Friday, July 20, 2007

PlayStation (PS1/PSX) - Fear Effect - Just Started

My first experience with a Fear Effect title was actually Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix, which I finished some years ago. That turned out well since the second game is a prequel for the first. Its last scene is only hours before the first scene in Fear Effect. Since I've just started the game, mostly I'll be talking about the second one and how it relates to what I've seen of the first.

Both are adventure games with a bit of action thrown in, in the mold of Beneath a Steel Sky, the first two Dino Crisis games, or the first three Resident Evil games. Like those games, play consists of moving the player's avatar against a pre-rendered background and performing various actions, mostly some form of key-hunting or puzzle-solving.

FE2 starts out as a story about near-future mercenaries hired to pull off a heist, but evolves into a tale involving deities from Chinese mythology. FE is starting in a similar fashion, and I expect that some supernatural elements will find their way in before it's over. This time the mercenaries are after a runaway Triad boss's daughter in order to collect the bounty for her safe return.

On the down side, unlike FE2, control is limited to character-relative movement. The player can turn it and move it back or forward, like driving a radio-controlled car. The second game provided a scheme for movement relative to the camera, which is far more natural and much missed here.

On the up side, every aspect of the presentation is top-drawer, just like the other game. The backgrounds aren't just pre-rendered as in Resident Evil or Dino Crisis, they're also animated, bringing the environment to life with a distinct Blade Runner vibe. The voice work I've heard so far has been uniformly excellent, as have been the sounds and character animations.

Here's a tip for those who go out and pick up this game: you don't have to play it like Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell. You start the game holding your gun rather than your knife, and there's good reason for that. Sure you can pull off stealth kills, but the fixed camera makes it quite difficult and it's usually unnecessary. Pistol ammo is plentiful, killing enemies will boost your fear meter back into the green, and aiming is pretty much automatic. Shooting will usually not bring all the guards running, only the closest. So save stealth for those situations where the game makes it plain you need it.

Fear Effect is a well-produced and directed dystopian near-future sci-fi and fantasy adventure game with some action thrown into the mix. If that sort of thing appeals to you, and you're willing to overlook the presentation limitations of PS1 games, then this is a good game to pick up. I for one am looking forward to spending some more time with it.

Grade: B+

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