Fear Effect: Sedna

Year: 2018
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Sushee
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 2/20/19
Rating: **

I was a big fan of "Fear Effect" (2000) and "Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix" (2001) when they came out. The games were clunky and overly difficult, but the Chinese mysticism, Hong Kong styled action, and cel-shaded anime aesthetics were wonderful, and Hana Tsu-Vachel is one of the finest female action characters to grace the genre. The PlayStation 2 release of "Fear Effect: Inferno" (2003) offered great promise and had me very excited, but the project was scrapped when Kronos unexpectedly lost their funding. A sad and common fate for small, struggling development studios. It should come as no surprise that when a Kickstarter campaign showed up in 2016 to revive the franchise with a new game, I was one of the first supporters onboard. Unfortunately, as with most Kickstarter software projects, that became a very bitter pill to swallow. The game just barely got funded, and I pledged way more than I should have to make it happen.

"Fear Effect: Sedna" sees Hana, Rain, Deke, Glas, and newcomer Axel on a mission to steal a precious statuette, which naturally turns into something much more horrific. Their adventure takes them from Paris to Greenland, where they uncover a plot to resurrect monsters from Inuit folklore, and that's all I know because I didn't make it any farther. The game replaces the original "Resident Evil" style presentation and control scheme with a fixed isometric view, which has the unfortunate side effect of making the characters look way too small. The gameplay consists of stealth, gun combat, and puzzle solving, none of which are handled particularly well. The stealth portions have the potential to be interesting, but when you have multiple people in your party, the AI almost always blows your cover and forces you into a gun fight. The controls are frustrating and the aiming mechanism doesn't work when you're dealing with multiple foes, so your best bet is usually to just run headlong into the fray and shoot. The music is appropriately moody, but doesn't loop well, and the sound effects are weak.

A big part of what made the original FE games so great was the animated cutscenes, which were sexy and cool and did an excellent job of fleshing out the characters. "Sedna" carries that tradition forward and gives the characters a nice makeover in the process. The characters look great, although they suffer from some surprisingly bad low-res texture mapping. Sadly, the cutscenes tend to be overly short and are spoiled by appallingly bad writing and lackluster voice acting. Rain tends to come across as an annoying adolescent and Axel's French accent borders on being offensive. The writing is bad across the entire game, and the forced sexuality and blunt innuendo are disappointingly juvenile. There's no subtlety or finesse in either the writing or the acting, which leaves a seriously bad taste. The game is also overly difficult, and I didn't make it past the first boss encounter before giving up. Partly because of the clunky controls, and partly because I'd lost interest in what was going on. Sadly, the game is simply no fun to play, and the characters and story aren't engaging enough to encourage me to go any farther.

Sushee is supposed to be working on a remastered version of the original "Fear Effect," but if it's anything like how this game turned out, I'll be very disappointed.