F.E.A.R has the best goddamn shotgun in the history of gaming. This is a hotly competed category, including strong entrants from the likes of Doom and Half-Life - and I'm sure you'll all point to a dozen more once my words run dry. But for my money, F.E.A.R's shotgun is gaming's finest interpretation of clicking a button to make a man die.
It's perhaps not the kindest thing to say about the PS3's launch line-up, but it's undeniable - for anyone who plays PC games or has already bought into the next generation courtesy of the Xbox 360, it's looking like Sony's entry to the market is more of a chance to revisit old friends than anything else. A limited selection of exclusives in the range are bolstered by a third-party line-up that looks suspiciously like an edited showreel of the 360's greatest hits - not, perhaps, the image that the pricely wunderkind ought to be projecting at this point in time.
It's been almost a year now since the release of F.E.A.R., Vivendi's spooky, gory and really rather excellent PC FPS. It arrived complete with all the right ingredients - good solid gameplay, spiced up a bit by the addition of a slo-mo element; a wide range of big fat weapons (the nail gun, which allowed you to pin people to walls, being a particular favourite); and plenty of atmosphere, generated by everything from flickering light bulbs and mysterious off-screen noises to terrifying demon children and vast rivers of blood.
There may be shades of Championship Manager about the split between Monolith and Vivendi over F.E.A.R., but the lack of rancour means Vivendi's having no trouble colouring in the F.E.A.R. shaped holes on its 2006 release schedule.
FEAR's been on our radar for some time now. But then so have lots of things. The difference is, the dot that blinks for FEAR is more like that one off the motion sensor in Aliens. We know that when it eventually rounds the corner, we won't just click mouse1 while backing away perfunctorily; we'll be like suicide-cultists running around a lion's den wearing mangled kittens, screaming, "Kill us! Kill us immediately!" Then we'll get our tools out.
I've just died. Again. I knew about the first guy on the balcony, so I shot him through a window before descending to the ground floor and going outside. But I underestimated his partner.
If you're into first-person shooters and you have a PC, then there's no doubt that Monolith Productions' F.E.A.R will be one of the games right at the top of your Most Wanted lists for 2005. That's certainly what we thought when we last played it - with poor Tom getting excited enough to write about the opening section and the multiplayer element after a recent trip to Vivendi's Parisian HQ. We got our first opportunity to play other areas of the single-player element recently and will be looking to bring you our first impressions of the game later this week. But first, we grabbed a one-to-one with Kevin Stephens, Monolith's director of technology.
1 INT. VIVENDI-UNIVERSAL PARIS HEADQUARTERS - AFTERNOON