F.E.A.R. Online Closed Beta preview – stick with the trilogy

After participating over an entire weekend in F.E.A.R. Online’s Closed Beta, I can tell you upfront that the only thing the game managed to do right is make me reinstall the original trilogy. Other than that, there’s really nothing to see here. Its environments are generic and bland, the lack of any genuine scare is disappointing, and overall, there’s really not enough content to sustain it past the first two-three hours. It’s a free-to-play title, and it shows.

My very-first gameplay impressions occurred during the game’s tutorial, which had the following traits: bland environments, uninspired soundtrack, generic voice-acting, and on top of all, really cheap horror scenes resorting to the overused jump-scares. Unfortunately, the rest of the game is exactly the same. Also – disappearing bodies? In 2014? Moreover, the game’s excessive motion blur gives you the impression that you’re always either drugged or drunk. Overall, F.E.A.R. Online looks like a browser-based first-person shooter. More tragic is the fact that there are other browser-based FPS titles that look better that this one. Also, the announcer shouting at the top of his lungs ‘REVENGE KILL’ (among others) is incredibly annoying, and doesn’t fit the game’s supposed horror theme at all.

F.E.A.R Online provides you with six maps spread across its three modes. Unfortunately, most of these feel like a giant set of corridors instead of actual arenas of death. Not to mention the fact that they’re pretty generic (war-torn city streets, a laboratory etc.). Besides the usual weapons like machine-guns, pistols, grenades etc., F.E.A.R. Online also presents players with the opportunity to customise their soldiers via helmets, glasses, and balaclavas, in addition to selecting their gender, a few consumables like defusing kits, and getting attachments like silencers or red-dots for the guns. All the above-mentioned items can be purchased with in-game currency. What’s weird is the fact that – with the exception of guns – players can only buy anything else for either one, seven, or 30 days, after which they are gone.

At the end of each match you are given a random set of materials, and collecting a specific amount – in addition to spending some in-game cash – allows you to craft unique weapons that can’t be purchased otherwise. At least these ones are permanently-placed in your inventory. Finally, every one of your soldiers can be equipped with up to three psionic abilities, which basically are passive enhancements like receiving no damage from falling, keeping your main weapon after getting killed, regenerating your health, and a few others. Unfortunately, these abilities are also limited by time, meaning that you have to re-purchase them after they expire.

Besides the usual players-versus-player modes – Team Deathmatch, Demolition, and Knife Fight – F.E.A.R. Online also features a few four-player co-op missions. Sadly, they are as repetitive and uninspired as the tutorial, one of which asks of you to gun-down countless hordes of creatures and soldiers, defuse some bombs, and then go into another area to do the exact same things. Another issue is the re-spawning system. Every time you die, you get to re-spawn in the exact same location, practically inviting the enemy to spawn-camp. And no, the five-second invulnerability doesn’t really help. I even fell through the environment once, but that wasn’t a big deal.

I really wanted to like F.E.A.R. Online, simply because I’m a big fan of the series. Even so, from the moment I heard about it, I was incredibly sceptical. Turns out my feelings were right. Yes, it’s free-to-play, and yes, for the time being you can purchase everything with in-game currency. However, there are so many annoyances with it that I don’t see anyone spending more than a weekend gunning down people. Maybe it’ll get better with time. Maybe the game’s launch (October 17th) will be filled with more content. Maybe. But, as it stands, F.E.A.R. Online is a bland and uninspired FPS which is simply borrowing the F.E.A.R. title. You know what, Warner Bros.? Just let Monolith Productions reboot the franchise. The studio has done an amazing job with the first two entries.