First Impressions

Pete used his Gamefly account to get me a copy of F.E.A.R. for the 360. This is a shooter of relatively high reputation, mostly on the strength of its special rendering effects and yet another implementation of “bullet time” slow-motion massacre technology.

Unfortunately, I am not feeling very motivated to continue with the game after my first impression. I know this is shallow of me, but I have a lot of games and little time, so if a game is not good immediately, there is little point in going on.

Here’s how the first 20 minutes of F.E.A.R. played out.

1. One minute of various logo sreens.

2. Press start.

3. Five minutes of opening cut scene with a spooky little girl, name credits, and some more logos.

4. Second opening cut scene to set up first mission.

5. Arrive by car at a building with many gray hallways. Run around in the hallways for about five minutes. Shoot one rat, woohoo!. Meet up with your partner. Spooky out of body experience. Run around a bit more.

6. Partner tells you to go look around. Run around to the roof of the building for about five minutes. Some guy jumps you, setting up another expository cut scene with a lot of dialog you can’t quite make out. You can’t make it out because you have to play after the kid is in bed with the sound turned low and the game has no subtitles. Therefore, you have no idea what the exposition was about. No matter. It was probably stupid anyway.

7. Helicopter ride to the next mission. 2 minutes.

8. Play “find the switch” game for 2 more minutes.

9. Spooky cut scene, run into another old building with gray walls. WHOAH! Drone soldiers! Finally the shooting starts.

Let’s summarize. In the first 20 minutes of the game, I shot a rat. 20 minutes into Resident Evil 4 I had already been mauled by a mob of flesh eating zombie people. 20 minutes into Halo I was on a ship being attacked by aliens who were on fire. No wait, the ship was on fire. 20 minutes into Half-Life 2 I was running for my life on the roof of a building. You get the idea. 20 minutes is a long time in a game like this. You have to have something set up by then or I will put your game down and never pick it up again. We who want to shoot things in the head are not patient.

I realize that the developers were attempting to set up a compelling atmosphere and plot. What they succeeded in doing is making the first 20 minutes of their game really boring and tedious. F.E.A.R. did not help its cause by not really improving once the action began. The NPC dialog is all the same. The heavily hyped A.I. is sluggish and not very fun to fight against. The environments are all the same gray buidings filled with metal barrels and wooden crates. I expect the game to become even more repetitive and tedious as time goes on. I might try to tough it out for another hour, but so far I think that my first impressions of this game will be my last.

Good shooters seem rare these days. I wonder if the genre has lost something or if I’ve just become too jaded to deal with its conventions. It’s probably some of both. Maybe playing too much Final Fantasy makes it impossible for you to enjoy a shooter. Maybe Halo 3 will fix everything. Here’s hoping it starts out better than this.