Fear Effect Review

20 May 2006
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Fear EffectAs recently announced, the Fear Effect series is about to get revived by Eidos for next generation consoles. It’s unknown whether it will be an all new game, or if Eidos will be sticking to the last game they cancelled, Fear Effect Inferno, and just updating that for the new hardware, but regardless the world is in for another survival horror treat. The Fear Effect series was one of Eidos bigger games on the original Playstation, garnering great reviews across the board for it’s sense of style, mature storytelling and visceral action. I recently bought and played through the original Fear Effect game, and due to the recent news of a new game in the series, the timing was perfect to unleash my review of this Playstation masterpiece. So sit back, relax, and get ready to enter the world of Fear Effect.

Stylish atmosphere, cool anime-style cut-scenes, mature twisting storyline. All begs to be experienced. A gem of a game.

Fear Effect
System: Playstation
Genre: Survival Horror
Players: 1
Memory Card: 1 Block
Country of Origin: U.S.
Developer: Kronos Digital Entertainment
Publisher: Eidos
Released: 2000

Fear Effect was released for the original Playstation around April 2000. While the game never became as big a hit as say, Metal Gear Solid or Resident Evil, it did generate enough sales to convince Eidos to try it’s hand at a sequel, called Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix, (and a “next-generation” PS2 version, called Fear Effect: Inferno, was also in development, but the project was later scrapped due in part to financial difficulties) and the game managed to garner great reviews by both critics and gamers alike across the board, due to the game’s mature plot, risqué scenes, and movie-like graphics, which were unlike anything previously seen on the console.

Hana Fire FE
Fear Effect is a pretty unique game all around, although in this day and age, it’s been done before and done better, most specifically in Resident Evil (GCN), which basically perfected the style of graphics that Fear Effect uses (The backgrounds are composed of full-motion video, with character models and other items set on top of the “movie-scene” backgrounds). Obviously the game is pretty out-dated. At four-discs deep, the game is also pretty short, as the majority of the disc-space is being taken up by FMV (even having to switch to disc 2 at one point as they apparently ran out of space on the other discs).

The most glaringly dated aspect of Fear Effect though, that you will notice right of the bat, is the graininess of the FMV backgrounds, as well as the fact that the backgrounds noticeably loop if you stay in place for more than say, 7 seconds. The camera angles are “static” (except for a few points where the camera zooms in or out, to great effect, when you first enter the scene, which still looks cool), like in the Resident Evil series (and most survival horror games in particular), which means you traverse the world from “scene to scene” and can’t control the camera at all.

Shadows - FEFear Effect also follows the basic survival horror mold, having you collect items and keys to open doors and solving puzzles along the way, some of which can be quite complex. All the while using various guns and weapons to kill various enemies in your path through the environments.

The best thing Fear Effect has going for it is the storyline, which is surprisingly mature, even nowadays. Containing cursing (though thankfully it’s not overdone), lots of blood and gruesome violence (though nothing too gross, again, thankfully) and even some “nudity” (a big-deal at the time, though pointy breasts in the token shower scene only look funny and unrealistic, and it’s done from a side-view btw, so now full frontal nudity here) and is full of spooky thrills, especially later on in the game, when the game twists like a roller-coaster (although it at many times lacks “oomph”).

Every Movie Scene! Only watch the intro if you want to avoid spoilers!

You play as one of three main characters, who the game will switch to automatically at certain points in the story. Hana, Glas and Deke. The game starts out as a mercenary mission to find and abduct the daughter of a filthy rich Chinese businessman and Triad leader, Mr. Lam, who has recently gone missing, and then to ransom her off to him at a high price, obviously pocketing all the dough. But of course what starts out as a standard mission gradually gets more and more insane as the game progresses, until all hell breaks lose (literally). Turns out that the girl, Wee Ming Lam, holds a horrifying secret, all of which is connected in some way to Hana’s purposely-hidden past, and linked in ways she can’t yet comprehend but that will be unveiled to you in great twist-y fashion as you get deeper and deeper into the game.

Pipes - FEFear Effect has lots of action and features a pretty unique shooting mechanic. Basically, your health is measured by a “fear” meter, that goes from green to yellow to red to tell you how badly you are injured, and next to that is a crosshair. Both of these are at the top of the screen in the “border” (the game is letterboxed, but you don’t really notice this since the important health meter, ammo icons, etc. are contained in the border), with the crosshair in the top middle. The cross hair only appears when you can shoot an enemy, at which point it will be green. If you are a certain distance or behind an enemy, and the crosshair is red, you can kill that enemy with a single hit. The most efficient way to do this is to sneak up behind an enemy, which an be done by holding R2. Killing an enemy when the crosshair is red gives you more ammo and also “heals” you by restoring your fear meter some. The cool thing about all this is that you don’t need to worry about finding health or mixing herbs like in other games, that being said, your health doesn’t just restore on it’s own, which can make things a little difficult especially if there are a lot of enemies around at that point, with no way to restore your health unless a stealth kill opportunity opens itself, and that isn’t always available. You generally don’t have to worry about health though, cause even when your meter is low, a lot of times you will switch characters at some point, which starts you with full health.

