Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Fix the Jitter Bug in F.E.A.R. 3

A lot of people have complained about F.E.A.R. 3's jitter bug. It causes the PC first-person shooter to stutter when players strafe. Looking---and even whirling---around doesn't replicate the bug; it's only when a player moves from sideways that it becomes apparent.

While currently there's no proper fix for the stutter bug afflicting F.E.A.R. 3, I've stumbled upon a temporary solution that alleviates the nausea-inducing jitter.

The temporary fix after the jump.

Many gamers have observed that the glitch is not a performance problem per se---in fact, lowering graphics settings WORSENS the problem. Of note is vsync; disabling it increases the jittering found when strafing in the PC first-person shooter.

The last yielded the temporary solution for the bug---it seems the game is having problems with higher framerates. Since enabling vsync sets a ceiling on your framerates equal to your monitor's refresh rate, lowering your monitor's refresh rate and turning on vsync will alleviate the problem.

>>>See my FEAR 3 First Impressions review HERE

To reiterate:

1. Set your monitor's refresh rate to a lower figure (60hz if your eyes can take it; CRT monitor users will have a headache after prolonged use at this frequency)
2. Enable vsync (found under the Options > Video Settings menu).

There's also another fix that might work: forcing the game to run on DirectX 9. It worked for some but under Windows 7, forcing DirectX 9 disables AA.

Here's how to do it:

1. On the Steam menu, right click on F.E.A.R. 3.
2. Click on "Properties" on the resulting pop-up menu.
3. Under the "General" tab, click on "Launch Options."
4. Type "-d3d9" (without the quotes on the resulting field.
5. Click OK.

You might want to try either or both of the above fixes and see if they solve the problem. Lowering my monitor's refresh rate solve the problem for me.

Please take note that I've mentioned the words "temporary" and "alleviate." This won't solve the the jitter bug in F.E.A.R. 3 but it definitely will minimize the stuttering when you strafe.

Hopefully, Day One Studios will release a patch in the coming days.

>>>Click here to

Saturday, June 25, 2011

F.E.A.R. 3 Screenshots

I'm currently uploading F.E.A.R. 3 screenshots.

The link to the album after the jump. (The page contains screenshots of several PC games too.)

See the F.E.A.R. 3 screenshots HERE

>>>Click here to

Friday, June 24, 2011

FEAR 3 Review – First Impressions

[UPDATED (July 14, 2011)]

[I've published my FULL F.E.A.R. 3 Review. Click HERE.]

The developers of the third installment in the PC horror first-person shooter have addressed several things that bogged down FEAR 2. This FEAR 3 review will cover my initial thoughts about the improvements made. These are:

  • The cover system is back
  • The submachine gun now sounds right
  • Level designs have been improved
  • Return of the REV powered armor mechs
I was planning to wait and release my review after I’ve finished the PC game but I’ve read several reviews and forum rants and praises that may be misleading for some. This has prompted me to make a "First Impressions" FEAR 3 review.

Since this is a "First Impressions" article, I will of course, make a full critique after I finish the game.

I don't think the game is short. Three hours in and I still have yet to see any serious plot development.

The FEAR 3 review after the jump.

First off is FEAR 3’s submachine gun.

The new submachine gun feels powerful without sounding over the top. It’s very satisfying to fire and it even sounds better than the first FEAR’s RPL. Kudos to Day One for rectifying the horrible mistake that was the Andra.

Tactical Firefights

The developers of the PC game have reinstated the cover system---and then some. In addition to leaning, they’ve copied Mass Effect’s cover system, allowing players to pop in and out of cover to take potshots at enemy troops. They’ve also included vaulting and have innovated by implementing a dive feature; pressing space while strafing and in cover causes you to dive to whatever cover is nearby.

Level Design

While most of the levels I’ve ran were mostly corridors, there were a lot of places that allowed the AI to flank me. I’m very happy with this development as FEAR 2 only presented me with enemies that didn't try to maximize their firing arcs. In FEAR 3, ATC forces successfully flanked me a handful of times.

