Ok, seeing as I'm still reeling from the flying knee the Game of Thrones delivered to my knackers Monday just gone, the topic for today’s save state cblog seems especially timely in that it concerns a similarly indelible 'holly shit' moment - a moment that shattered my assumptions and did much to ground my tastes and expectations for many of the games I've played since. The game in question is Fear Effect and the 'moment' - well I'll come to that later - but first let me talk a little more generally about a title that remains, to this day, one of the most satisfying I've ever played: Fear Effect.
Developed for the original Playstation by Kronos Digital and published by Eidos in January 2000, Fear Effect is a cinematic, adventure game with strong survival horror leanings and follows the story of its three mercenary protagonists: Hana Tsu Vachel, Royce Glas and Deke DeCourt, as their plans to find and kidnap Wee Ming Lam, the missing daughter of a Hong Kong triad boss known as Mr. Lam, are unsettled when events take a sudden turn for the supernatural.
Delightfully dystopian, fantastically futuristic and unashamedly mature, dipping back into Fear Effect for the purposes of writing this blog confirmed to me many of the things that first drew me to the game. Easily one of the most visually striking PlayStation titles, Fear Effect combines full-motion-video environments and Japanese-animation-inspired 3-D character graphics to terrific effect. Similarly, the game boasts a magnificently menacing soundtrack, strong vocal performances and engaging plot. Superb stuff!
In any case, seeing as this blog is reading more like a review than it is a commentary on Fear Effects hitherto ‘make Fandango’s tiny little brain take a big shit’
instant, I should probably share with you all the moment that affected me so:
Mind. Fucking. Blown. So, let me get this straight: I* have to pick which of the two remaining protagonists (Deke having earlier been murdered whilst trying to infiltrate a brothel, only to be reanimated as a grotesque demon for the purposes of a boss fight much later on) kills the other? At the games apex, you’re forcing me to murder my one remaining partner in making a choice that either benefits the literal devil or its avatar of destruction? How dare you! Is that even allowed? That’s…that’s fucking awesome!
You know, looking back I can just about recall how conflicted I felt about what was being presented to me. Trying to reconcile the anger I felt at having Fear Effect place me in a narrative headlock with the surprise, excitement and apprehension I was somehow managing to experience all at once made for a wonderfully heady, hugely enjoyable, genre defining moment – one that’s remained with me to this day. My choice? Well I killed Glas because…well because…*ahem*…well because tits
(Anita Sarkeesian forgive me).
Now, uncomfortable admissions notwithstanding, I’ll gladly hold my hands up and concede now that this ‘revelation’ is nothing like as powerful or sophisticated today as it first appeared to me all those years ago - and yes, playing through the game in ‘hard’ mode yields what many might consider to be an ‘optimum’ ending - but I would posit that there’s still plenty to admire in the conception, courage and delivery of a moment that makes a real commitment to storytelling (and in a way that doesn’t pander to the player).
On that point, I invite you all to take a moment and picture in your minds eye facing a similar choice - this time in the contemporary title of your choice. Me, my mind wandered off to ponder the potential of witnessing the uneasy alliance between Trip and Monkey in Enslaved shift differently in eventually coercing a similarly difficult dilemma. Cool, right? I also thought a little about the unrelenting joys of smashing Tails’ face repeatedly with a 12lb lump hammer, but I digress!
Ok then, seeing as this thing was meant to be a celebration of a favourite gaming moment and not a thinly veiled dig at the current state of the AAA game development, I’ll wrap up this briefest of blogs by saying that Fear Effect is a game that seeded in me an enduring love and respect for all those games that carry with them the courage of their convictions. It’s a game that delivered a hefty kick to my complacency, forcing me to re-evaluate my expectations and appreciate the value of murdering those who do not have awesome virtual boobies. Worthwhile stuff!
Here’s hoping I get to experience something similar again soon (I’m looking at you tails)!
Also, Roose Bolton is a c*nt.
Thanks for reading.
* having played through the game in ‘normal’