The controls pretty much work like Resident Evil, with up moving you forward, down backward, and right & left to turn. The X button shoots, Triangle is the action button, while Square cycles forward through your inventory starting at weapons, and Circle cycles backwards through your inventory starting at items. L1 does a 180 degree quick turn, R2 crouches and sneak-walks, and L2 allows you to “roll” in any direction (forward, backward, left or right). The rolling is interesting in that you are invincible while rolling, you can even simply roll past enemies (however you only get ammo from killing enemies, so they can’t be avoided indefinitely, some crucial items are also only gained by killing enemies). While this simply makes no sense and looks pretty funny, it’s nice and manages to make the game a little easier, which is a good thing as it can be pretty difficult and it’s easy to run low on ammo (there are only four save slots but having more than one save file so you can go back is a must. I found myself having to go back to a previous save several times due to running too low on ammo to pass the section that I needed to pass, thus completely preventing me from proceeding in the game. Obviously a major bummer).

Area - FEFear Effect tries to encourage stealth since Rambo-ing it will only result in you running out or low on ammo (which can be deadly), however the “stealth” aspect is actually pretty poorly implemented. The main reason being that enemies don’t seem to move from their current position unless they are visible to you, or you enter that scene, which is the complete opposite of Metal Gear Solid, where enemies walk their “patrol” routes whether you are there or not. This basically means that there are many sections where it’s impossible to pass without the enemy seeing you, resulting in a dangerous firefight. This type of thing will result in your death on many occasions. This is probably the biggest knock against the game, as it’s impossible to avoid some fights.

Fear Effect is also full of puzzles, and while some reviews point to the puzzles being easy, I found many of them to be head-scratchingly difficult, resulting in multiple deaths with me eventually having to gamefaq or strategy guide my way out. I recommend that you don’t go into Fear Effect unless you have some kind of guide or walkthrough handy, as it’s very easy to get stuck, unless you are really good at puzzles and enjoy writing things down and figuring the puzzle out. Things can usually be done by trail and error, though it will take you twice as long and get really repetitive if you go that route. To keep the frustration factor down, I’d suggest trying the puzzle a few times then if you can’t figure it out turn to a guide or faq, before you get discouraged and never come back to the game.

The coolest aspect of Fear Effect is definitely the game’s atmosphere and the unique world that the characters inhabit, as well as some really cool and interesting boss fights and environmental sections you have to make your way through. The game starts out in an industrial, kind of futuristic Blade Runner-style alternate-reality China (where neon signs and hovercraft abound), and the game at first seems to be based on realism, like that of Metal Gear Solid or something similar, with you fighting various human guards. However as previously stated, by the time you reach disc two the game starts getting more and more into the supernatural, until “realism” is far and gone. The story that comes into play is definitely unique though, and the game throws many twists at you throughout the 10 to 15 hour adventure (your first time through), which keeps you on your toes and wanting to keep playing to find out what crazy thing is going to happen next. And this game will definitely surprise you with some of the extreme turns the story takes, the type of twist that you won’t expect from a video game.

Hana at a door - FEI enjoyed getting to play as the three different characters as well. They aren’t very well developed however and the story mainly stays focused on only a couple characters (and keep in mind that this is no RPG, you will never really talk to any characters except for the ones you come across in movie-scenes), mainly Hana and the girl you are after, Wee Ming Lam, with the others only there to add variety and drama. The characters do each feature unique weapons and a unique feel (some are quicker than others for example) and thus they are cool to play as when you switch to them.

The game generally does a good job at keeping you tense, and the fear factor is really raised the deeper you get into the game; by the fourth disc it gets pretty freaky and psycho, with you going through some really cool environments where the creepy atmosphere is really well done. The game even tosses in some really cool flashy FMV effects to kind of psych you out or surprise you, which work really well even 6 years after the games initial release, even though the effect has been done much better in newer games like Eternal Darkness and the Metal Gear Solid series. It’s still cool to see it being done on such old hardware though.

Fear Effect has a good level of challenge, it’s certainly not easy, and that’s while playing on the normal difficulty setting. There are three different endings and a hard setting (which is required to get the best ending), but there are no unlockables or different modes, the game doesn’t rate you at the end based on you play (like in Resident Evil), and there’s no multiplayer, so the game will most likely only be played through once unless you really liked it and want to see it all again, or you want to play through again on hard to receive the best ending. And once the game has been played through and you know what to do and how to solve the puzzles, then it’s easily beaten and the length of the game is cut in half, though that should be expected from a survival horror game of this sort.

Burning Bridge - FEThe music in the game is good, and the voice acting is also pretty good, fitting the characters really well, though it’s not exceptional. Even so, it’s easily some of the best voice acting you can find on the original Playstation.

