I went into this review not knowing much about the original Fear Effect game that was released on Sony’s PlayStation console back in 2000. That’s not to say that I never was interested in the title. I mean, come on. The name alone makes it sound like a creepy survival horror game; a genre that I absolutely adore. If I’m being honest, it was the game’s lazy box art that kept me away from it. Look at it. It looks like a screen grab from a poorly designed CGI movie. Anyway, the game did build up quite the cult following and the eventual sequel had pushed it into “successful franchise” status. That wasn’t enough to sway me though. Something about the character design just made me look the other way.
Over the years the Fear Effect franchise had been pretty much forgotten about. But, as is the case with all cult classics, the strong support of it’s die hard fans had quietly kept the name afloat. Eventually a Kickstarter was launched by an French indie developer named Sushee, and the die hards went crazy. All 2,500 of them! Within a short amount of time the Kickstarter had managed to amass a strong $132K to bring the series back to life. So, how did Sushee do with the diehards hard earned cash? Eh…. The game has some problems, but for the life of me, I can’t stop playing it!
What’s Going On?
To fully understand what is going on here you will need to have at least watched a playthrough of the first Fear Effect game. None of the characters in Fear Effect Sedna get a proper introduction, and developer Sushee are 100% relying on you to have played the previous titles. If you’re counting on a recap or a flashback, you’re out of luck. This is a huge missed opportunity, especially since the last game in the franchise is almost twenty years old.
The story starts off like your average heist movie. Returning protagonists Hana and Rain are given a job by a mysterious man that had broken into their home. Without really questioning him, they accept the task of stealing a priceless statue from a heavily guarded museum for a large sum of cash. One thing leads to another and Hana and Rain get caught up in a series of events that has them fighting deadly demons and ghosts. As the story progresses, franchise favorites Deke and Glas get added to the mix, and eventually all kinds of dark and twisted experiments end up getting exposed. The story is the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever experienced, but I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained.
Even though Fear Effect Sedna’s story kept me pushing forward, I have no idea why I liked it so much. The game’s voice acting is atrocious! You can say it was meant to be this way, but that’s giving the voice actors too much credit. The accents are so bad that it’s distracting, and almost racist. It’s as if the voice actors had no idea that they were acting in a horror-themed game. I think the story’s completely off-the-wall shift at its midway point kept me intrigued though. I really wanted to see how this thing was going to end.
The Drawing Board
The Resident Evil-style tank controls from the previous titles has now taken a back seat to a new isometric viewpoint type of gameplay. Fear Effect Sedna has no idea what type of game it wants to be though. At first it wants you to be a stealthy as possible, and asks that you remain in cover while enemies walk about on their set paths. Later on, it puts enemies in front of the player almost immediately, forcing a huge gun fight. But before I get into the combat, let me explain the so-called stealth. Similar to games in the Metal Gear series, each enemy has a vision cone that you must stay out of. Enter the vision cone and all hell breaks loose. Sounds familiar, right. If you’ve played any stealth game in the past, you’ll know what to expect with Fear Effects Sedna’s stealth mechanic.
As I’m sure you know, this works great in games like Metal Gear. It works because you are in control of one single character. Now imagine having to control four Snakes (each with a mind of a toddler) at the same time. That’s Fear Effect Sedna in a nutshell. Fear Effect Sedna tasks the player with cycling through up to four characters by pressing the Switch’s bumper buttons. Unfortunately, the characters (when your not in control of them) all have a mind of their own, and their AI is horrible. They rarely ever take cover and oftentimes just walk straight up to enemies, guns ablazing.
As you can imagine, this tosses all stealth strategy out the window, making this an unexpected balls-to-the-wall action game. If you do prefer the stealth route there is a freeze time ability. Pressing the (-) button will stop everyone one in their tracks, and you can sets each character’s walking path. It works when it needs to, but really bogs down the gameplay. I personally used it once and forgot about it.
Adding to the underutilized features is a hidden fear meter (Fear Effect…get it?) that will cause your character to behave erratically when their health gets low. The only reason why I know this is because the game told me so. Though I’ve never observed any of this erratic behavior throughout my experience.
Since stealth is rarely an option, killing everyone and everything is what this game is all about. Unfortunately the combat is just as bad as the voice acting. Like most action games, shooting is done with the trigger button. Every character has a basic gun, but each character also has a set amount of special weapons. These consists of flamethrowers, grenades, tasers, and other things that make the bad guys extra sad. Taking out a single enemy is pretty straightforward, but dealing with multiple enemies is where you’ll run into problems. It seems that the teammate AI can’t heal themselves or use their special weapons on their own, which means that you’ll be cycling through each one of them constantly. All of this micromanaging makes for a completely frustrating gameplay experience.
When in between shootouts you will be required to solve some really fun puzzles throughout each level. Some are quite easy to figure out and simply require you to search the environment for clues. A few others are nice mini-games that will have you pressing the Switch’s buttons in a certain order. One puzzle in particular that involved hacking into a server to open a door had me scratching my head for over an hour. I caved in and had to Google the answer, which of course was right in front of me. Even though the puzzles are interesting, they make up such a small part of the full game.
I’ve never been a fan of the cel-shaded look, and Fear Effect Sedna does nothing to change my mind. The characters and environments are all very basic and boring. During some levels I felt like I was just traversing through the same room over and over again. It was just the same cookie-cutter graphics in every single room. Just when the visuals started to get somewhat interesting, the credits started rolling.
The music, on the other hand, fit the game really well. Most of it was a techno-noir sound that was both catchy and fun to listen to. Some hard-rock tunes accompanied a boss fight here and there, and again, it fit the mood. I just wish the voice acting was a good as the music.
The biggest issue with the overall presentation was the time-consuming game over sequence. You will die a lot in Fear Effect Sedna, and doing so brings any kind of excitement to s screeching halt. There are usually two cutscenes after a death. A sometimes gruesome death scene, and a somewhat boring game over scene. Each of these scenes need to load, and then after that the main game needs to load back up to continue play. This results in over 3 minutes of just sitting and waiting…after you died. You could say, “Well, don’t die so much”. But with Fear Effect Sedna’s horrid AI, that’s easier said than done.
Fear Effect Sedna has a lot going for it. The creepy story is interesting and some of the puzzles are really fun to figure out. The shift to the isometric view was a bold one, and could have been great. Unfortunately, the teammate AI is so bad that it ruins almost everything good that the game has to offer. The focus on stealth is a confusing one, especially when my AI teammates just want to shoot everything in sight. I believe this game needed to cook a bit more before it was removed from the oven.
FINAL VERDICT: 2.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed), PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 ; Publisher: Forever Entertainment ; Developer: Sushee; Players: 1 ; Released: March 6, 2018 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $17.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Fear Effect Sedna given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.