Fear Effect Review

For PlayStation

By Contributing Writer Jimmy Payne

Rating: Awesome
   Fear Effect starts out a little slower than most games, but it quickly 
develops into an awesome game that every PlayStation owner should buy.  
Most survival horror games are carbon copies of Resident Evil, but Fear 
Effect manages to establish its own unique identity, even without being a 
particularly scary game.
   The best thing about Fear Effect isn't the graphics or even the gameplay, 
it's the incredible story line.  The whole game runs like a movie, with 
surprising plot twists that will probably make you stop and gawk as if you 
just saw WWF goddess Trish Stratus.  The focus on the story doesn't slow 
the game down one bit.  As the game goes on, you will be drawn deeper and 
deeper into the plot.  And trust me, the farther you go, the better it gets.
   Fear Effect comes on four CDs, but it's only slightly longer than most 
survival horror games.  The reason it takes up four discs is because of the 
wide array of cut scenes, many of which are quite long.  In addition to the 
story-related cut scenes, there are cut scenes for just about every way you 
could possibly die in the game.
   Fear Effect's anime-style graphics help set an indescribable mood.  
Final Fantasy 8 has several moments where there is a CG scene taking place, 
but you can still control your character.  Fear Effect seems to be like 
that for the entire game.  The life-like movements of the characters make 
the game world seem alive, as opposed to making you feel like you've been 
pasted onto a static painting.  The only complaint I have with the graphics 
is that they're a little grainy.
   The character models are excellent, with lots of realistic gestures and 
facial expressions.  Also, the voice acting has got to be some of the best 
I've ever heard in a video game.  There wasn't a single time where I 
thought to myself, "Sounds like they messed up that line."
   The interface makes flipping through weapons and items a breeze.  
There's a little black bar at the bottom of the screen at all times that 
lets you flip through items, which makes the game feel much more realistic 
and cinematic.  After all, when's the last time you saw a movie in which 
the main character kept pulling up an item menu?
   The interface also has lots of little icons that make playing and 
controlling the game a painless experience.  A small icon at the top of the 
screen lights up when an enemy is in your crosshairs (so that you know when 
to fire your weapon).  The Fear Meter starts reacting more and more when 
you're approaching danger.  Another convenient icon lights up every time 
you move next to something that you can climb, take, or use in some way.
   As great as it is, Fear Effect does have one big, annoying flaw: You're 
forced to use a trial-and-error approach to get past certain bosses and 
large numbers of enemies.  This will often lead to death several times 
before you figure out the best way to kill the next set of enemies or one 
of the insanely hard bosses.  You don't have to do a lot of back-tracking 
since there are lots of save points, but it's still very annoying to have
to sit through well over 15 seconds of loading time before you're back in 
the game.  It's mildly annoying the first couple of times you die, and it 
gets more annoying as you die more often.
   The puzzles are much harder than they are in most survival horror games, 
to the point that you'll probably need a strategy guide to solve some of 
them.  The bosses are also very tough.  On more than one occasion, I had no 
idea how to beat a boss, and I accidentally found out simply by shooting 
like a madman.  Some bosses are so powerful that it's just a matter of luck 
when you're finally able to kill them.
   Worst of all, there are "sweet spots" in the game where bosses can't hit 
you at all.  This makes many boss battles seem kind of cheap, especially if 
you've spent an hour trying to beat a boss and then by chance you stumble 
onto a sweet spot.  Some of the bosses are so hard that it seems like 
there's no way you can beat them without the aid of a sweet spot.
   This game has more than its fair share of balance issues, but the story 
is just too damn intriguing to miss.  As frustrating as Fear Effect can be, 
it's always worth it to keep playing just to see what happens next in the 
story line.

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