Perseus Mandate is the second and final expansion for F.E.A.R.. Arguably, it is the better of the two expansions. The game takes place during the events of both F.E.A.R. and Extraction Point, which is actually pretty nifty. It begins just after the part where the hostage climbed aboard the helicopter and was shot by Armacham security. F.E.A.R. responds to this by sending out a second team of operatives to investigate Armacham’s data center. You play as a member of this team, referred to only as “Sergeant”. Yes, the members of this team hold rank now for some reason. There’s also a Captain and a Lieutenant, and you go on a nutty adventure together.
Of course, this Sergeant is a different person than the nameless player character from the previous installments. The Sergeant also has the ability to slow down time, but unlike the last guy, he has no distinguishing characteristics. Although there are certain abstract events that could be interpreted as subtle clues, no overt information is ever given to describe the Sergeant. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind this, but the original game gave a verbal acknowledgement of these superpowers, as well as a character origin that might possibly explain them. The Sergeant lacks such an explanation, and this makes the ability seem less special. None of the other characters would even remark about it, aside from the enemies’ reactions to your speed (which aren’t new to this expansion). Where did this ability come from? Is it commonplace? There’s some billboards advertising the green reflex booster syringes, which reinforces the theory that you’re playing as a booster junkie.
The second F.E.A.R. team parachutes in, lands some fifty billion miles away from the data center, and fights their way to their destination. Meanwhile, Fettel’s clones and Armacham’s security forces are openly fighting in the streets. When the team makes it into the data center, they find that a third party of unknown mercenaries has found interest with the data center, too. Gunfire ensues, and things explode. There’s also a ton of Dell XPS computers. These things are friggin’ ubiquitous. In one office section, there’s an XPS at every desk, as if their owners’ jobs were to have a LAN party every day.
Most of the mercenaries fight you in the same manner as the clones would, but some of them fight like ninjas. Sometimes they jump off of walls and fling knives or grenades at you. They exhibit bursts of heightened speed and reflexes, lending further credibility to the theory that everyone is just jamming green needles into their veins. Curiously, these mercenaries were sent out by the same senator that sent F.E.A.R. after Fettel. Why didn’t he send the mercenaries out to kill Fettel? They seem more suited to the task. If he did that, the snoopy F.E.A.R. team wouldn’t get suspicious of Armacham, and the contents of the senator’s pocket wouldn’t be fighting each other as a result.
There are quite a few improvements and additions to this expansion. Some new toys have been added, including a grenade launcher and a lightning gun. The addition of the mercenaries results in a decent variety of enemies. While the game still takes place in urban or laboratory environments, there is plenty of architectural variation between levels. The other team members will fight alongside you at some points, and seem to be better at communicating than the characters from the original game.
Some of the events or dialogue in the expansion can be odd or over-the-top. At the data center, you ascend a silo containing a computer core, which is at least 10 stories tall. When you reach the top, you access a laptop to obtain three encrypted addresses, which could probably fit on a 5¼ floppy disk and have plenty of leg room. Afterwards, you fly to another Armacham installation (how many of these things do they have?!) because clones and mercenaries are attacking it. When the poor helicopter tries to land, an explosion fills it with flame, and knocks a couple of soldiers out of it. The chopper lands somewhere else, and you fight security goons and clones all the way into the lab. A chicken robot follows you into the lab, and you escape from it through a hole in the floor. The floor eventually collapses under the chicken robot, and then it fights you, probably because it’s trapped and afraid. You continue downward into the more secure parts of the lab, where the mercenaries have already slipped in. Morrison, an agent working with the mercenaries, steals samples of Fettel’s DNA from the lab. He leads you on a chase back up to the surface. Along the way, after you pass a crashed helicopter, you notice that the clones have gone dormant, which means someone had shot Fettel in the face. The other team members manage to catch Morrison before he gets away. Suddenly, several miles away, a street explodes; the Origin facility has just been destroyed. Morrison escapes during this distraction. As a wave of destruction and debris draws near, you and the F.E.A.R. lieutenant run for shelter underground.
Up until this point, Perseus Mandate had been very light on the horror elements. The scares had a lot of breathing room between them, and Alma only appeared once. Combat had taken the stage for most of the game. When you run underground, the horror takes over. Nobody shoots at you for a solid 1½ levels. Instead, you have a series of dark tunnels, spooky things, invisible monsters, and pure atmosphere. You spend a short time navigating the tunnels with the lieutenant, although you get separated a couple of times. Afterwards, he dies horribly in order to introduce a fearsome new floor monster. Earlier in the game, there was a sort of confusing flash-forward that showed this event happening. It takes place in a laboratory, and not a dark tunnel, which makes it even more confusing when you see it happening for real.
