Fear Effect Sedna’s storyline is the action game equivalent of a B-list spy flick. In place of depth, FE injects stylish cel-shaded visuals, campy dialogue, and references to the past installments in the series. It’s not quality writing but it is enjoyable as far as formulaic stories go; convincing enough to make me want to see what happened next. Unfortunately, the actual gameplay is generically mediocre and sometimes flat out bad.
Fear Effect is a very basic top-down action game. You control one of several characters at a time, using a soft aim to lock onto enemies and riddle them with bullets. To spice up combat each unique character has access to two special abilities ranging from grenades to flamethrowers. Combat is conducted in real-time as you dodge roll, take cover or kite enemies. You are also encouraged to make use of a stealth mechanic to insta-kill enemies before you are detected in their very sensitive cone of vision. Seriously, even if you only nick the edge of the cone for a second, the NPC will be on you like white on rice.
In most of the game, you control multiple characters at once. While you directly control one, the others will follow you, stand in place and shoot enemies. That’s it. They don’t reposition or take cover, making it extremely difficult to keep them alive in the late game. This becomes even more of a problem when you account for the fear mechanic. As your character becomes more afraid they both deal and take more damage. If your companion dies, your fear spikes, but the damage increase is not enough to make up for the loss.
In all, the core gameplay isn’t enjoyable and I had many infuriating moments with the combat whether it was poorly telegraphed boss attacks, tabbing desperately between teammates to save them from aoe attacks or getting mobbed because while I was stealthing, my stupid companion didn’t crouch and alerted the guards. To the game’s credit, it might be better with a gamepad, but at the time of this review there is no Xbox controller supports so I was stuck with the keyboard.
Puzzles and Non-Combat Gameplay
Developer Sushee makes liberal use of puzzles and mini-games ranging in quality from interesting to aggravating. At one point there’s a room escape puzzle which is pretty good, and only has one leap in logic. In another segment, you play a character disguised as a waiter serving champagne while eavesdropping on the guests. The puzzles are clever but sometimes require jumps in logic that would only naturally occur to people with powers of divination.
The main problem with this is, if you mess up certain puzzles, you’re treated to gory cutscenes of your character dying from goring, freezing, burning, gassing, etc. After a while, these become tiresome and you see them every time you fail. The game makes you skip through the death cutscene, takes you to a game over screen, and after you reload, you very well may have to skip yet another cutscene. Each failure means a minute or two wasted on just getting back into the game, making death needlessly punishing.
*A quick aside Fear Effect’s website does feature a full guide for the game. Takes the fun out of things but, there isn’t much to be had anyway.
Should You Buy it?
If it isn’t already apparent, I wouldn’t recommend this game for most people. There are some interesting ideas in the puzzles. The storyline is entertaining and delightfully weird at times but nothing that excuses the poor gameplay. The story relies heavily on the player’s knowledge of the past games and it can feel alienating for newcomers. If you really love Fear Effect or bad action movies, this could maybe do something for you. But I advise caution. Under the edgy aesthetic, there isn’t much to say about Fear Effect other than a resounding, meh. Play for an hour, if you don’t like what you see, feel confident that it doesn’t get better.