It is in this eldritch superstructure where the plot of the game picks up. If you don’t mind the inevitable spoilers, then I shall proceed to summarize it in brief. After arriving at the complex to find Fettel, you find an Armacham employee: Norton Mapes, a morbidly obese man who sounds like Andy Richter. He leaves several empty bags of cheese snacks wherever he goes, and seems to exist as a perpetual setup for fat jokes. He asks you to deactivate the security system. You comply, and he runs away. Later, you rescue a hostage: another employee of Armacham who is strapped to a chair along with several bombs. Another agent comes in to defuse the bombs, and escort the hostage to the roof for evacuation. When the hostage climbs aboard the helicopter, he is shot and killed by Armacham’s own security force. You later encounter Mapes again, who asks you to get an elevator running. Once more, you comply, and he runs away. He then proceeds to activate some automated turrets to kill you. After escaping from his trap, you learn that Fettel is going after another employee, Alice Wade, in the executive building. After rescuing her from the clones, she tells you that she needs to find her father, Harlan Wade, who is located in a secret facility. You both go to the roof to evacuate, but the rescue helicopter explodes before it can land. Alice runs down to the parking garage to escape in her car. You follow, but she gets away. You proceed to the top of the parking garage, where another helicopter is waiting to pick you up. This one doesn’t explode until you’re near the secret facility.
Over the course of the game, you will occasionally find an Alienware laptop. Each laptop will dispense tiny grains of information, gradually informing you about the project that was being developed at the secret facility. The laptops tell of the Perseus program, where Paxton Fettel was trained to command the clone army. Fettel was a prototype, and was created through another project, Origin. Origin, which was created by Harlan Wade, produced two prototypes, with Fettel being the second. The first prototype “didn’t work out”. Several years into the project, Fettel went nuts and caused an incident, resulting in the facility being shut down. It was recently reopened, with the hopes of restarting the project, but an unnamed danger was present. A task force was created to contain the problem. Laptops near the end of the game reveal more of how Origin originated, and this is where it starts getting dark. Be prepared to frown. The prototypes were born from a telepathic woman, who they had placed into an induced coma in order to carry and gestate genetically-engineered children. As it turns out, this woman happens to be Alma. The last laptop delivers punctuation for damnation: Alma was only eight years old when the project started. Ewwww.
Armacham had made themselves a great big no-no. When you find the secret facility, you encounter Mapes, trying to destroy the evidence. Eventually, you reach the door to the vault, where Alma is secured. In front of this door, you see Harlan Wade shoot Mapes, enter the vault, and close the door behind him. Mapes, who is now cooperative after being left for dead, tells you that you need to divert power to the vault door in order to open it, because the facility is powered by bullshit. After going to the generator, and physically rearranging the bullshit rods inside, the vault door opens again. Fettel, who had intercepted and captured Alice, manages to go inside before you return to the door. Upon entering the vault, you catch up to Fettel while he is nomming on Alice.
Fettel reminds you that you’re a faceless, nameless, silent protagonist with no back story. He immediately fills in this blank by revealing that he is your brother. We can infer from this that Alma is your mother, and you are the other prototype. This just raises more questions. Now, I’m fine with the lack of telepathic powers, because having telepathy is just hell. Nonetheless, this is supposed to explain your quick reflexes, which is your one defining characteristic. Is having quick reflexes really a genetically inheritable trait from a telepathic parent? Does Fettel have quick reflexes too? Why don’t I also have a craving for human flesh? Can I turn into ashen flakes? I wanna turn into ashen flakes. Was the thing with Fettel turning into ashen flakes all in my head? Was being my brother the reason why Fettel didn’t want to kill me personally, but had no problems ordering his men to shoot me on sight? There’s no time to answer any of these questions, as this thing we can now acknowledge as sibling rivalry immediately ends when you shoot Fettel square in the face. He doesn’t offer any resistance or anything, but rather just kneels there and imagines a big bulls-eye on his forehead. This makes all the clone soldiers go dormant, slumbering as they stand still. You can have a brief moment of fun thwacking them with your gun, and watching them fall over.
Not too much further inside, you find Harlan Wade, who is releasing Alma out of remorse. He says that Alma died six days after the project was shut down. Despite this, Alma emerges from her containment, looking very much alive, and very pissed. Wade is immediately transformed into a moist skeleton. This Alma, by the way, is not a little girl wearing a red dress, but a scraggly adult wearing nothing. As Alma starts roaming around aimlessly (probably in search of a bath), you head towards the reactor with a long-term goal of blowing everything up. Along the way, you are attacked by phantoms, because why the hell not? You sabotage the reactor, and escape the loud, shaking facility. At some point during the escape, you have one last hallucination, where Alma actually attacks you. Up to this point, Alma had not been an actual threat. As a result, I died at this part repeatedly on my first run through the game. It didn’t occur to me until after several attempts that you are supposed to shoot at Alma. This is ironic, since shooting has been my primary means of interaction with other people in the game. Once you’ve sufficiently shot at Alma, you are shown the event of your birth, through the point of view of your newborn self. Harlan Wade says you’ll be “a god among men”, and carries you away from Alma. We then learn that her full name is Alma Wade. Double ewwww.
Once the hallucination ends, you find your way back to the street. Then, the street explodes. The shockwave hits you like a tsunami, and you pass out. When you come to, you see your teammates arriving by helicopter to pick you up. You then get to have another helicopter ride, and enjoy the view of a newly-sprouted mushroom cloud. This enjoyment is cut short as Alma begins to climb aboard the helicopter, right before the scene smashes to black. We can safely assume that what happens next is simply the continuation of a bad day for helicopters.
