which he scores F.E.A.R. at 8.25 out of 10. "Although the basis of this PS3 port is now a couple years old," he writes, "I’m pleased to report that F.E.A.R.’s taut gameplay can still hold its own with the best of the genre." "This is one of the most fun games to run and gun in that I’ve played in ages," Helgeson continues. "While the control is dead-on, F.E.A.R. really comes alive because of its enemy AI, which is quite simply some of the best I’ve ever seen." Helgeson admits that the title is not without its flaws, however. "For one, the level designs are, at times, downright horrid," he notes. "Also, for all the emphasis placed on the scary aspects of this game, I didn’t really feel that the plot or writing was on par with the excellently conceived gameplay." In all, though, Helgeson comes away impressed. "Despite its cinematic pretensions," he says, "F.E.A.R. succeeds largely on good old fashioned gunplay, and I’m more than okay with that." Jason Ocampo at GameSpot found enough enjoyment in F.E.A.R. to warrant a rating of 7.1 out of 10, though he is quick to point out the title's shortcomings. "F.E.A.R. strikes a balance between spooky atmosphere and electric action," he writes. "The gunfights in the game are impressive. Bullets tear chunks out of concrete and wood, blinding clouds of dust and debris fill the air, bodies are torn apart or slump on the ground, and the deathly silence of the aftermath contrasts sharply with the sheer chaos that erupted only moments before." "F.E.A.R. features excellent combat," Ocampo reiterates, "but as good as the AI is, it doesn't take too long for you to get used to taking down small groups of soldiers. And these encounters can feel a bit repetitive after a point." Repetition is not the least of F.E.A.R.'s problems, however, as many issues unique to the PS3 version soon become apparent. "Unfortunately, the PS3 version takes a number of hits when it comes to presentation," Campo warns. "First of all, F.E.A.R. looks washed out and fuzzy on the PS3. This is in contrast to the sharpness and crispness of the PC and Xbox 360 versions. The lighting and shadowing effects aren't as atmospheric on the PS3 version, either. To top it all off, the PS3 version suffers from tediously long load times and an erratic frame rate that's noticeable even when there's not a lot of action onscreen." "F.E.A.R. provides a decent shooting experience on the PS3," Campo concludes, "but it's inferior to the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game. There's still plenty of great action and spooky moments, but the PS3 version often feels like a port that hasn't been optimized." GameSpy's Patrick Joynt agrees, and finds that the PlayStation 3 port of F.E.A.R. is problematic enough to deserve a mediocre 2.5 stars out of 5. "F.E.A.R. is one of my favorite games, and it hurts me to see it like this," he begins. "Buggy, voiceless (in multiplayer), uglier than it used to be, and just... hard to touch, thanks to the ill-placed, convex 'triggers' on the Sixaxis controller. This isn't the F.E.A.R. I loved on the 360." Despite these intrusive issues, Joynt admits that F.E.A.R. still succeeds in certain areas. "What makes this title stick in the pleasure centers of your brain [...] are the glorious firefights," he writes. "It's quality rather than quantity which defines F.E.A.R.'s enemy types and weapons. Even with your ability to slow time, you'll face AI that aggressively flanks, clears the way with grenades, uses combined arms tactics, and goes to investigate things like your flashlight beam in tactically sound numbers; it will be a real challenge." "And that, sadly, is where the positives end for this version of the game," Joynt continues. "As the game stands, shipped, there are simply too many bugs and issues to recommend it. In particular: "There's a clear delay between the press of the trigger button and the accompanying gunfire. It doesn't matter if the Sixaxis is running wireless or connected by a cable; if you squeeze that trigger, bullets will start firing late and finish firing late. After I noticed that, I felt like the whole game was out of sync. And that's enough to not just irritate, but to cause cheap deaths, lost rounds of multiplayer, and to just suck you out of the gameplay experience at lightning speed." Similar disappointment is found throughout the rest of Joynt's review. "If you have a 360 or a beefy PC, buy those (cheaper) versions of this game," he recommends. "If you only have a PS3, Resistance is a better shooter for the system. Although the gunplay is as solid as ever, there is nothing to recommend F.E.A.R. on this platform if you have any other choice." Though several critics point out that F.E.A.R. is a worthwhile experience on the PC and Xbox 360, many note that the PlayStation 3 version is lacking in comparison. Though still a good game in its own right, a common recommendation is to skip the PS3 port of F.E.A.R. if other alternatives are available.

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