F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon is a survival horror first-person shooter developed by Monolith Productions and published by Vivendi. It was released on October 17, 2005, for Windows, and ported by Day 1 Studios to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Timegate Studios has released two expansion packs, F.E.A.R. Extraction Point in October 2006, and F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate in November 2007. A direct sequel titled F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, was released in February 2009, and a second sequel, F.3.A.R., was released in June 2011, though it was developed by Day 1 Studios (now known as Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore), not by Monolith Productions.
The game’s story revolves around a supernatural phenomenon, which F.E.A.R.—a fictional special forces team—is called to contain. The player assumes the role of F.E.A.R.’s Point Man, who possesses superhuman reflexes, and must uncover the secrets of a paranormal menace in the form of a little girl.
F.E.A.R. was well received by critics, scoring 89% on Game Rankings, and The New York Times calling it “as thrilling and involving as Half-Life.” A “Director’s Edition” DVD version of the game was also released. The DVD included a “Making of” documentary, a director’s commentary, a short live-action prequel and the exclusive first episode of the promotional P.A.N.I.C.S. machinima. A related Dark Horse comic book was also packaged with the DVD. Along with the Director’s Edition, F.E.A.R. Gold Edition was released. Gold Edition included the Director’s Edition and Extraction Point. F.E.A.R. Platinum Edition features the original game and two expansion packs.
A core element of F.E.A.R. is its horror theme, which is heavily inspired by Japanese horror. The design team attempted to keep “[the] psychology of the encounter” in the player’s mind at all times, in order to “get under [the player’s] skin”, as opposed to the “in your face ‘monsters jumping out of closets’ approach”. Lead designer Craig Hubbard stated in an interview that “horror is extremely fragile … you can kill it by spelling things out too clearly and you can undermine it with too much ambiguity”. He remarked that he attempted to strike a balance with the narrative elements of F.E.A.R., to give players “enough clues so that [they] can form [their] own theories about what’s going on, but ideally [they will] be left with some uncertainty”. Lead level designer John Mulkey stated, “Creating expectation and then messing with that expectation is extremely important, predictability ruins a scary mood”.
The player is subjected to a variety of visions created by Alma
The main source of the game’s horror is Alma, a ghostly little girl. Craig Hubbard remarked that “a guy in a mask chasing co-eds with a meat cleaver can be scary, but on some level you’re thinking to yourself you could probably kick his ass if you got the drop on him…but when a spooky little girl takes out an entire Delta Force squad, how are you supposed to deal with that?” While Alma has been compared to the character Samara from The Ring, Craig Hubbard stated that she “… was born out of a tradition of eerie, faceless female ghosts …” and not “… as an answer to any specific movie character.” Hubbard acknowledged that Alma “… admittedly bears some visual resemblance to the ghosts in Dark Water or Séance,” but “… creepy little girls have been freaking [him] out since The Shining.” Developers Dave Matthews and Nathan Hendrickson say the name ‘Alma’ comes from the character Alma Mobley in Peter Straub’s novel Ghost Story.
F.E.A.R.’s audio was designed in the style of Japanese horror films, with the sound engineers using inexpensive equipment to create sound effects, using methods including dragging metal across different surfaces and recording pump sounds. Monolith Productions commented, “The sound designers had to be concerned with avoiding predictability,” since “[l]isteners are smart … they will recognize your formula quickly and then you won’t be able to scare them anymore.” Silence is present in order to “… allow players to fill in the space, which lets their imagination create their own personal horror”.
Monolith Productions composed F.E.A.R.’s music in reaction to scenes, instead of “… creating a formula that would consistently produce music throughout the game”. The design team called F.E.A.R.’s music structure “… more cerebral and tailored to each individual event”, and continued that “… sometimes the music is used to ratchet up the tension to toy with players … [it] will build to a terrifying crescendo before cutting off without a corresponding event, only to later have the silence shattered by Alma, when players least expect it.”
F.E.A.R.’s horror theme was praised by critics. Game Informer claimed that “… the frequent spooky head trips that Monolith has so skillfully woven together make an experience that demands to be played.” IGN opined that “… the environment has been so well-crafted to keep you edgy and watchful … [that] playing the game for a few hours straight can get a little draining.” GameSpot reacted similarly, calling F.E.A.R.’s horror “… exceedingly effective,” and agreeing that it “… can leave you a bit emotionally exhausted after a while.”