IF YOU ASK me, and surprisingly few people do, a F.E.A.R. expansion pack that hasn't been made by Monolith doesn't sound like the brightest of bright ideas. The story was approaching done and dusted, cliffhanger withstanding, and the potential of your unnamed F.E.A.R. operative finding another sequence of unlikely endless empty corridors in a city on fire was unlikely to say the least.
Perhaps it's a good thing then that noone did ask me. For a start, a bit less money would have been made from an excellent license, meaning staff at Timegate Studios, normally responsible for the anaemic Kohan series, could have lost employment. What's more, I wouldn't have found myself sitting four-inches away from my screen and making slo-o 'Shiiiiiiiiiiiittt!' noises and giggling.
Yes, it's been away for a little while - 12 months is a hell of a time to wait for an expansion - but the essential meaty goodness of F.E.A.R. gunplay remains thoroughly undimmed. If anything, it's now twice as kinetic, with a multitude of exploding canisters of the 'slide along floor' variety, and far larger chunks of masonry and stairwell coded to collapse under enemy fire.
Extraction Point is rock-hard even on its easier settings: having cleared out a massive room full of heavily-armed black leather in our early code and been shot to bits, my only reward was one of those gigantic ED209- style robots to charge through a wall in slow-motion, intent on destroying half the masonry around me, and indeed myself.
Then, with a shred of health remaining, yet more goons piled through the doorway. To say nerves were frayed (albeit in a nice way) is somewhat of an understatement.
But what of the plot? Well, don't expect the character interaction and radio messages chirruping in your ear of the last outing - even if they weren't particularly refined themselves. Alma is hellbent on revenge, and is present in both big and little forms, but whether she remains scary is still out for the spectral jury - the scares in the build I've played just don't seem to be quite as refined, or as novel. Yes, a sequence of lights turning themselves off in a long corridor can be a bit eerie - but yet another flash of a naked, scary woman doesn't exactly provide the required willies-quotient.
As for new weapons and enemies - the mini-gun is overwhelmingly good, but whether the inviso-beasties do anything but 'whelm' is again open to the psychically-personified floor. Essentially, you know what to expect: top-rate, thrilling action contained within the same confines of the vanilla offering - distinctly rectangular crypts, cellars, subway tunnels and ubiquitous vents.
With a slightly greater tilt on hand-to-hand combat through general sparsity of ammo and more bad-guys on-screen than before, there's no doubt that Extraction Point will be an all-action blow-out, but whether it'll hold its own with plot and characterisation will be discovered come next month's review...