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access_time May 2, 2021 at 6:04 PM in Features by David Poole

Bring it Back | F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon)

It’s time for another Bring it Back, where we focus on looking back at games from dormant franchises in hopes of them making a comeback. Last week, we looked at EA’s Skate or Die! franchise, hoping to see it maybe one day see it merge with their Skate series. For this week, we’re looking at more of a modern classic with the F.E.A.R. franchise. First published by Vivendi Games and later acquired by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, the series has seen multiple titles in a fairly short time frame. Unfortunately, it’s been several years since the horror series has been utilized. Being a retrospective, be aware there are various spoilers for the series.

Back in 2004, Monolith Productions showed off the first footage of F.E.A.R. at E3. Gaining positive critical reception, the game continued to get praise from trade show to trade show. Designed as a first-person shooter that would put you in the action of a cinematic experience, the game utilized horror elements to elevate the immersion. Monolith wanted the player to connect their own dots and feel uncertain about the events that transpire. Instead of focusing on jump scares, the game instead opts for defying expectations for the player. To make things more interesting, the team developed some incredibly impressive enemy AI. Releasing on PC in 2005, the game seemingly succeeded in that goal, becoming a critical success. It would later release on Xbox 360 in 2006 and PlayStation 3 in 2007.

F.E.A.R., or First Encounter Assault Recon, puts players in the role of Point Man, a part of an elite team of specialists in the year 2025. Armacham Technology Corporation is producing super soldier clones that can be controlled by telepathy, known as Replicas. Paxton Fettel, a psychic, takes these soldiers and takes control of ATC, prompting the deployment of the task force F.E.A.R. Over the course of the game, the player will experience various supernatural incidents, even seeing visions of a mysterious girl named Alma. All the events lead to the discovery of the true Alma, a powerful psychic, and the mother of Fettel. It also gets revealed that Alma is the Point Man’s mother as well. The story is full of details that get further explained in comic books, additional expansions and live action promo videos.

While the original F.E.A.R. received two expansions, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate, they were developed by a different team, TimeGate Studios. This would later lead to these entries being considered non-canon after Warner Bros. purchased the IP in 2008. Fans now dedicate two timelines to the franchise, one being the Vivendi timeline, the other being the Monolith timeline. Splitting from the ending of the original game, the expansions expand the story with a continuation and a story that runs concurrent with the base game. Adding new weapons, enemies, smarter AI, and even visual updates, these expansions were made to elevate the original game.

Gameplay for the game would utilize common first-person shooter elements with the exception of “reflex time.” This allows players to slow down time in the game while moving at normal speeds, creating a sort of hook for the series. The game also includes melee combat, including punches, kicks, and more. Of course, being a first-person shooter during the mid 2000s, multiplayer was also a focus. With deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and last man standing, multiplayer would utilize the reflex time as a power-up instead of normal use. Additional game modes would be added, but ultimately due to the GameSpy shutdown, the multiplayer for the game would end in 2012. This would also affect the multiplayer in the sequel as well.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin would come after the Warner Bros. acquisition, making a new canon under supervision of Monolith. Coming out in 2009, the story continues to focus on Alma Wade, but puts players in the role of Michael Becket. ATC president Genevieve Aristide goes into protective custody by a team going by the codename Dark Signal. Becket being a part of that team, he soon discovers Project Harbinger, which involves making Replicas without using Alma’s powers. Aristide then tries to use Dark Signal to try and stop Alma once and for all, altering them with psychic experiments. Of course, Alma gets in the way multiple times, killing many members of Dark Signal. She also causes many hallucinations and events for Becket to experience throughout the game.

An ATC researcher named Terry Halford, under the name Snake Fist throughout most of the game, tries to help Becket. He tells of a device that can amplify Becket’s own psychic powers to defeat Alma, only to lose his life in the process. Eventually, it’s discovered that Aristide wants to feed Becket to Alma in an attempt to control her. Sealing the two together, Becket starts to see more hallucinations while Alma uses the moment to impregnate herself using Becket. The game leaves us off with cliffhanger, pointing to the plot of the next game.

