A game documentary that I penned in collaboration with GVMERS, an outlet that specializes in video essays and retrospectives looking at the history of the medium including landmark titles and cancelled projects.
The brilliance of F.E.A.R. and the lessons we can learn from it.
Ever since the first-person shooter was popularized in the 1990s, several titles in the genre have attempted to do one of two things, or both, to capitalize on the kinetic feeling of immersion that comes with experiencing the game world and its going-ons through the eyes of the avatar: a) by empowering the gamer with a wide array of weapons and letting them loose on a virtual space chock-full of hostile NPCs all too happy to riddle their quarry with lead and b), by dropping the player in an environment that not only puts their navigational skills to the test, but also engrosses them with a tangible atmosphere that can prove inviting or unsettling.
It’s a two-part formula that has stood the test of time for over 25 years, and it’s one that developers have been more than eager to iterate upon in sundry ways. With the advancement of technology, games have built upon the shooter template with more dramatic storylines, customization options, gameplay modes, and an emphasis on human competition. These are design choices that have embellished the template and attracted wider audiences, a development that was especially conspicuous during the last console generation with works such as Modern Warfare setting trends that defined the modern military FPS. Suffice it to say that the arcade-y and skill-based roots of the genre were gradually being diluted.
For players that solely seek in shooters the raw satisfaction of blasting their virtual foes to pieces with boom-sticks while simultaneously traversing dynamic locales that captivate the senses and keep them on their toes, this sort of philosophy generally came across as a missed opportunity to distill and perfect the two halves of the formula. A few titles did, however, put an extra emphasis on the core FPS blueprint, and fewer still actually came close to perfecting it. And there is one first-person shooter in particular that stands out. One that took advantage of modern technology and did everything it possibly could to make the participant feel both like a true hunter … and the hunted one.
That FPS was none other than Monolith Productions’ F.E.A.R..
Narrated by Steve Petitt
Written by Michel Sabbagh
Directed by Ailert Riemersma