Hello all! Last week, I talked about anold adventure series that’s maybe a little too antiquated—but it’s still unique.
Today brings us to a PS1 cult favorite that’s basically old-school Resident Evil with a cyberpunkish twist.
Fear Effect is an Eidos published PS1 game from sixteen years ago. It takes place in a vaguely futuristic Hong Kong and casts you as a team of mercenaries. You alternate between playing as Hana, Deke and Glas as they try to locate the daughter of a Triad crime boss. Things eventually take a turn for the insane as you journey through Hell and fight demons. It’s a fun story, and it’s presented well—Fear Effect is quite cinematic.
But mostly, you spend your time in Fear Effect solving puzzles and fighting enemies. It’s almost exactly like the first three Resident Evil games; you move a character around a pre-rendered environment with somewhat frustrating “tank” controls. What’s different from Resident Evil is, you’re generally fighting enemies who can shoot back at you. Which is annoying, to be honest—this gameplay style isn’t meant for shootouts.
That’s why you need to be stealthy. Fear Effect encourages stealth—or, what could reasonably pass for stealth in a PS1 game from 2000. You crouch-walk a lot to stay quiet and attack enemies from behind with a knife. Its still clunky—hell, the whole game is clunky, by today’s standards. The inventory system is awful—you cycle through items and weapons with the Square and Circle buttons, meaning you can’t pause to switch weapons. I’m all for that; it keeps things tense and realistic, but a better system would still be appreciated.
It’s still a fun game to play, though, despite the very not-fun control setup. Fear Effect has an emphasis on puzzle solving, but more importantly (intentional or not), it places an emphasis on observation. Fear Effect requires you to carefully examine every environment—every screen—you find yourself in. Case in point: early in the beginning level, you see an enemy hanging around the bottom of a ladder you need to climb down. Climbing down the ladder normally leads to an instant death. What you are supposed to do, is climb through a window you passed earlier and turn a steam crank to spray the hapless bed guy with steam.
That sort of thing can be, at times, annoying. Bur conversely, I dig the way Fear Effect requires and rewards those kinds of gamers who like to explore every nook and cranny they come across. It rewards the kind of gamer who slows down a bit, looks around, and thinks. Sometimes you can get lost, and that can be frustrating; sometimes a key or similar item can be tucked away in a well-hidden spot. A puzzle early in the game requires you to memorize seemingly meaningless flashing lights you passed by earlier. That’s crazy, but I like this kind of “don’t just look, see” idea that permeates Fear Effect. It’s the kind of game that teaches you to, you know, really see games. Notice details, and things like that.
I also need to mention the graphics, which are an early example of cel-shading, the graphical style that keeps The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker looking fantastic all these years later. Fear Effect doesn’t fare as well these days, but it has a neat anime style that holds up. Characters look simple, but good, and it’s nice to see faces animate in a game this old. It’s a little rough to look at on a present day TV, as old standard-definition games are, but it holds up well enough.
Fear Effect is one of those games that weirdly hasn’t been re-released as a PSN download, and that’s kind of a shame. If you’re into Resident Evil style games that’ll put your brain to work, track down a copy.
Thanks for reading! I have a Twitter and I like talking to people, so follow me! Also, my new blog is coming soon, so stay tuned!
Next week, I cover an N64 game that recently got re-released on Steam. It’s got dinosaurs and it’s honestly not great. But there’s a kitsch feel to it.