Gameplay for F.E.A.R. 2 is mostly the same, though there’s now an inclusion of mechs in the combat. Iron sights make their way into the gameplay for improvements to the shooting, and now players can make their own cover. Multiplayer also returns with many of the same elements of the original. An expansion, F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn, puts players in control of Replica Foxtrot 813 in an attempt to save Paxton Fettel. After four levels of intense action and finding Fettel, it’s revealed that Foxtrot 813 is a clone of him. Shortly after this reveal, Fettel transfers his consciousness to Foxtrot 813 to take his body as his own, hence the name “Reborn.”

Moving to 2011’s F.E.A.R. 3, or F.3.A.R., we get a continuation with two protagonists, both sons of Alma. Point Man and Fettel (now in Foxtrot 813) work reluctantly work together to try and reach Alma during her childbirth. Alma’s pregnancy causes various events to happen, based on her own contractions, making her more unstable than ever. During this, the brothers are hunted by a manifestation of terrible memories known simply as “The Creep.” Going to the Project Origin facility, they destroy items associated with their memories to weaken the Creep before destroying it. Reuniting with their mother, the game then gives the choice of one of two endings.

The endings themselves depend on a couple factors. In single player, the character the player controls has their own ending. When playing in co-op, the player with the most points gets their ending. This is likely where things get most divisive, as we technically don’t have a canon ending. Point Man’s ending involves him killing Fettel and helping Almba induce birth. For Fettel however, he possesses Point Man’s body and then extracts the child from Alma before absorbing her. While the story doesn’t have a clear ending, Monolith definitely has options to continue this story, especially involving the child.

Aside from offering co-op, one of the biggest gameplay changes for F.3.A.R. was the new psychic abilities of Fettel. Not only can players use telekinesis to launch objects, but they can also lift enemies, crush them or even possess them. He can also shield Point Man in co-op. Point Man plays mostly the same as he did in the original game, but now with the ability to dual-wield guns. Both have access to mechs, which make their return from the previous game. Aside from the co-op multiplayer, there’s also additional modes involving survival, as well as a couple competitive modes for up to four players.

In 2013, a free-to-play online multiplayer game, F.E.A.R. Online, was coming to PC. Releasing a couple betas in 2014, the game would offer new elements with co-op play and crafting. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t very popular, losing support in 2015 and shutting down. While an interesting idea, it wasn’t the catalyst for the series to continue, and that’s where we are today. With no proper games in the series since 2011, this is a series that deserves new life. While Monolith has found success in producing Middle Earth games, this would be a great series for them to revisit. Horror first-person shooters are not very common, and not many gave the same impact as F.E.A.R., which is why we think it’s time to Bring it Back!

With Warner Bros. in control, they have a multitude of studios to revive this franchise with. Of course, the best option would be to go to Monolith Productions to maintain consistency. The series is only available to play on PC at this point, as the Xbox 360 games aren’t backwards compatible for the Xbox One or Series S|X. At least the first game is available to play as part of PlayStation Now, but that isn’t much to work with. The best option would be to remaster the entire trilogy for a modern update. Give it 4K resolutions for modern consoles and allow players to enjoy the stories again. While it would be nice to remaster the competitive multiplayer, it would be best to focus on the campaigns.

With a remaster of the original games, then it would be time to move forward on a sequel. Obviously, with the way F.3.A.R. leaves off, there are a lot of directions it can go. The best course of action would likely be to use Point Man’s ending. Fettel’s ending definitely makes for an interesting option, but it’s most likely best to keep Alma in the picture. She’s still the most iconic element of the series, and while Fettel would make a great antagonist again, Alma is the key to reviving the series. With modern shooters making several gameplay enhancements, there’s a lot of potential for a F.E.A.R. 4. Give a new multiplayer mode that combines the best elements of the previous games, and you can get a clear winner. It may also be best to leave out the co-op campaign, as it really just takes away the horror aspect.

The F.E.A.R. series might need to make some changes to the subject matter, but overall, it’s a franchise that needs to come back. We need creative first-person shooters to rise again, especially in a climate of battle royales and multiplayer juggernauts. What do you think? Would you like to see F.E.A.R. again? Let us know in the comments below! Also feel free to check back with us next week when we look at a classic action adventure series under the Square Enix banner.

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