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F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate

New To F.E.A.R.?If you’re new to the F.E.A.R. series, you owe it to yourself to check out our coverage on the previous two games in this series, F.E.A.R. and the first expansion pack, F.E.A.R.: Extraction Point.I play F.E.A.R. slowly – as slowly as I possibly can. Crouching down, I creep through dark corridors, lean around every corner. I set the lights low in my room, put on headphones to cancel the noise around me, and in the process, I get myself in the mindset necessary to truly enjoy what the F.E.A.R. series is trying to do. If you just play F.E.A.R. like a typical FPS, running through as fast as you can, the subtlety of the horror can so easily be lost that you’ll miss out on the very best part of the game. You’ll miss the genuine uncomfortable feeling that sneaks up on you when static comes across your radio and you’ll miss the feeling of dread at what you know is up ahead.

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The slow pace also perfectly juxtaposes the fast-paced, tactically-oriented combat. Take this exchange – I’ve been tasked with rescuing another team of soldiers trapped in an office building, but I need to take it slow because I’m low on ammo. I work my way to a door up ahead. I know a firefight is coming. I take a breath and press the melee attack button, busting open the door. Sure enough, enemy soldiers have already taken defensive positions, anticipating my arrival. I toss a grenade towards a group of them. They disperse and dive away from the grenade as I make a flanking maneuver to the left. I crouch behind a desk and lean to the right. I pull out my pistols and take a carefully aimed headshot at the exposed helmet of a now-deceased foe. I stand from my position and fire at the remaining enemies in the room. The two have hunkered behind overturned desk and I can’t hit them. They’re firing blind as I have them pinned down, so I make a rush up the middle, trigger the game’s time-slowing effect, leap over a desk and fire carefully aimed slow-motion shots into their Kevlar armor.

Perseus Mandate, the latest stand-alone expansion pack in the F.E.A.R. universe, is full of battles like these – just intense, balls-out battles. But while combat is around every other corner, Perseus Mandate still capitalizes on the intense horror that catapulted the original game to such success (earning an impressive 10/10 from this fine website). There’s an overwhelming creepiness as you work your way through dark corridors and the only noise you can hear is from a security camera monitoring your actions. It won’t set off a turret or alarms or unleash a dozen mindless goons if you’re seen by it – but you know someone is on the other side watching, waiting, and preparing. And of course, Perseus Mandate is still full of the more traditional scares of the original; those dark, apocalyptic, and surprisingly terrifying scenes that keep the tension high. Just be prepared because like in the original F.E.A.R. and the first expansion pack, Extraction Point, towards the end of Perseus Mandate, combat takes a front-seat role and scares are scarce.

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F.E.A.R. managed to balance the shooting and scaring with an effective narrative, but Perseus Mandate isn’t quite up to the same snuff. The expansion takes place during the events of the first game (instead of carrying on from the end of the first expansion) and there really isn’t all that much for them to say that hasn’t already been dealt with. You’ll occasionally hear of the exploits of the original F.E.A.R. hero, but as the game progresses, you’ll definitely notice the lacking narrative. More unfortunately, the storyline doesn’t logically fit into the already established F.E.A.R. universe. The original F.E.A.R. hero had supernatural powers that were explained and justified through the first game, yet the hero of this game, another nameless, faceless soldier, has all the same time-slowing, supernatural accuracy that our original hero was blessed with. I really have no idea what the developers at TimeGate were thinking when they put together this storyline because it just doesn’t make sense to anyone who has played any of the F.E.A.R. games. What is even more disappointing, Monolith has decided to ignore the storylines of the expansion packs in the true F.E.A.R. sequel, so there’s absolutely no reason to pay attention to the story.

Another issue is that the F.E.A.R. engine is in desperate need of an upgrade that it didn’t receive for Perseus Mandate. The game requires a lot of juice out of your system to run well, but doesn’t really deliver the graphical show that you might expect from the system requirements. Sure, the game looks alright and you probably won’t complain much, but we’ve been spoiled this year by the likes of Call of Duty 4 and Crysis. Now, I don’t expect the developers to write a new engine for an expansion pack, but the game looks essentially the same as the original F.E.A.R. (which was released two years ago) and that’s a big disappointment. At the very least, if they weren’t going to make things look prettier, the developers should have taken the effort to optimize the engine a little better so that it runs more efficiently.

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“I really have no idea what the developers at TimeGate were thinking when they put together this storyline because it just doesn’t make sense…”Despite the lackluster narrative and dated graphics, Perseus Mandate still delivers a lot of the fun of the previous games. It isn’t perfect, but it still manages to be a worthy addition to the F.E.A.R. franchise despite the story. The action is intense and will keep you gripped for the five or six hours you’ll spend with the expansion. At the same time, the scares are still surprisingly terrifying. I’ll admit that Perseus Mandate isn’t perfect, but it’s another entertaining adventure that F.E.A.R. fans are going to enjoy.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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