Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
Wrote this back when it was relevant. I hope enough time has now passed that I can post it without pretensions of currency.
Central to FEAR is this idea of being surrounded by armoured grunts in a classy office, bullet trails streaking in all directions in slow motion, dust and sparks exploding all around, then blowing one of them in half with the shotgun and launching into a flying kick at another while he shouts a slow-mo deepened “Fuck!” They got that exactly right, and it’s one of the all-time top ten essential gaming experiences everyone should have before they die.
But it sometimes feels like they didn’t know what to do around that. Their attempts to deviate from that formula for variety’s sake – excluding the horror sections – are all rather awkward. The extra-tough enemies are dull, the turrets are a chore to destroy, the flying robots are desperately incongruous and almost impossible to defeat stylishly, and the psychic demons that can hurt you and be shot are a catastrophic midjudgement. Instead of being scary and fun to fight, they’re neither – that they’re vulnerable to bullets makes them mundane, and that they zoom mindlessly towards you makes them insultingly poor opponents.
The one exception is the stealth troop type – they’re both genuinely different and great fun. But even that gives rise to a further frustration – they’re horribly under-used. Especially given that they are both scary and fun to fight, and that’s clearly what they wanted from the later levels. Instead, they’re replaced by the aforementioned physical demon things in the last levels, and then and there FEAR drops from one of the best games ever made to merely something with a lot of potential. All other quibbles are barely that – quirks, more like; blemishes in a beautiful skin.
It still feels like a 90% game to me, despite everything, so I shall specify some of the things it does better than anyone else ever before. I hearby give FEAR the following awards:
Mr Dan: I must agree that the shotgun in the game is the greatest shotgun ever. I spent pretty much the entire game using the shotgun as there was immense satisfaction when closing in on an enemy and blowing them away with a giant "BOOOM!"
Zeno Cosini: The (mis)quote is from Deep Space 9, no?
Craig: I have yet to experience FEAR (though given my love for Monolith (we do not speak of Contract JACK) I obviously will soon) so please don't spoil anything for me. But Jim's review in Format speaks of the best explosion in a game ever - near the end. How good is the explosion and is there any way you can tell me how good it is without spoiling anything?
Tom Francis: Hmm, let's see. How about this:
"Best Explosion - and I mean ever."
Tom Francis: Zeno: damn, it could easily be. I actually meant to refer to a sketch on the Adam And Joe Show featuring puppets in space. But Odo does say almost exactly that. I am forced to (come up with and) award you the prize.
Mr Dan: The explosion is so good that it literally made me say "holy shit! WOW!" out loud. Not alot of game have done that to me.