As I stumble through the hallways of FEAR Online, I began to wonder: what exactly makes a game scary? Personally, I get scared really easily. Jump scares and creepy girls are my worst enemy. Oddly enough, I felt unphased by Alma and the few abominations that jumped out at me. There’s an elephant in the room, allow me to introduce it: making an online multiplayer game scary is very hard, if not impossible.
FEAR Online uses a few scare tactics that would probably work in a single-player environment, which don’t work in cooperative multiplayer. Part of the reason why they don’t work is that the player isn’t alone throughout the mission and group mentality is a horror game’s worst nightmare. When I’m in a room with three other players, I’m not going to be afraid when the lights go out, but even if I was, the scare tactics aren’t executed well. Some of the maps are cool to walk around in, though. I remember running through a room where blood droplets floated around the room and was a bit mesmerized.
The friendly bot that leads us through each section of the map sounds really cheesy and forced which has dragged me out of the game on multiple occasions when I may have been getting immersed. In PvP multiplayer, FEAR Online would occasionally distort the player’s screen when walking through certain parts of the map. This is a huge problem; anything that messes up the player’s vision while in a multiplayer environment for a non-competitive reason is bad. I don’t like having film grain, high contrast colors, or blur in my view if I’m shooting someone. These effects aren’t the result of someone throwing a flashbang to distract me; these events occur randomly and inexplicably.
It occurred to me that FEAR Online might not have been developed with a focus of creating a game that intends to provide a horror experience. Even if it was indeed meant to be purely a free-to-play, multiplayer FPS, the gameplay feels very lackluster. The maps are too small for there to be any kind of strategy; it felt like we were taking turns spawn camping each other. Apart from the poor map design, the shooting mechanics feel very easy to use. With recoil being almost nonexistent, most guns are too strong. On average, three to four bullets will put down another player; when I don’t need to account for recoil, I end up firing bullets until I get a kill. Simply put, FEAR Online is too easy; there’s no challenge in killing other players.
Aside from problems within gameplay, getting FEAR Online to run is more annoying than running an Ubisoft game from Steam. For some reason, you’re forced to use Aeria Ignite, which serves as a hub for all Aeria Games. You have to log in using your Aeria account upon starting Ignite. When clicking the play button on Aeria Ignite, the updater for FEAR Online starts up and it begins searching for new patches. When it detects that you have the latest version, you can click play. Before starting the game, another login prompt pops up. I would have no problem with logging in if I wasn’t already logged in. There’s a bunch of unnecessary steps when trying to play FEAR Online. Why doesn’t Ignite just update FEAR Online instead of having a proprietary updater? Why do I have to log in after logging into Ignite? Why do I even need Ignite when the game is free-to-play? FEAR Online feels like a chore to start up most of the time.
Is FEAR Online worth playing? Not really, the gameplay isn’t challenging enough to be fun. If you’re looking for a FEAR-like experience in a multiplayer game, you’re probably better off playing the original. Other than the interesting environments, there aren’t many good things to say. It doesn’t deliver an adequate horror experience, nor does it provide satisfying gameplay. On top of it all, it is annoying to launch with Ignite. I can’t recommend FEAR Online even as a free-to-play title.