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For Everything A Reason? F.E.A.R. Online

F.E.A.R. Online’s open beta test begins on October 7th, ahead of full launch on the 17th, and signups are now active. Go! Run! Register! It’s free!

Or perhaps not. The original F.E.A.R. takes place almost entirely in a succession of rather ordinary office buildings but that doesn’t matter because the combat is absolutely splendid. Bullets have tremendous impact and slow motion slides across debris-strewn rooms, ending in a chunky boot to the face, are like a John Woo shoot-out with weighty momentum in place of balletic grace. Thanks to a hard-working community, the multiplayer component is still available to play and I’m not sure how F.E.A.R.O. intends to lure people into its own take on the series’ combat and…gulp…lore.

I don’t think I even have the energy to mock the silly storyline that runs through the original F.E.A.R. trilogy and its expansions. The first game was fine – shoot things, see spooky apparitions, repeat. Every time the plot started to flex its atrophied muscles, my interest tumbled like the stock exchange. As the series went on, the plot came to the fore and I found myself caring about mad experiments and Alma’s origin story less and less. The F.E.A.R. Online website threatens to take me through Alma’s story again. Here’s a snippet:

“Welcome to Fairport.

Not too long ago, it was a nice place to live. It had a vibrant downtown area, highly rated schools, a busy shipping harbor, and a bustling commercial area centered on the headquarters of Armacham Technology Corporation, a multi-billion dollar conglomerate that developed technology for military purposes. But like any other city there were rumors of a darker side; stories of children going missing, cries of strange creatures in the night, and the presence of armed mercenaries in the streets. As suspicious as they might have been, these rumors were never substantiated and they were never investigated by the authorities.

Then one day Paxton Fettel showed up at the ATC headquarters with an army of Replica soldiers, and people started to die.”

“Armed mercenaries in the streets” doesn’t sound like the sort of urban legend the authorities should ignore. There was an empty house on the street where I grew up and, of course, all the kids thought it was haunted and I once crept up the path and touched the door handle and then ran away crying, but I didn’t call the police. If there’d been a squad of Blackwater agents riding around the block doing wheelies in a Humvee, I think an adult would have stepped in and asked some questions.

How all the plot tosh will intersect with the game is anyone’s guess at the minute. There will be five game modes, including the recognisable team deathmatch and the unfamiliar SOUL KING, which is illustrated by pair of creepy scarred hands. There’s no information about monetisation but perhaps you’ll be able to buy cosmetic items and skins that allow you to have the creepiest scarred hands known to man.

I find the whole thing a bit odd and I’m not sure where the game will find its audience. Do F.E.A.R. fans want this? I called my sister, who is daft enough to like F.E.A.R. 3, and she didn’t know it existed until I told her, and then she started talking about how the second game was as good as the first so I had to hang up.

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