A Magnificent, ultra-violent pot-pourri of suspense, superior storytelling, scares and immense action, F.E.A.R. was one of 2005's games of the year. Just the tiniest glimpse of that spooky little girl made us quiver like... Well, a girl. But how did the Monolith team create such a monster shooter? We grabbed lead designer Craig Hubbard (on the left) and producer Jonathan Gramlich (on the right) for the full gory story. Warning: spoilers!
- Tall Story:
Hubbard: "From the very earliest drafts of the story, mmw we wanted to create a protagonist who wasn't defined, who could become the hero. We liked to play on the fact that you're coming into the game with no prior knowledge of what's going on and using that as part of the plot. We also wanted to justify your lack of understanding with the fact that you really don't have a history, which naturally seemed to suggest that you were artificial in some way. The rest of the elements - the relationship between you, the little girl Alma and Paxton Fettel - began to evolve after that, and we then figured out who the villains were and how they were tied together."
Gramlich: "The secret of the AI is using clues in the environment so that enemies know what to do. Basically, where they can go and where they can't and they have clues telling them how they can get to particular places by knocking something over for example, or going for cover and calling for backup. All of this stuff is invisible to you, but it's all there in the level for the enemies to use - there's a lot more of it than we've ever used in previous games, just to give the AI an unprecedented amount of choices to create a very dynamic experience of combat. I especially love it when they go around and try to flank you, when they find new routes or know when they're alone and call out to their friends for back-up. It's just so different every time you play, and I'm still surprised to this day just how well that , worked out."
- Shock Tactics:
Hubbard: "One thing we wanted to do was steer away from the typical style of horror that's usually done in action games, like stuff jumping around the corner at you. We wanted to go for atmosphere and suspense, and the key to that was obviously the sound design. We wanted to create this rich sense of ambience in the environment, where it sounded like something was going to happen just because the tone of the world was eerie and unsettling. With the soundtrack, we wanted to stay away from recognisable musical motifs and go more for unsettling sound as a backdrop to the game. We also wanted to leave more to your imagination than we actually show you, because again I think that's more unsettling. We weren't aiming for a horror game as such that was going to terrify you; rather, one that was going to play with your imagination and then hopefully frighten you that way."
Gramlich: "I'm absolutely thrilled with the way the bullet-time effects turned out. The first time we saw slo-mo really working was back in the E3 2004 demo - that's when we had a lot of glass getting put into the game and the AI was really starting to shine. You could really start to see all of the details from these combat scenarios with the slo-mo that you couldn't see without it - things like the smoke puffs, shattering glass, the sparks and AI pieces flying around everywhere. It adds so much more to an already great combat experience - I think it's one of the game's greatest elements."
Hubbard: "Personally, I really like stylised violence more than I like realistic violence. I really like what we did in F.E.A.R., where it's very over-the-top and movie-like, not at all evening news-type violence. I prefer the whole samurai movie-type violence too, with the sword-slashing and exaggerated spraying of blood.''
- Deleted Scene:
Hubbard: "Originally, we were going to start the game with a car chase sequence where you're in the passenger seat, but as we worked on F.E.A.R., it quickly became apparent that it wasn't going to be as fun as we'd hoped, and that it was going to take a ton of work to pull it off and make it run well on our technology. Because of this, we abandoned that plan. Also, when we started working on it, there weren't many examples of it in other games, whereas by the time it had been prototyped, there were other games like Medal Of Honor that had sequences like that, so it was a lot less 'new' anyhow."
- Norton Mapes:
Hubbard: "I can neither confirm nor deny it was based on someone we know! Part of the reason I wanted to add him was because I felt that there were all of these big enemies and very dangerous threats that you're dealing with. So we wanted to have a monkey wrench in the gears, a sort of personal demon for you - this guy who would just show up and complicate situations. Also, we wanted to give you a break - it was an attempt at some sort of light relief."
Gramlich: "One thing we've learned is that we really don't know what to expect from the mod community - we see a lot of great things coining out already and really, we're excited just to see what the F.E.A.R. fans come up with. Who knows what they can imagine and put out there - we're just really eager to see it and try it once they're done with it."
Hubbard: "Our Software Development Kit (SDK) is very data-driven too, which means you have a lot of power over the content of the game, which should give the mod community a lot of opportunity to make cool stuff without having to really dig into the source code."
Gramlich: "Our previous games, such as No One Lives Forever, were a bit behind the technology curve in the multiplayer department They had some serious lag issues, so we needed to figure out what was wrong, fix it and create a really solid multiplayer experience - something we could build upon in the future. I think we did a good job with F.E.A.R..
We concentrated on standard modes so that we could make sure it felt and looked really good, and also that the multiplayer combat was as intense as in the single-player game. I think we really did succeed in that area - the multiplayer combat is very visceral and exciting. However, the main problem was that we had to get up to the high standards of other games out there, which didn't leave us a lot of time to experiment with new things. Now, I think we have a much better baseline to start from going forward - we definitely feel that we're in a better position to try out new things for the next Monolith titles and there are a lot of great ideas going around here."
- Stand-Out Development Moments:
Gramlich: "The E3 2004 demo was really the point were everyone on the team started to see the results of all their hard work. A week or two before E3 things were just starting to come together, so we sat down in the conference room and Craig sat down and played through the game while we all watched. I personally was in awe - I couldn't believe how cool this thing was turning out! The slo-mo was just getting in there, the AI was really coming together, the effects worked -we all knew right then that we had a hit on our hands." Hubbard: "For me, it was probably at the end of the project when I finally put the finishing touches on the ending, which we wanted to be one of the biggest moments of the game. We spent the entire project trying out different ideas to make the ending as cool as possible, but nothing we tried measured up to what we wanted. So eventually, it made sense just to have a huge explosion at the end. Our art and effects guy is very good at particle stuff, so he prototyped something early on and it just looked great. The moment when I integrated that into the game was really rewarding."
This Is Where thatAlma thing started. FEAR was inspired for its time, providing unnerving horror moments mixed in with old-fashioned action. And, of course, it had the delightful unarmed attacks, available both in the single and the multiplayer games. You played as a member of the First Encounter Assault Recon team, the contrived name of a police-y squad sent in to deal with strange happenings.
This time it involves a guy who eats people's faces and a girl who likes to go "Boo!" at you when you turn around to descend ladders. The shooting bits involve nailing supersoldiers' heads to walls using the erotically named Penetrator gun while diving around in bullet-time.
The multiplayer side is utterly forgettable, barring the laugh value of slide-kicking your friends to death, but otherwise FEAR has aged reasonably well. It's no longer good enough to elicit oohs and aahs like it used to, but there's still a good game here, even if the repetition of drab locations grates far more than it used to. And then there's Norton Mapes...
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode