The switch from 1999 to 2000 left me worried about a lot of things. My underpowered PC was getting ready to turn into the Terminator thanks to the 2K disease, and if that didn’t get us then it would be the eclipse that threatened to herald the end of all days.
But I was most worried about my PS1 – which was already on its last legs – and the fact that it may not be able to allow me to complete the brilliant looking, upcoming, Fear Effect. See, I was all ready to love this game, its use of cell-shaded graphics, the wonderful characters, utterly innovative gameplay and the amazing looking world. But now Fear Effect is back, is it good to go and revisit the start of the millennium again?
Fear Effect, in its original form, played like a mix of Resident Evil and Blade Runner. In this new game – Fear Effect Sedna – things are set up with a zoomed out isometric view as it brings back all the characters from the franchise. The story is set a couple of years after the last game in the franchise and our heroes are back, having been asked to steal a piece of art for a shady criminal. This leads to a double-crossing, some complicated politics and inter-dimensional trickery.
The franchise has always done a good job of mixing the real world with a fantasy spirit one and with Sedna, it’s no different. However, the writing and narrative feel like it’s still stuck in the gaming world of the late ‘90s and I honestly feel it hasn’t aged very well. The characters, while true to the original, now seem unlikable and a bit cliche. But that doesn’t matter because it plays well. Doesn’t it?
There is a big difference from the original. You now move the characters across the map, switching back and forth between them, issuing commands like ‘stay’ and ‘follow’. The AI is a bit sketchy at times, and what I mean by that is that your redundant partner might get themselves seen if you’re not aware enough. You can stealth your way across a level, taking out bad guys when you get the chance, or avoiding cameras and ghostly spirits. If you get seen you can go into attack mode, firing guns and utilising special attacks, but the trick is not to get hit as your fear level increases and you die. If I’m honest, the combat can be a mixed bag, where successes feel a bit random and the camera angles really don’t do any favours.
There are some great little missions though, and these use guile and cunning. Throw in the rock hard puzzles, with tricky to find clues and it has to be said that I found much of Sedna enjoyable and well designed. Sometimes though, when the death cutscene appears for the hundredth time, the thrill does start to wane somewhat. There are also boss battles to be had, and the chance to travel across many different countries and through a whole host of imaginative gameplay mechanics to have fun with.
The problem is that while there has been a load of love and imagination poured into the making of Sedna via its Kickstarter campaign, it doesn’t quite work as a whole. The game is fun, to begin with, but you do start to get frustrated with the combat, the mechanics and the damn Aussie guy, which is a shame.
In the looks department, and you’ll find that Fear Effect Sedna has a mixture of amazing cell shaded cutscenes and atmospheric level design. I will be honest and say that I haven’t been as impressed with this version as I was with the original all those years back. It’s fine and all that, but the connection between the two styles doesn’t work. The soundtrack though is brilliant, and really helps you through the levels, creating a superb sound score for exploring the world. The effects are good as well, but when you’re just left with the voiceover, you will notice a distinct lack of realism when compared to what game acting has to offer nowadays. It’s nice to hear that style again – in a fond retro kind of way – but something doesn’t feel quite right in this day and age; it feels a bit unreal and lacks some emotive connection.
But all that said I enjoyed going back to the world of Fear Effect all these years later. The cell shaded look of Sedna and the soundtrack are excellent, but the change in gameplay, some of the combat and the isometric look lessened my enjoyment. The puzzles and innovative ideas are great though and some of the world themes are interesting to revisit, but it most certainly left me remembering the original as the better experience.