F.E.A.R Perseus Mandate (PC)

*yawns* Written at launch

F.E.A.R Perseus Mandate is the second expansion pack to arrive based on the 2005 atmospheric shooter F.E.A.R. Its predecessor was a refreshingly fun shooter with some interesting new additions to the genre most notably smart AI that reacted uniquely to the situation, as well as a compelling story and excellent graphics for the time. In the case of Perseus Mandate, the question is whether it is more of the same or a worthy addition to the series.

Unfortunately, for some, this game is most definitely more of the same, and not really in the good way either. Perseus Mandate begins halfway through the events of the original game, however rather than playing the same character as in the previous game, you play as a brand new character. It all sounds very exciting till you realise that it doesn’t really broaden the story much, you are still a faceless member of a F.E.A.R team, just a different one from before. For fans though it’s nice to see the story being told from a different perspective. Other than that it’s business as usual, run around various claustrophobic environments (although nowhere near as confining as they used to be), kill faceless clones and various bodyguards; and every once in a while run into a creepy spectre like person, just to remind you that this game is meant to be creepy. The game doesn’t even really inspire you from the start, there’s no real explanations as to who you or your comrades are and frankly it’s hard to care about them when they’re just faceless drones.

The problem is while the story hasn’t really moved on, neither is there any innovation within the graphics engine. It’s quite scary to think that two years ago the F.E.A.R engine pushed many people’s PCs to the limit, and yet now it all looks so bland. The physics engine is extremely poor as well compared to more modern engines such as Half Life 2’s Source Engine. Coupled with the fact that the majority of the game feels like a matter of ’shoot anything that moves’, it’s all feeling extremely aged. The AI doesn’t even feel very clever anymore, maybe it’s just because newer games have done it better since. It just feels a bit too predictable when an enemy dodges for cover and tries to fling a grenade at you. No longer is it possible to be really impressed by the AI engine. Despite that, with the enemies being given more and more superior weapons, it’s not actually a very easy game to play. Instead, frustratingly, there are many moments where you will be doing fine traversing a factory, suddenly you pop your head through a door and there’s a horde of enemy soldiers all shooting at you with far too overpowered weapons. It makes the slow motion bullet time effects that are on offer, near vital to survive some encounters.

The only real new and positive addition to the game is deployable weapon turrets and extra types of enemy. Most of these enemies are fairly standard and not hugely noticeable compared to the regular enemies, with the notable exception of the Nightcrawlers. These enemies are probably the most challenging within the game, and in later stages of the game they get extremely difficult. They move quickly, they’re able to turn mostly invisible, they can run off walls and they take a lot of shooting to bring down. They make an extremely welcome challenge in this otherwise average game. Many of the major firefights within the game are held in enclosed environments so it makes the Nightcrawlers particularly dangerous. Besides these new enemy types, there are 3 ‘bonus missions’ that are unlocked once you complete the single player campaign. These remove any element of story and solely focus on fighting wave after wave of enemy soldiers. Fun if you’re a twitchy sort of gamer though. There are some more areas in the game that are open areas such as warehouses and yards, but these tend to give the impression of being larger when they’re really quite restrictive if you actually want to go somewhere different than the game expects you to. They also reveal just how much the graphics engine is struggling now.

There is also a multiplayer mode, but compared to the original F.E.A.R multiplayer mode, it just offers a few extra weapons. Another thing to bear in mind is that the multiplayer mode is available free on its own anyhow, so there’s certainly no need to buy this to benefit from the multiplayer capabilities. Alongside these mediocre components, it doesn’t even feel very creepy or tense anymore, which was one of F.E.A.R’s biggest selling points. This is due to the fact that dedicated fans of F.E.A.R will have already encountered most of the spooky tricks thrown at you, so ghosts appearing behind you are all very predictable and unexciting now.

It all feels a bit like the fun has been sucked out of this, and a paint-by-numbers rendition of a F.E.A.R game has been put in its place. For those of you who have never played any of the F.E.A.R games, then go buy the first game, not this. The first game is infinitely superior (although will still look somewhat aged now) and it’ll be a lot cheaper for you too. For others, only play this if you’re a die hard FPS or F.E.A.R player, and then only once you’ve tried all of the competition. It’s just an expansion pack too far.