Kronos Studios hasn't exactly set the gaming industry on fire. With titles such as Dark Rift, Cardinal Syn and Criticom under it's belt, Kronos has always been considered a stable, consistent developer at best. These titles were hardly considered groundbreaking. Well, with Fear Effect, you can throw all of that right out the window. Seemingly out of nowhere, Kronos and its publisher, Eidos, have created an epic action-adventure title that no PlayStation owner should be without.
The game's opening scene really sets the tone. It depicts a Chinese funeral which a girl named Wee Ming narrates her own death. A shadowed assassin appears behind her and takes her life. The whole sequence comes across as very elegant and leaves you wanting more. This is where the story unfolds....
Twenty-four hours later, that is. You see, the opening is just a precursor to the plot which actually takes place exactly one day before Wee Ming's death. The story revolves around the kidnapping of Wee Ming, daughter of a very powerful Chinese businessman named Lam. A call is placed to Hana, a part French, part Chinese, but all sexy covert operative mercenary. Teamed with her associates Glas, an ex-U.S. military veteran and Deke, a tough as nails Australian gun for hire they together must find and bring back Wee Ming. However, what is supposed to be a routine rescue mission turns into a fight for their lives in a fantasy Hong Kong world.
Fear Effect puts you in control of Hana, Glas and Deke at predetermined intervals throughout the game. For instance, if playing as Hana and something bad happens and you need Glas' assistance, the game will switch seamlessly to Glas and you will begin controlling him. The whole process is very quick and does not affect the pace of the action.
While playing as any of the three mercenaries you are equipped with plenty of firearms including pistols, uzis, shotguns and assault rifles. Have you ever picked up two guns in a game and wondered to yourself why you can't wield them both as opposed to just collecting extra ammo? Well take solace, Kronos is here to fill your sadistic needs. Not only does blasting two Uzis at once look very cool, but it also plays an integral part in gameplay. The game uses a basic aiming system in which, when your character has a clear shot, a green crosshair will appear in the upper portion of the screen.
In addition to just blasting away with guns your character also has a small assortment of basic moves. An evade roll, a 180 degree spin and a sneaking ability are included but are unfortunately lost in the advantage that comes with going into a situation guns blazing. The basic aiming system is great as it allows the game to focus on it's crown achievement: the plot.
Oh, and what a plot. Fear Effect's story just doesn't waste time playing around. Kronos does an amazing job of placing you into situation where graphic gunshots to the head, dismemberment, impalings and even partial nudity are commonplace. It is no wonder the game was tagged with the MA rating because at times the game literally shocks you into having fun. It's a guilty pleasure, really. Kronos has decided to mix Chinese tradition into a modern setting and the end result is an engrossing story that revolves around beautiful environments. Players will find themselves fighting through Lam's corporate building, a river village, a large restaurant and even hell.
No game has made me care so much about the characters and the plot since Snatcher for the Sega CD.
Why four CDs you may ask? Using motion FX technology, full motion video (FMV) is integrated throughout the entire background in the game. This makes everything around you seem alive and often does much to tell the story. In fact, even the boss encounters are almost always done with just FMV. Bosses in the game tend to be very challenging at first. I don't think I ever beat one the first try. But after some trial and error and learning a few patterns the rest is cake. Honestly, trial and error situations appear quite frequently during the course of the game but it is only a minor gripe.
You will die and die often in Fear Effect, yet you won't even notice because the drive to find out what happens next in the story is so strong. Although the game is very cinematic, there are old school type puzzles and challenges camouflaged within. Following set paths to avoid cracks in the ground and waiting for flames to die down before proceeding are just a couple of examples.
Kronos hasn't just pasted puzzles into the game, either. The puzzles in Fear Effect wreak of intelligence. After figuring out a puzzle you will actually come away feeling rewarded and think to yourself, "I can't believe I just figured that out."
Fear Effect is one of those games you want to buy just because the developers did such an admirable job. The game is smart, well thought out, extremely involving and also very fun. The environments combined with the storyline are unparalleled. Think John Woo action in a Blade Runner setting with the Chinese culture of a Jet Li flick. Kudos should go out to Kronos. They have earned my respect and I can't wait to see what they do next. ~ Devon Hargraves, All Game Guide
Simple, yet cool anime looking character graphics. Motion FX adds incredible realism. ~ Devon Hargraves, All Game Guide
Not much music to the game, but ambient sounds do the job nicely to set the mood. ~ Devon Hargraves, All Game Guide
One of the best storylines found in a game, plenty of action and even partial nudity. Fear Effect doesn't skip a beat. ~ Devon Hargraves, All Game Guide
New ending after finishing hard difficulty, but not much after that. ~ Devon Hargraves, All Game Guide
Explains controls well, and sheds a bit more light on the story, but I expected more artwork and pictures. ~ Devon Hargraves, All Game Guide