And with that, we come to the end of F.E.A.R.. It was excellent as an action game, but deficient in most other departments. The “horror” segments were too fragmented and nonthreatening, and whatever creepy atmosphere it tried to establish was broken by the action segments. While the story was OK, there wasn’t much of it, and it was spread out too thinly. There wasn’t much variety in terms of environments and enemies, though the enemies still made for formidable and interesting opponents. Overall, the action carried the game beyond its shortcomings and repetition, and I was left wanting more of it. Fortunately for me, there were two expansions to fulfill that wanting, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate. These expansions were developed by a different company, TimeGate Studios, and are not considered canon in the series. Still, I feel that they are worth discussing.
Extraction Point picks up where F.E.A.R. left off. The rescue helicopter that you were on had just crashed, as expected. Having survived two helicopter crashes and a massive explosion within the same day, you decide to stay the course. You spend the entire game heading towards the eponymous extraction point, where rescue awaits for you and the other F.E.A.R. members who were in the crash. That’s pretty much the entire plot, right there. It’s a short expansion, with a few minor enhancements to the gameplay of the original. There’s a few new weapons and enemies, and you can also open doors by hitting them. Aside from that, there’s not much else.
The clone soldiers are still sleep-standing at the start of the game, but this doesn’t last long. Inexplicably, Paxton Fettel returns, completely aware of how inexplicable his return is. Fettel spends the entire expansion appearing, talking, and vanishing; he doesn’t eat anyone or interact with anything this time around. Because of this, it’s reasonable to believe that he is a ghost. You’ve struck him down, and now, he is more powerful than you can possibly imagine, if you couldn’t imagine his actions from the original game. He holds a grudge against you for shooting him in the face, so he revives all of his clone goons and sics them on you. They aren’t your only threat this time around; Alma is still out there somewhere, along with her supernatural rage-phantoms and creatures. The clones and the creatures don’t seem to understand that they’re basically on the same side, so every now and then, you’ll notice a group of clones get absolutely slaughtered.
The two operatives who were with you in the helicopter crash are also trying to get to the extraction point, even though they were already injured from the first crash. Unfortunately, their voice actors didn’t survive the crash, so you have to bear with their backup actors. You get separated from them, but you regroup with them on occasion. Oh, and they both die in ridiculously horrifying fashions. Hey, at least it isn’t canon! In fact, the level of violence has increased substantially over the original game. This increased violence, along with the new invisible creatures (which can rush at you from out of nowhere), help to mitigate the horror problems that the original game had. Combat sequences take place in darker areas, lending further assistance to the spooky events. The scares seem less cheap this time around, and are more in context with the situation at hand. With Alma released, there’s nothing to build up to, and no bush to beat around. There’s no reason to be subtle with the horror anymore.
Like the original game, Extraction Point suffers from a lack of environmental variety. The levels consist of several buildings, the streets in between, the subway, a parking garage, and a hospital. In other words, grey concrete, all the way down. Fortunately, the expansion is short enough to prevent the madness caused by overexposure. I also appreciate the effort made by the level designers to make the hospital’s floor layout seem plausible, thanks in part to the signs placed in front of every room. Of course, the expansion does have moments that dare you to believe them. Fettel’s return is one of those, but there’s one returning character whose appearance simply defies all logic: Mapes. Yes, the morbidly obese engineer who got shot in the Origin facility somehow managed to get out of there before it exploded, and locked himself in a room at the far end of the subway. How?! He didn’t even move an inch while you were messing with that bullshit generator! Even if he didn’t have a debilitating gunshot wound, it is implausible that he would even escape to a safe distance before the reactor popped. We’ve seen how fast he can waddle in the original game, and it’s not that impressive.
Alma has a strange love/hate relationship with the player in this expansion. She is still the shambling horror that was released from the vault, with her manifested rage painting the town red, one room at a time. However, she also appears in her little-girl-in-a-red-dress form, and actually helps the player on occasion. These two forms take turns to cross your path, composing something that seems like a background B-plot that hasn’t been fleshed out. There’s a nightmare hallucination near the end of the expansion, which ends with both of Alma’s forms walking towards each other, into a bright light. The nightmare ends once this happens, but there’s nothing building up to that point, and nothing to signify closure afterwards. Because of this, the scene doesn’t seem to have any real meaning or significance, and ends up just being confusing.
Once you get to the rooftop where the extraction point is, Fettel sends in his clone squad one last time. Much like the nightmare that preceded it, there doesn’t seem to be anything climactic about the battle. It’s much shorter than what would normally be expected. Soon after the battle starts, a helicopter lands, and you are able to get into the hallway leading to the helipad. As you reach the exit, the helicopter, who saw what happened to all of the other helicopters, suddenly explodes, because it wanted to be popular. You survive the helicopter explosion, because you’re getting good at it. The game ends with you looking over a city in flames, while Fettel recites a monologue about an impending war for the third time.
Extraction Point is pretty short, and simply offers more of the same in terms of action. While there was some effort to improve the horror, there was virtually nothing in terms of story. What TimeGate Studios managed to pour a lot of effort into, however, was to sell you a Dell XPS. In the later maps, you find a few desks that each have a Dell XPS set up on them, with their monitors displaying a screen-saving advertisement. It’s silly enough that they are trying to sell you a gaming computer, while you’re already using a computer powerful enough to play the game. However, this product placement goes beyond silly when you see just how many of these computers a single office building had set up. They’re everywhere! What kind of business buys their employees computers that are marketed towards gamers? You might be able to answer that question with an arguably valid point, but even so, you may be shocked to learn that you can also find these computers in use at a hospital reception desk. I’m sorry, hospital reception desk, but you just wrecked my suspension of disbelief.