Weapon and Enemy Design

While I’ve yet to encounter Replica forces, FEAR 3 this time has a more cohesive design scheme with the rest of the series. The guns now conform to the art style utilized by FEAR 2; bulky black-grey affairs with touches of color here and there.
In my opinion, these are more appealing than the monochromatic guns of the first FEAR.

>>>See my "How to Fix the Jitter Bug in F.E.A.R. 3" article (includes steps on how to go about forcing DirectX 9 in FEAR 3)

The ATC forces are different from the guards in FEAR 1 but I don’t really find them disturbing as much as the Variant VIIs, which deviated radically from the clones present in the first FEAR (see my FEAR 2 Cons Review).

What really struck me as impressive is the developers’ decision to include, once again, REV powered armors in the game. In a series that has drastically changed in art style, these one-man ambulatory weapons platforms have always been the staple. Monolith and Day One should have included more of these “constants” though --- a series always needs them. BioShock has its Big Daddys. Metal Gear has its main characters swathed in form-fitting black outfits. The weapons and the mechs are a start though and maybe the developers have decided that the design scheme of the first game is the odd man of the bunch (seeing that FEAR 2 and 3’s firearms look more alike than those of the first FEAR’s.)

UPDATE: The PC release currently suffers from stuttering/jitter problem. No one has posted a solution to but a patch should hopefully be in the works. That or Day One Studios will suffer a major reputation problem.

I’ll expand on this once I finish the campaign. (I will also review the campaign---without giving away spoilers of course.)

>>>Click here to

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A F.E.A.R. 2 Cons Review Made by a F.E.A.R. Fan

With the PC horror shooter F.E.A.R. 3 being released to the rest of the world this June 24 (UK release according to the games’ Wikipedia page), I’ve decided to release a rundown of disappointing aspects in the horror series’ second chapter. These are:

  • The sound effects of some of the weapons
  • The anemic special effects
  • The sub-par AI
  • The odd design choices (levels and Replica armor)

[UPDATE: I’m not located in the North America region but oddly enough, the F.E.A.R. 3 Steam page reports that the game is “available now.”]

I’m a hardcore fan of the PC first-person shooter series---I’ve bought all the games in the series including the DLC. I even finished the first F.E.A.R. game without using SloMO---while on Extreme Difficulty. And while I’m not a walking encyclopedia when it comes to F.E.A.R. lore, I am very familiar with the nuances of the first F.E.A.R. game.

Playing at Extreme Difficulty with no SloMo

The full review after the jump.

One of these is the excellent sound effects for all of the weapons in the game, something which PC game sequel failed to replicate.

Cardboard Audio

“WTH?!!” was what I uttered when I first used F.E.A.R. 2’s Andra FD-99 submachine gun. The thing was had such an anemic sound effect that it reminds me of a sheet of thick cardboard being ripped apart every time I hear its muffled reports. Compare the Andra’s sound effects with that of the Sumak RPL Submachinegun’s (from the first PC game) and you’ll see what I mean. The latter---even with its low firepower---still felt satisfying to fire; the former caused me to grimace every time I used it.

Gun Fu

John Woo films heavily influenced the first game. In fact, lead designer Craig Hubbard has been quoted as saying “[Our plans are] to make combat as intense as the tea house shootout at the beginning of John Woo's Hard-Boiled.”

I don’t know where this went.

F.E.A.R. 2 has been regarded mostly as a solid shooter, but it doesn’t give you the sense of chaos that the first game conveyed to its gamers. Sure, things still explode and disintegrate in impressive ways in F.E.A.R. 2 but the level design and most of the ranges that firefights take place in are too large to suck in the player in a maelstrom of body parts, wood chips, powdered concrete, and flying sheaves of paper that the first game was able to bombard gamers with.

While certainly the large fighting grounds are a very welcome addition after the first game’s claustrophobic (and monotonous) office environs, the devs should have made steps to emulate F.E.A.R.’s particle-heavy firefights.

