made quite a name for itself on the Playstation. The action adventure title followed three mercenaries who are searching Hong Kong for the assassin daughter of a Triad boss. As well as mixing puzzles into the action sequences, the title combined cel-shaded graphics with full motion video to create a unique appearance. The game's name refers to the player's "health bar", which took the form of an ECG reading, flashing red when the player took damage and returning to green when they performed an action that would calm their heart rate. This combination of elements garnered positive reviews and a sequel, Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix
was released a year later.
A third title in the series, Fear Effect Inferno
, was planned for the Playstation 2. Announced in 2002, the title became a victim of a changing focus within publisher Eidos Interactive and they cut it. Developer Kronos Digital Entertainment tried to find another publisher but was unsuccessful and the game was cancelled a year later. Kronos was shuttered fairly soon after and the rights to the franchise remained with Eidos. Years later, Square Enix would acquire Eidos and all of their IPs. When the Square Enix Collective was formed, one of the aims of the initiative was to relaunch some of the long lost IPs through smaller studios. This is where we are today with developer Sushee Games and their upcoming title Fear Effect Sedna
is set four years after the events of the original Fear Effect
and several familiar characters return in this new title. The demo begins as Royce Glas, who has returned to the United States, is drowning his sorrows in a bar. He's approached by a client who leaves him a plane ticket to Greenland. Meanwhile, Hana Tsu-Vachel and Rain Qin now live in Hong Kong, teaming up for occasional mercenary work and one of these smaller missions forms the demo's tutorial.
The first thing that players will notice is the graphics. While noticeably sharper on the current generation of consoles, the cel-shaded characters return. However, with an absence of the fixed cameras that were typical of the first two titles, the game now has an isometric appearance and no need for the full motion video or the tank controls of the past. Gameplay wise, the immediate impression is that of an action game. Players can group together to take on multiple enemies in bigger rooms and ungroup for single stealth takedowns. Characters can be switched between at the press of a button for direct control. As well as typical shooter gameplay, each character has a special skill (like Rain's taser that needs to be fueled by batteries) that can be used in limited quantites.
As well as the real time action, there's also a more strategic route that players can take if they choose. Entering Tactical Pause freezes time and allows players to assess the situation before planning their next moves. Characters can be given orders of where to go and on which enemies to focus, instead of being left to the AI's devices. Two characters can also combine their skills to create a synergy and a much more powerful attack. As soon as players have decided what they want to do next, they can re-enter Active mode and watch as their commands are carried out.
The ECG fear meter also makes a return but is now accompanied by a health bar for each character. When players take damage, their health deteriorates, but the bar can be restored by consuming med kits. The fear meter is also supposed to change when the player is injured, or when faced with stressful situations, but this seemed restricted to scripted moments. Both characters were able to take significant damage without the fear meter changing in any way. Increased fear helps players do more damage to enemies, but they'll also be less resilient to enemy fire. Like the health bar, the fear meter can be reduced by using med kits.
Towards the end of the tutorial, players faced their first puzzle in the form of defusing a booby-trapped cargo. The solution to the bomb defusing process was hidden on posters spread throughout the area, but I'm ashamed to say that I was unaware of the presence of two of these until the developer told me about them. Up until then, I was nearing the solution through simple trial and error, although I'd seen the accompanying death cutscene many times too. It seems like I wasn't the only player to miss these posters seeing as the puzzle will be changed in the final version of the game, the developer deeming the solution too obscure.
With the cargo saved and the competitors eliminated, the mercenary pair return home only to find it's been invaded. The intruder offers the duo a new mission to steal an ancient statuette from the Chinese ambassador in France. The mission seems relatively easy, pays well and is a great opportunity to explore Hana's birthplace, so they accept. They team up with old colleague Jacob "Deke" DeCourt to provide a distraction, gather info, deactivate security and infiltrate from the roof.
Each of the patrolling guards on the rooftop has a cone of sight and it's here where players get to practice their stealth skills while avoiding these cones. Once inside the security room, a simple shape matching puzzle allows Rain to hack into the drones and clear the path for Hana to enter the building. Together with information that Deke has gathered by scoping out the location while in disguise, Hana is able to locate the ambassador and his party. She follows them from the lift to a secure room, but the door immediately closes behind the ambassador and she's no longer able to follow.
It's here that the demo ended and we won't get to see how the mission plays out, nor what connection Glas has to the other three characters, until the title is released on Xbox One. The title finished production last month and is on schedule to be released early next year. Sushee is also in the process of remastering the original title, now known as Fear Effect Reinvented
. It's clear that the franchise is in good hands and will be looking to make a triumphant return with a new generation of gamers.