The biggest knock against the game outside of the graphics is the fact that it’s simply outdated in it’s mechanics in many ways. The game doesn’t really contain any real glaring flaws (enemy AI and the stealth aspects described above being the worst, though you will occasionally see weird happenings, such as the background freezing. One time the background froze at a boss and I was able to simply pelt away his health until he died, at which point the game continued like normal. These may have been due to a scratchy disc or something similar though) although sometimes you will see enemies disappear and reappear while moving through a scene, it’s also easy to save over the wrong save file since you have to select your file each time you save, so be careful when saving. It also doesn’t give you any info on the files while saving, so make sure you remember what slot you saved your game in (save points are scattered about generously, and you use a cell phone in your items to save while standing in the right spot). Not being able to continue progressing in the game due to low ammo or whatnot is also a potentially huge problem, though if you use all four save slots to have files at different points in the game you should be able to keep from having to restart from scratch. The controls can also be pretty cumbersome and they personally took me quite a while to get used to, so have some patience if it’s your first time playing.

So is Fear Effect still worth playing today and what should you expect? Well I’d say the game is DEFINITELY worth playing. It’s a genuinely unique and cool game, especially if you are a fan of survival horror games, action adventure games with puzzles, or are looking for a game with a mature storyline for adults. However if you aren’t a fan of these type of games then Fear Effect won’t change your mind, especially given it’s dated mechanics and graphics (which include some stiff and kind of funny looking walking & running animations).

Climbing - FEFear Effect has it’s fair share of memorable moments, both in-game and story-wise. Some of the bosses are particularly imaginative and unique in how they are fought, since the game uses the FMV backgrounds to it’s advantage, such as one boss who is hiding behind a crate. He will pop out and shoot his machine gun at you, and then duck behind the crate and move behind the wall of crates blocking your sight of him. Then the animation repeats. You hide behind the same stacked crates on your side, having to correctly time your roll as to roll out, shoot him in between his shoots, and roll back before he can shoot you. Another fight has various men rolling out from under a bed, where a red dot shows the next spot they will shoot. You have to avoid the red spots, and shoot the guys when they roll out from under the bed making themselves vulnerable. These types of fights are a dime a dozen in Fear Effect and make the game worthwhile and quite memorable. Nothing is standard fare in this game outside it’s survival horror mold, and the FMV backgrounds are used to the games advantage to present many unique situations, everything from running away from an explosion, to a section where a hovercraft will fly by a platform you need to get across, with ladders on both sides, and shoot a rain of machine gun fire on top of it. The scene loops, so the craft will come in and shoot, then fly away, then the scene will loop and repeat, so it keeps “coming back”. Obviously you are charged with running across the platform to the ladder and climbing down before it can make it back to shoot again. These types of scenes and the aforementioned boss fights all combine to make Fear Effect unique, and make you wonder why nothing quite like this had been done before.

So what should you expect going in to Fear Effect? Expect a Resident Evil-style game set in a sci-fi universe with more emphasis on stealth and a mature storyline that doesn’t try too hard to be mature (but contains standard horror “shocks”) but rather presents an adult game, dealing with serious subject matter that delves into the supernatural, without getting too deep (far from RPG territory). Also expect to die . . . . A LOT. You will see tons of loading screens while playing this game, and that can get very tiring when you have to wait through yet more loading every time you die (at least the Game Over screen is cool though, it differs with each disc as well as during the end).

All Game Over Screens

Also don’t go into this game if you are looking for something with a lot of replay value, as you won’t find it here, and there’s no multiplayer whatsoever, though that’s typically the case with survival horror games. Luckily the game will provide at least one more play through for the curious, as it contains three endings, with the best ending only obtainable by beating the game on hard, as previously stated. Also cool is the fact that the endings contain different bosses and totally different epilogues. If you loved what you played, then it’s worth it to see the best ending.

Area - FEAll in all though, Fear Effect is a really neat game and showed what could be pulled off with the Playstation’s CD-ROM media. It’s unique in the way it’s designed and a game like this simply couldn’t be made in the same way nowadays, it’s too antiqued in that regard, but it’s out-dated nature gives it a uniqueness not seen nowadays. And the stylish atmosphere, cool anime-style cut-scenes and mature, twisting storyline beg to be experienced. I think all gamers should track this game down and give it a shot. It’s a gem of a game and makes you wonder how cool Inferno might’ve turned out. Btw, if you ever see a Fear Effect movie in 2007-2010, DO NOT give Uwe Boll your money. It’ll only result in you never wanting to touch this excellent game. 🙂

Graphics: 8.0
Sound & Music: 8.5
Replay Value: 6.5
Ingenuity: 8.5
Reviewer’s Tilt: 9.5
FUN FACTOR: 8.5

(Individual scores have no bearing on the Fun Factor score, each category is given an individual score and is not effected by the other categories. Just work with me here.)
5: Average 6: Above Average 7: Good 8: Great 9: Amazing 10: Incredible

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About the author

Josh Romero By Josh Romero: He is a lover of videogames, as well as metal music, Gilmore Girls, chatting, social networking, Phoenix Suns, reading, writing and many other nerdy things. Read his posts here and connect with him on Youtube.


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