Monolith has always specialized in injecting their shooters with a whole lot of atmosphere—from the early days of Blood with its creepy chanting cultists, to the campy humor of No One Lives Forever, and most recently the incredibly unsettling serial killer investigation of Condemned: Criminal Origins. F.E.A.R. is cut from that same cloth, trading the non-stop action of other shooters for a more deliberate pace that better suits its freaky vibe and horror movie inspired scare tactics. Since its release, Monolith has turned F.E.A.R.’s expansion pack duties over to TimeGate studios, of Kohan fame, resulting in last year’s Extraction Point and this year’s Perseus Mandate, now bundled for the 360 as F.E.A.R. Files.
One big thing to note is that this bundle does not include the original F.E.A.R., only its two expansion packs, neither of which makes a lick of sense if you haven’t played the original. Therefore it is strongly recommended that you do so before considering this game. Similarly this review will contain some minor spoilers of the original F.E.A.R., since it’s almost impossible to discuss either expansion otherwise. So, for your own good, if you haven’t played the original F.E.A.R. yet, go away. Really, scram. You’ll thank us later.
That said, Extraction Point starts off exactly where F.E.A.R. ended: you in a helicopter, mushroom cloud in the background, city on fire. Seems after breaking free Alma is a little cranky (like she wasn’t before), and she isn’t quite done with you yet. So she crashes your ride, leaving Jin, and Holiday, and yourself—again filling the suspiciously able shoes of the unnamed F.E.A.R. point man—alone on the ground, cut off from everyone and without working communications. Your new mission is to survive long enough to reestablish contact and get the hell out of there. No sweat, right? Yeah, right.
To TimeGate’s credit, Extraction Point plays very similarly to the original F.E.A.R., complete with tons of “What the was that?!” moments and intense shootouts. Paxton Fettel, despite the minor inconvenience of having been shot in the head by you, continues to show up and mess with you from time to time, as does dearest Alma. There are a few new enemies and a few new weapons, which spice things up enough to keep away the same-old-same-olds. Though it looks and feels a little dated, with no noticeable technical improvements and even some occasional slowdown issues, Extraction Point is a worthy and satisfying continuation to an excellent game.
Perseus Mandate, on the other hand, feels a little flat in comparison. Rather than another continuation, Perseus follows a second F.E.A.R. team, you its nameless sergeant, during the events of the pervious two chapters. Your mission this time is to investigate something called the Perseus Project, which naturally all ties into the same story. While not without its moments, Perseus on the whole lacks the proper pacing, sometimes feeling like little more than a so-so shooter, other times just a little sluggish and predictable with its frights. It’s not horrible, but whether they’ve gone to the well a few times too often for the same kinds of scares or they just aren’t set up with as much skill, it just isn’t quite as good. Even a few more new enemies and weapons can’t save Perseus from mediocrity.
When you tally it all up what you’re looking at is a pretty healthy chunk of gaming. Extraction Point is very solid and while Perseus Mandate may not be top notch it’s probably good enough for F.E.A.R. fans to squeeze a little more enjoyment out of. Neither one really divulges any substantial bits of story (the good stuff being saved for the sequel, no doubt), but assuming you enjoy feeling slightly unnerved while you do your bad guy blasting there’s quite a bit of it to be done here. F.E.A.R. Files also comes with eight new instant action maps, which are a challenging addition to the single player features. It also includes F.E.A.R.’s suit of competitive multiplayer modes, which work pretty well with the new weapons and a few new wrinkles thrown in (if you can pry anyone away from Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 multiplayer to play with you). The sum total is a pretty decent value, and a no-brainer for anyone who enjoyed the original F.E.A.R., though that’s about as far as its appeal likely extends.