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F.E.A.R.

Don't P.A.N.I.C! Hot new details on the horror-shooter that'll scare your Xbox 360's underpants off

Why isn't there a shady government agency that ever creates nice things? If they're not busy cloning people, creating uncontrollable weapons from alien technology or opening up the gateways to hell, they're just out to make you 'disappear'. Unsurprisingly, the research project gone awry in Vivendi's frightening FPS is more sinister than ever.

"You play as a new member of a group called F.E.A.R. which is a government organisation similar to the X-Files, but it's more military based," reveals Francis Choi, the game's Associate Producer.

"What your unit does is investigate paranormal phenomena throughout the world. So when something spooky happens, F.E.A.R. gets called in. In this case you find out that a stone-cold killer called Paxton Fettel has gained telepathic control over an army of cloned super-soldiers."

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If you thought a maniac with psychic power was bad, how about one that eats human brains, and in doing so steals all your knowledge? It's a blood-soaked, but intelligent plot, and one with more twists and turns than the average shooter. Day 1 is setting out to scare you in ways other than the shock tactics employed by Doom 3 or Prey.

"We're moving away from monsters in closets", Choi claims. "Instead of jumpy set-pieces, we're out to build tension so you'll be afraid of what's lurking around the corner".

The game relies heavily on lighting and sound effects to make your nerves jangle. Many of the frightening scripted events are concealed in the shadows, forcing you to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. Likewise, the dynamic music shifts in pace between frenetic combat and prolonged blood-chilling ambience. It's an approach that Day 1 describes as 'the theatre of the mind' - using your own imagination to play tricks on you.

The scripted events are extraordinarily sinister, but you'll be equally terrified by the game's highly-intelligent enemies. Rather than the usual in-your-face monsters, F.E.A.R pits you against cunning super-soldiers with weapons comparable to your own. They work as a team, leap over obstacles and always take cover before getting ready to shoot. Just when you think you've got them pinned down or you know what they might do next, they'll react with something you wont have predicted to turn the tables.

This is an amazing feature because you can't ever take a combat situation for granted. Even the most basic enemy has the ability to humiliate an over-confident player.
"We run a constant focus group test, to see if what we're doing is scary enough," reveals Choi. "We try to get a report back to find out how the fear factor is flowing throughout the game. We don't design these games at random, it's pretty scientific!"

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"The spooky little girl in the red dress Alma is probably the most sinister thing we've done. I mean who's not afraid of an eight-year-old girl?" he adds.

The Xbox 360 version is not only graphically enhanced with new high dynamic range lighting, but also has more content than the PC version. If you already played the original game and asked yourself, 'what happened here?' a new bonus mission promises to reveal all.

Day 1 has also added a new weapon and an Instant Action mode. This mini-game pits you against an endless onslaught of clone soldiers. The more you kill and the longer you survive results in a better standing on the Xbox Live scoreboards.

Survival often depends on your choice of weapons and how you use them in tactical situations. It's possible to carry two heavy weapons and one pistol at a time. "Our weapons still do things that haven't been seen in games, even since F.E.A.R. came out on PC a year ago," explains Choi. "The biggest of these effects is due to our matter particles - we have an enormous amount of them. When you shoot someone, debris and matter goes flying everywhere!"

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