STAFF REVIEW of Fear Effect Sedna (Xbox One)

Monday, April 23, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Fear Effect Sedna Box art I still have both original Fear Effect games on disc for the original Playstation in my collection, so to say that I was excited to hear that Fear Effect would be making its return after 17 long years is an understatement. I have fond memories of the original games, as it was one of the first to really make use of the cel-shaded art style and had a Resident Evil-esque vibe to it. Interestingly, Fear Effect Sedna was actually funded via a Kickstarter campaign and developed by Sushee with a little over $100,000 being raised, so clearly there were others like me that yearned to see the series return.

While the iconic cel-shaded visuals are intact, the gameplay has completely done a 180, as Sedna is played as an isometric shooter, puzzler and stealth game. If that alone is making you raise an eyebrow because you’re an old school fan of the series like myself, you better sit down and prepare yourself, as that’s not all that’s changed. Luckily the iconic characters like Hana and Rain return, among others, and the story itself is decent, even if the writing and delivery itself is quite weak. I was more than excited to see Fear Effect was back, and I wanted to love it, I really did, but it wasn’t even the major gameplay change to isometric that turned me off, it was nearly everything else. There are parts that simply aren’t fun and don’t work well, but in general, it’s mediocre at best.

Taking place after the first game (as Part 2 was a prequel), Sedna follows Hana and Rain once again, delving into more of their backstory as they’re hired for another heist. Just like the previous games, a simple job turns into something much more heinous as there’s an underlying supernatural element to it all as well. The story is interesting enough to keep you intrigued and wanting to see what happens next, but it doesn’t seem to flow well. A few times I was left confused of what I was doing, and more importantly, why. It doesn’t help that the writing is subpar, but the voice acting is even worse, making it difficult to relate and believe the characters that I’ve known for many years.

Just like its predecessors, Sedna too utilizes a fear meter. When your fear rises you’ll take more damage, but you also receive a buff that boosts your outgoing damage as well, so it’s a tradeoff. In theory this works, trying to force you into a stealthy type of gameplay, but the AI is so bad that you’re unable to do so, constantly resulting in firefights, frustration and restarts.

Much of the time you’ll be in control of two or more characters at the same time, with the others simply following you and providing extra firepower when you get noticed. When your companion doesn’t take cover and dies, you become more fearful, thus taking more damage, yet your damage output increase doesn’t seem to make up for it in any way.

This is where the tactical portion of the game comes into play. Well, where they try and force you to use it until you realize it doesn’t work nearly as well as it should. This allows you to pause time and plan your attack. While the world is paused, you can choose any of your characters and maneuver them where you like, leaving a breadcrumb trail. You can also then choose any actions like shooting at enemies or using their special abilities. Next you’ll switch to your other character and move them to where you want them to go and what actions to take. While in this mode it’s essentially recording your actions, and when you come out of the tactical mode it will automatically recreate everything you just did automatically.

This at first seemed like a really interesting concept, but almost from the first fight on I saw two glaring flaws. First, you don’t know where the enemies are going to go or be, so you’re making these plans by guessing. Second, the AI doesn’t care that you’re hiding behind cover and will simply walk up to you and start shooting you in the face nearly every time. At this point it simply turns into a gunfight and the last man (or woman) standing wins. Nearly every gunfight turned out this way, and I stopped using the tactical mode for the most part due to it. It’s virtually impossible to avoid being seen when trying to be stealthy, always resulting in either a game over or a mass shootout.

Stealth is a big element to the gameplay, and in some sections it’s forced, but if you even get one pixel into their cone if sight, the alarms go off and you get detected. I simply ended up shooting in real time, using my abilities and rolls to try and survive each encounter, healing myself afterwards when possible. Even though you can instantly kill enemies if undetected, it was never reliable as it should have been.

Every so often you’ll get thrown a few puzzles to change things up, though I found most of these frustrating as well. Even the first wire cutting puzzles took me a while to figure out, resulting in many game over screens and restarts. I did enjoy that the puzzles varied, though it may just be because it took me away from the awful combat for a few minutes each time.

Not all is gloom and doom though, as Sushee nailed that Fear Effect look that makes it unique and stand out. The visuals are striking and bright, and it’s great to see some old friends once again in HD after all these years. As for audio, the soundtrack itself is great and fits the setting, but the voice over work is terrible, almost across the board. There’s no realism to the performances, though that’s partly due to the poor writing as well. Rarely do the characters sound believable, making it difficult to care about their development or emotions.

I can deal with the drastic change to isometric gameplay, but there are so many other design decisions that don’t feel like they meld together very well. Puzzles can be frustrating, level design is basic and combat is terrible, though only second to the voice acting. I wanted to enjoy Fear Effect Sedna, I truly did, as I’m a longtime fan of the series, but even as a fan, it’s hard to recommend.

Overall, Fear Effect Sedna felt very underwhelming and mediocre at best. I’ve been searching for reasons to recommend it, but coming up with almost none. On the bright side, the developer is working on a remake of the original game, so there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for the series, sadly Sedna is going to be its black spot though. Goodbye Fear Effect, you had a great run back on the PS1.

Overall: 3.5 / 10
Gameplay: 2.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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