F.E.A.R. Extraction Point (Video Game – PC)

F.E.A.R. Extraction Point reviewDeveloped by Timegate Studios

Published by Sierra

I liked F.E.A.R. a lot when it debuted on PC last year (read my review here) and the play test I got of Extraction Point at E3 convinced me that this expansion pack may be worth keeping an eye on. Well Extraction Point is out now and it’s time to throw it under the critical microscope to see how it stands up to F.E.A.R.; what works, what doesn’t.

First of all, let’s get one thing clear. Extraction Point is about 5 hours worth of additional single player. It adds nothing to the multiplayer, despite the single player part having a few new weapons. Since it’s going to set you back thirty dollars that’s probably going to be the biggest deciding factor for most people, at least until the game drops in price.

Extraction Point picks up right where F.E.A.R. left off. Without spoiling anything for XBox 360 owners and people looking to pick up the game on PS3 in a couple of weeks, lets just say you ended up in a relatively deserted city. Extraction Point tasks you with one thing: get to the extraction point. Of course.

Where F.E.A.R.‘s story had many a twist and turn and a number of separate missions, Extraction Point is focused. This is both good and bad, as it means that you never spend too long in any one environment, a criticism many people leveled at the first game, but it also means that the game feels monotonous in other ways. There are no real new revelations about creepy little Alma and psychotic psychic Paxton Fettle either, so Extraction Point just tends to feel like this long slog back to safety.

F.E.A.R. Extraction Point (click to see it bigger!)While never staying too long in any one place could have stopped the environments in the game from feeling kind of one note, it just doesn’t happen. In F.E.A.R. you spent a good chunk of your time in Armachem’s main building. By the time you got out of there, you felt like you’d seen ever inch of the place, every floor, every air vent, every office, etc. Extraction Point has a different problem; the environments just aren’t interesting.

While you’ll see more environments in your few hours with Extraction Point than you did in the whole of F.E.A.R., none of them aren’t anything you haven’t seen before. Subway tunnels, hospitals, city streets, construction sites … it feels like its ticking off the list of clichéd environments for a gritty modern game.

This is far from a sticking point though, but it needs to be said.

Where Extraction Point works is in two key areas, one which is really to the credit of the work Monolith did on the original game, the other is to the credit of Timegate themselves.

Primarily the combat is still fun. The AI is still as cool to fight against as ever, and the weapon set is just as satisfying as before. Timegate added a couple of new toys to play with: a powerful chain gun, a laser rifle and sentry mines. I only really had fun with the laser rifle, which had a habit of popping peoples heads off their shoulders in a rather satisfying fashion. The chaingun … well it’s too powerful which reduces F.E.A.R.’s awesome back and forth gun play into you standing there in the open just dropping people left, right and center. Of course there’s an easy solution if you don’t like it: don’t use it.

F.E.A.R. Extraction Point (click to see it bigger!)Generally I stuck to the same reliable weapons I stuck to in the last game. The trusty pairing of shotgun and penetrator hasn’t been made any less effective, or any less fun.

Just having new spaces to fight the enemies in made for a great time, and the AI is still the best I’ve seen in an action game even now a year later (though Gears of War wasn’t out yet…). They still use their environments really well. They still seem to use clever tactics. You’ll still need to use your brain, picking the right weapons for the right situation, using cover well, out maneuvering them and making judicious use of your slow motion ability to get through the levels alive.

In that regard, more of the same is a damn good thing, when the combat in F.E.A.R. never came close to getting boring or repetitive. It holds up just as well here. You won’t be bored of seeing the same enemies by the end of the game, just because the fights you’ll have with them won’t ever really play out the same way twice.

The sound, just like in the last game, plays a huge part in the atmosphere of the action, from the commands your enemies shout to each other to the floor shaking gunshots, Extraction Point hasn’t dropped the ball. All the same voice actors are back from the last game too (well, where their character survived) so it very much feels like the same world.

You’d be hard pressed to tell a screenshots from F.E.A.R. and Extraction Point apart, because the game looks just as good, and doesn’t add much that would look out of place in its precursor.

F.E.A.R. Extraction Point (click to see it bigger!)Where Timegate really deserve praise though, is in their handling of the other important part of the game: the frights.

F.E.A.R. was a scary game; a game that took a different path to most scary games. It went for much more psychological scares than in your face jump scares and they pulled it off masterfully. In fact, for the most part, the action and frights were totally separate, and the spooky things couldn’t physically hurt you. Now, without spoiling too much, that didn’t stay the case for the whole of F.E.A.R. but Extraction Point leaves you guessing.

There’s some great scares in Extraction Point and it’s the one part of the game Timegate really came through on. It’s not just their handling of the paranormal encounters you faced in the last game, but also the addition of a new enemy that had my holding my breath at times while fighting.

When a game has me afraid to step forwards into the darkness, it’s doing something very right. On one occasion my wife came to check up on me because I’d been freaking out and swearing my head off!

If $30 sounds like a fair price to you for a few hours of great combat and some fine scares, then Extraction Point comes recommended. It may not add anything to the storyline, and I very much doubt it’ll be required play before the inevitable full blown sequel, but Extraction Point is worthy while it lasts and only really loses points for cookie cutter level design, overly simple storyline and a high price tag.

3 1/2 out of 5

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