The floor monsters make things interesting. They lurk in dark patches on the floor, which grow larger when you move close to them. If you walk over one of these, you’ll get sucked down into the floor, and the monster will start clawing at you. It’s possible to kill them before you fall into their traps, but you would need to keep an eye out for the black splotches on the floor, or the subtle distortion above them. If you’re rushing through the room, you might not notice them before it’s too late. They require you to pay attention to the game, and that’s what makes them good enemies.
A few minutes after emerging from the underground tunnels, the clones reactivate. There’s something about the timing of this event that struck me as odd and unsettling. In the beginning of Extraction Point, you see an airplane crashing as you walk towards a church. When you enter the church, the clones reactivate. You later see the crashed plane at the entrance to the subway. In Perseus Mandate, the ground shakes violently while you are still underground, which is likely caused by the plane crashing. You exit the tunnels through a subway terminal, where you fight some mercenaries. Afterwards, you exit the subway through the very same entrance where that plane crashed. You walk down the street, enter another level, and after a few minutes of exploration, the clones reactivate. The problem here is that it in Perseus Mandate, it takes much longer for the clones to wake up after the plane crashes. In Extraction Point, all you did was walk down the street, whereas in this game, you had an adventure. By providing these common reference points, the designers managed to break continuity instead of establishing it.
Eventually, you find Morrison, who had been locked in a cage by the rogue mercenaries. They’re trying to get Alma’s DNA now, which is located at Armacham’s cloning facility. Armacham really loves those underground facilities. Morrison knows a shortcut, so you free him, and he leads you to a secret passage. Shortly afterwards, Morrison dies horribly when a truck leaps onto him in slow motion.
Paxton Fettel appears here, as if he was waiting there for you. He doesn’t even appear menacing in this expansion. All he does is pop up every now and then and engage in a one-sided conversation. I think he pretty much gave up at being a scare device after the original game ended. Why try to be creepy, when you’ll inevitably be upstaged by Alma? Fettel and Alma bend the continuity even further by implying that they are in two places in once, since the events from the start of Extraction Point occurred not too long ago. They couldn’t have been truly omnipresent; if they were everywhere at once, nobody would be left alive to shoot at. The sky is orange when you enter the secret passage, just like how it was at the end of Extraction Point. I could accept that the events that followed had occurred after the ending of Extraction Point, if it weren’t for the fact that the clones had just been reactivated in the previous level. This implies that all 12 levels of Extraction Point took place during two levels of Perseus Mandate. Sigh. I just need to repeat to myself, “It’s just a game, and not even within the canon of the series.”
Eventually, you arrive at the cloning facility, which has been abandoned for a long time. There are signs of violence inside, and some passageways are blocked by what appears to be a jello human cocktail. Decayed corpses of scientists lie next to old laboratory equipment, including a shiny new Dell XPS. There is a very slight (and completely dismissable) smidgen of a suggestion that you might have been born here. The mercenaries are already inside the cloning facility when you get there, so you have something to shoot at. When you reach the bottom of the facility, the mercenaries have already broken into the vault, and their leader (the slightly-different-looking one) is making off with the keg o’ DNA. You chase him down, and have a final confrontation. The leader fights just like all the other ninja-mercenaries, except he can take more damage because he’s wearing +1 wizard armor. After he soaks up enough damage, you scoop up the DNA keg and regroup with the F.E.A.R. captain. Fettel’s clones are attacking the facility at this point, and you need to shoo them away so the extraction chopper can land. The expansion ends with you, the captain, and the ghost of the lieutenant flying away on a very nervous helicopter.
Perseus Mandate, if you think about its direction, is somewhat the opposite of Extraction Point. The action was much better, but the horror was missing for most of the game. There was an actual attempt at having a story this time. It tried to tie itself in with the events from the earlier games, although the implementation featured some bizarre imperfections. However, it did have a positive quality that set it apart from the others: there were very few dull moments.
F.E.A.R. and its expansions were attempts to fuse a first-person shooter with a psychological horror game. As a first-person shooter, it did not disappoint. Combat with the clones was entertaining in spite of the repetition. This was a win for me, as I had purchased the game for its action components, not for its horror or story elements. The horror had a lot of room for improvement, and in some ways, the expansions helped the horror fill out that room. I think it’s worth noting that Monolith, the developer for F.E.A.R., had also developed a game called Condemned: Criminal Origins. This game was also an action/horror title, and it excelled in both of those departments. Monolith had proven they could successfully combine action and horror. F.E.A.R. went on to have two sequels, so I am curious to see if the horror has improved in them as well. Both games are somewhere in my endless game heap, so I’ll definitely find out in the future. In the meantime, I can still come up with better phrases to fit that acronym.
Fifty Elevators, All Restricted.
Flying? Expect A Rocket!
For Every Atom, a Room.
Flippantly Elaborating Acronyms Relentlessly.