Overview - Fear Effect Review
+ A beautiful Blade Runner inspired world
+ More combat (and ammo) than most survival horror games of the time
- Character "tank" controls make it frustrating to aim & cause countless deaths
- Music is nothing more than ominous tones
Fear Effect INFORMATION
Release Date: February 18th, 2000
Developer/Publisher: Eidos Interactive/Kronos Digital Entertainment
Fear Effect literally looked different from all the games on the market at the time of its release. It has a cel-shaded look among a Blade Runner-like dystopian setting with a mature story and content. Unfortunately, some aspects stand out as poor, especially by today's standards. These factors prevent Fear Effect from standing the test of time.
Story - Fear Effect Review
The story of Fear Effect starts with three mercenaries and their attempted kidnapping of a Triad Boss's daughter, a Triad Boss that's gone missing. The mercenaries are the ultimate anti-heroes with one a particularly more morale conscious than the others. Hana, Glas and Deke, the three mercs find themselves going down the rabbit hole in a story that is set in a science-fiction universe begins to add supernatural elements. However, the story and the setting are for the most part separate. Despite the Blade Runner-like aesthetic, there is very little similar in the way of theme.
The first act is grounded in reality with futuristic weapons, vehicles and some gadgets, and really is more positioned as a heist or crime caper before the tone changes into something more akin to survival horror. With the way the game is designed, the survival horror theme fits, but it would've been nice to truly see a different, original concept. That said, the supernatural story elements are strong and is less of the "we created a monster" of Resident Evil or Dino Crisis and more of a tale of the spiritual and supernatural influence on the human psyche. It just isnt science-fiction in this case.
Fear Effect does feature multiple endings (you'll have to play on the Hard difficulty for the third) and there are actually decisions to be made (all at the end of the game), fairly important ones, to see a particular ending. This was pretty rare at the time, especially for consoles.
Technical - Fear Effect Review
The sound design of Fear Effect, especially the background noise, helps to create the atmosphere of a living, bustling city even though the character is rarely in a high NPC are. In the opening scene, which takes place on a rooftop, the sounds of pipes and fans dominate, with the buzzing od neon signs added in for good measure. There is even a slight hint of traffic going through the wind to really invoke a living breathing world.
Unlike other aspects of the game, Fear Effect's graphics are still beautiful. Cel-shaded characters were used on pre-rendered backgrounds, but unlike many pre-rendered backgrounds, Fear Effect uses full motion video on loops which makes for very organic and active scenes. It was a technique rarely used in other games, and definitely not on the scale or Fear Effect.
The biggest hindrance is the depth perception with the prerendered backgrounds. Because it's not a true 3D environment, it doesn't always feel like characters are to scale or angles are not quite aligned when trying to hit a lever or pick up an item. Despite this, Fear Effect is truly a unique looking game and one of the few original PlayStation games that stands the test of time.
Music - Fear Effect Review
Fear Effect's music is stereotypical cyber - infused techno in parts and ominous tones in others. The tones are atmospheric enough, but the music can only be described as poor. Luckily, the music is mostly heard during menus and cutscenes as the atmosphere takes precedence, and smartly so.
Gameplay - Fear Effect Review
The basic gameplay of Fear Effect is traversing each section with a puzzle to solve or shooting enemies, standard stuff. Fear Effect controls similarly to survival horror games such as Resident Evil and Dino Crisis did at the time, affectionately called "tank controls." While the left and right arrows on the D-pad turn your character in a 360 degree circle, either left or right, it's actually the up button that moves the character forward. These controls aren't at all relative to the environment, only up will move you forward. It's incredibly cumbersome, especially since this is a control scheme that died in that generation. While in the original Playstation Resident Evil series this created tension, it's more frustrating in Fear Effect due to the sheer amount of shooting that's involved. Add to this the limited screen space because of the letterboxed screen and the prerendered, fixed camera environments, what should be the best part of the game can be aggravating. What does help the aiming is reticle icon at the top of the screen which will turn green when an enemy has been targeted. With the harsh angles and sometimes off screen targets, this indicator becomes crucial. A couple features help to alleviate these issues with a good dodge and roll evasion, the ability to duck and finally, dual-wielding of weapons which allows multiple enemy targeting.
The reason the game is called Fear Effect is due to a "life meter" which measures the character's fear based on damage they've taken. It can be replinished by successfully killing enemies with a stealth kill or solving puzzles.
Fear Effect Review Roundup
The graphics of Fear Effect stand out amongst its peers, and the story, while unoriginal and not necessarily an expected fit with the setting, is solid. Certain frustrations, unfortunately, weaken the game.
While the death scenes can be entertaining the first several times, it becomes frustrating after a lack of control is the cause, and that ends up being the game's biggest fault.