I bought Fear Effect about a month ago, popped it in my PSOne, and was instantly sucked in. From the gameplay to the storyline to the graphics, this game is nearly flawless. Whether you're a "kill everything that moves" person or a brain-teaser fanatic, this game has something for you. Almost seamless transitions between gameplay and movie sequences, sharp graphics and sound, and a killer storyline make this game stand head and shoulders above its peers. At the risk of sound blasphemous, I even liked it better than any of the Final Fantasy games. So, here's the complete skinny on why this game rules: Graphics and Sound Unlike the Final Fantasy series, Fear Effect 2 doesn't go the route of ultra-realistic graphics. Instead, the game has a slick anime look to it - the characters are very reminiscent of something you'd find in Akira or Ghost in the Shell. That's to the benefit of the game, because it allows the gameplay to look almost identical to the movie sequences. In fact, I was killed in one level because I didn't realize that the game had returned control to me - I assumed the movie was still running. Also, while most games have static background that are difficult to interact with, the backgrounds here are animated and interesting to look at, making the world feel vibrant and alive. Gameplay is further enhanced by the excellent sound. Again, the backgrounds are brought to life via the soundtrack, which features realistic background noises that match the visual picture (if there are huge gears moving around, you'll hear them whirring and clicking; if there are computer screens, they will flicker and beep and whirr). The music is well done - it doesn't dominate or distract, but rather amplifies the gaming experience by helping set the mood. One of the best things about this game is the voice soundtrack. That's right, there's no reading of dialogue here - it's all done with voi
ce-overs. If you need information on the next level or puzzle, it'll usually be communicated to you via dialogue with another character. It is makes the game move faster and makes it more enjoyable to play. The voice-acting is pretty darn good, and I found it an unexpected delight to hear the characters actually speak. This is the only game I've ever played that provides this feature and I will find it difficult to go back to the world of text-based dialogue. Gameplay This game contains an excellent blend of action, puzzle solving, and narrative that creates an extremely well-paced game. The action sequences provide a variety of options for the player. You can either go in guns blazing, try to sneak in, or run away (in fact some of the harder enemies require a hasty escape instead of a fight). The controls are a little tricky at first, but easy enough to master once you figure out how to optimize the different movement features. Particularly cool is the "sneak" feature that allows you to creep up and take out your enemies, either silently with a knife (or other hand weapon) or with one shot. If you carry two weapons you have the option of targetting multiple enemies at a time, or just concentrating fire on one. My roommate was particularly fond of the duck and roll option, which allows you to dodge an attack and immediately come up shooting. One not-so-great thing was the movement system. Because the perspective switches so frequently from room to room, you constantly have to adjust which direction you're holding. This makes running in a straight line extremely tricky (especially on levels where you have to run away very fast...you end up butting against walls and getting caught). You do have the option of setting the game to run a la Tomb Raider, where up will always make the character run forward, etc etc. However, I found it way too hard to navigate using this method (other users may have more success than me though)
. Still, it's a minor inconvience and didn't really hinder my gameplay too much. However, lest you become bored with action, there are also plenty of puzzles to exercise your mind and give your trigger fingers a break. Some are fairly easy, other require more thought. They are varied enough to keep you interested in the game. I definetely recommend avoiding cheats - part of the fun is figuring the puzzles out and it was extremely rewarding to do so on my own. In addition to the convential puzzles, there are also certain sequences that can only be started if you figure out what step to take next in the narrative. Because the backgrounds are so realistic, if you pay attention, you should be able to figure out what objects you need to manipulate (the dialogue also gives you a lot of clues, so listen up and don't skip the movie sequences). There are one or two random puzzles that don't seem to have much logic, but thankfully they are few and far between. Most of the puzzles you run into are challenging, but fun. Last, the game doesn't rely on levels, or hit points, so you don't have to worry about gaining experience to increase your skill level and you don't have to horde health potions. You can just concentrate on playing the game and moving along with the storyline, which makes the game a much more engaging experience. Storyline There are a lot of reasons to play this game, but the storyline is what makes it stand out as one of the best games I've ever played. It starts strong, introducing our heroes and setting up the horror/ noir/James Bond-style feel of the game, and just keeps on trucking. It's alternately funny, sexy, scary, and thrilling. The storyline is sort of similar to Parasite Eve or Resident Evil, but it doesn't get too complicated. I won't give away plot details, but I will say that the story carries you to several exotic and cool locations. I became very attached to
the characters and found myself looking forward to the movie sequences so I could see what they would say/do next. Because of the combination of voice-acting and animation (the facial expressions are great and very realistic), the characters are extremely well-defined and you really get a feel for each one's personality. The primary characters are Hana Hsu-Vachel and her partner Rain Qin. Rain gets most of the puzzles, since she's the "brains" of the operation, and Hana does most of the fighting. Along the way you'll also acquire Deke and Glas, two mercenaries who get caught up in the girls' storyline. Each character has their own distinct look, sound and feel (you'll notice how each character moves differently when you control them). The interactions between the characters are well-written, with snappy dialogue and just the right amount of exposition. There are several sequences that made me laugh out loud (Glas is a particularly funny guy). I had one issue with the storyline, however: the ending. After many hours of awesome gameplay, I was expecting the final boss to be really hard and the end movie sequence to be very long and cool. Alas, the boss was easy and I wished the ending sequence had been longer. It was fairly anticlimatic. In fact, this is the only flaw I can find with the game, preventing from getting a full 5 stars in my book (it resides at 4.95 right now). Hopefully, the next incarnation will provide longer gameplay, because I beat this game in less than 8 hours of official gameplay (not counting the many many restarts and so forth). I was bummed it was such a short game because I loved it so much that it was sad when it ended. I wanted more. Adult Content I would be remiss if I failed to mention the R rated content of this game. This game is not for children. Parents should seriously consider previewing their game to see if it's appropriate for their kid. Still, mature gamers will appreciat
e the level of realism and grittiness that is portrayed in this game. The adult content is rarely just for titillation or cheap thrills - it moves the game along, establishes well-defined characters, and adds a level of coolness to the game. The characters in this game use profanity (mostly the s-word, though, never the f-word), but it's mostly appropriate to the situation. Innuendos abound, but that's part of the fun There's also a good dose of sexuality in the game. The first time we meet Hana, she's posing as a prostitute and removing her clothes to seduce a target. In fact, both Hana and Rain have several scenes that involve stripping out of one outfit and into another (with the boom-chaka-boom soundtrack in the background). It's the "as naked as we can make it without it qualifying as actual nudity" trick. And, as you might have heard, Rain and Hana are "partners" - though their relationship is never explicitly defined, it's pretty obvious that they are romantically involved. Still, for the most part, it's a sweet relationship and the game designers don't really make a big deal of it (an exhibitionist scene in an elevator notwithstanding). There's plenty of gore in this game and most of it is very realistic. Blood sprays from enemies and their bodies flop when killed. In certain levels, if you die you are treated to a rather graphic depiction of the event in movie format. There is also one scene where you stumble upon a room full of bodies which actually freaked me out a little. In conclusion So, now you know everything you need to know about Fear Effect 2. It's definitely one of the best games I've ever played on any console. You can't really go wrong with this game - go buy it and enjoy.