Level Design and AI

The level design and AI too, don’t seem to mesh well. Back in 2005, I liked watching the replicas try to outflank and outmaneuver me by running from cover to cover, taking lengthy routes in the hopes of pulling off a sneak attack, and crawling through tight spaces. In F.E.A.R. 2 these aren’t evident. Perhaps they dumbed down the AI or the level design just didn’t present opportunities for the more advanced tactics I listed above. Whatever the reason, this dearth of emergent behavior takes down F.E.A.R. 2 several notches.

The way the levels were constructed also took a hit. Though the sequel exhibits graphics that are way beyond the original game’s, F.E.A.R. 2 is basically one gigantic corridor crawl. The first PC game had some limited backtracking involved and it took you along convoluted paths. The sequel for the most part had some levels that are relatively uninspired.

The last two aspects are what bother me most.

Replica Design - F.E.A.R. 1 vs F.E.A.R. 2

With both events in F.E.A.R. 1 and 2 occurring almost at the same time, why do vastly different-looking Replica soldiers appear in the original and the sequel? The ones who laid siege to the Armacham HQ, the Perseus compound, and the Origin facility look significantly inferior to those who patrol the facilities in F.E.A.R. 2 (the Bio-Research Facility, the Wade Elementary School, etc). This design scheme that the F.E.A.R. 2 clones exhibit whaled away at what little suspension of disbelief I had encased myself in. These clones are supposed to be owned and created by the same company so the wildly deviating armor and weapon designs, for me, come out as unrealistic, even surreal.

Maybe because they’re Variant VIIs, some might argue. But the developers should have peppered the sequel’s levels with the older clones here and there. As it is, sometimes I felt I was playing a game from a different series, something that’s definitely unflattering.

Fast forward to today and the folks who developed F.E.A.R. 3 may have realized this belatedly, having reinstated some of the original clones:

Combat Chatter

And what happened to the combat chatter? Monolith developers were into something when they---intentionally or not---emulated Halo’s combat chatter. In that Microsoft game, the Covenant grunts gave me the feeling that I was a one mean SOB every time they whimpered or shrilled “He’s everywhere!!” In the first F.E.A.R. game some of the combat chatter was not unlike Halo’s. The military clones would have fits of panic and scream “We need reinforcements!!”, “He took out the heavy!!”, or simply refuse to follow orders from their superiors when it’s clear you outclassed them. There you were, facing squads of supersoldiers yet every time you instill panic and fear into them. It was very satisfying.

In the sequel to the PC game, this doesn’t happen. The Variant VIIs are too stiff in their comms, calmly relaying to their comrades the changes in the battlefield. Some might argue that the clones patrolling the Harbinger facility are improved versions. The point is valid. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel as if I’ve purchased a heavy metal LP and then found out that my favorite band has transitioned into alternative music.

I don’t know what happened there. They nailed it right the first time but then proceeded to pry loose most of the nails that would have forged the series into one kick ass, cohesive whole.

Here’s hoping that when I fire up F.E.A.R. 3, the devs have rectified the mistakes they’ve made with the sequel and bring back the series to its award-winning roots.

>>>Click here to

Thursday, June 16, 2011

EA Games Not Launching After Origin Update

So after the first Origin update my EA game---Mass Effect 2---refused to work. The game wouldn't launch when I clicked on its icon on the Origin UI. The screen would flicker for a bit and then a Microsoft error box would pop up. No crashing occurred. The game just simply failed to launch. I scanned the EA support forums and found out many users have the same problem.

The solution after the jump.

The solution is simple. Either:

1. Click on the game's shortcut (on your desktop or the Start menu) or:

2. Navigate to the game's folder and click on its icon there (directly under its root directory or under its "Binaries" folder).

(Note: With Mass Effect 2, click on the "MassEffect2" exe file and not the "MassEffect2Launcher." Doing so launches a window that displays several options including "Play" and "Configure." It's odd but sometimes, it displays the "Game cannot launch because of a misconfiguration. Please reinstall your game and try again" error when you click on the "Play" button. Launching the configuration tool then killing the app fixes this problem as clicking on "Play" once again will launch the game. If your Mass Effect 2 still won't launch, I have an article about the "Game cannot launch because of a misconfiguration. Please reinstall your game and try again" error.

>>>Click here to