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Fear Effect Inferno Playstation 2 and its prototypes: the art of video game storytelling

For some people, a videogame is developed solely for profit, and if by some miracle, it actually has real qualities, then that’s great, and we’ll probably greenlight a sequel then. There is always creativity but, what will be the orientation ? Anyone can have a soft spot for any game, but the Fear Effect series is more than a product. They have a soul. Most players got this, they even sensed it.

The FE serie doesn't patronize you, nor does it try to lecture you. They are dark, mature, gory and sometimes twisted, but not without light comedy moments, all for the sake of being a truly unique and an immersive experience, pratically movie-like. The kind of game people are happy to spend their hard-earned cash on.

One particularly uncommon thing I love in non Open World videogames, is the freedom of choice. Mario or Sonic, Sir Arthur, Richterwouldn’t abandon their princesses or let the world die helplessly, just because they felt like it. But in a few video games, you can really choose your destiny. Not only does it enhance the replay value, by offering more variety, by offering more variations,  but it's also interesting to get the chance to enjoy that true freedom of choice. Plus, you are further involved in the moral choices to make.

Wasn't it memorable to ultimately decide to knock out your ex-cop pal, then mister X at the end of Bare Knuckle/Street Of Rage, thus becoming the new crime syndicate boss? With a new ending and a new music theme to boot. With the bonus of an extra ending and its cool dedicated theme? We could also mention Contra Hard Corps too, if you choose to team up with Colonel Bahamut and rule the galaxy together with an iron fist, instead of stopping him. Choose your spouse and thus your child in Phantasy Star III...

Joan Igawa (quoted in italics in this article) began her career in the animation industry as a colorist for the settings of various designs animated on television before branching out into the world of video games. Before working for Kronos Digital Entertainment, she worked on popular games like Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude, Tale Spin or even Cliffhanger, to name a few. Subsequently, she joined Kronos Digital Entertainment and worked on the first 3 games in the Fear Effect franchise. She was a character texture artist and was also responsible for rendering celluloid shading (better known as Cel-shading) which are so impressive in this series. She also did animation for cutscenes. Still involved in the animation industry, she now runs an online Etsy store with unique T-shirt designs: ATOMIC BULL FROG STUDIOS. For our greatest pleasure, she has kindly accepted to answer our questions.

Fear Effect 1

Fear Effect has had other installments, so of course only one ending and one path is canon, but given the fact that the main characters are anti-heroes, it fits so well, and all variations feel credible.  Another important element is the writing team, one of them being Stan Liu (who sadly passed away in November 2017). He had a true vision for the game, and wanted to offer an original experience to the players. He didn’t want people to rush through the game, and didn’t design the game with speedrunners in mind, and instead focused on the experience, and the feelings and emotions you would experience while playing. Hence, that life system based on the character's stress rather than just a life bar, and it changed everything. You could get killed at any point if you were getting nervous and weren’t able to solve an issue in due time, and health recovery items were not available in the game. It adds stress to stress. The life bar is ECG, green yellow, orange and red like in Resident Evil, but it's not the only similarity.

Joan Igawa « I do believe that a game with a compelling storyline, characters as well as graphics and gameplay mechanics make a good, solid game. »

So you have the enjoyment of the third-person view for combat and exploration, inside magnificent pre-rendered backgrounds, in the style of Resident Evil/BioHazard, denoting a real flair for cinematic staging.

« I really liked the fact that Fear Effect was the first of its kind—a 3D anime looking game. I loved the way the texture maps turned out on the models—the fake shadowing worked and no one really noticed. »

Pre-calculated environment (Inferno hospital)

Loop Background Fear Effect.jpg

Stan Liu admired Resident Evil's french biological father. Capcom tried to hide the fact that they knew that game, until 2014, when Mikami Shinji, freed from his legal obligations, confessed. Developped by Frédérick Raynal with Infogrames  the mythical Alone In The Dark (in this regard, this reminds us about a botched attempt to get back to the survival horror genre that Frédérick tried to renew with Agartha on Dreamcast).  Stan mentioned the use of the music and the silence from that game, and its impact on the player's feelings. FE has puzzles; they're usually blended into the story to try to not disrupt the chain of events rather than not breaking the pace. In certain areas the player can progress with stealth, eliminating his enemies silently, but he can also decide to breaks in , blazing guns.

Inferno's City Of The Dead, a touch of Blade Runner

« I liked the Resident Evil type of game mechanics—we were all influenced by that game. »

Artwork Fear Effect Inferno

The crew was inspired by grade A creations, such as cyberpunk gems like Blade Runner, Bubble Gum Crisis 2036 (avoid 2040!), Akira and the surgically precise, choreographed over-the-top violence from John Woo's action masterpieces.  Stan grew up in Hong Kong. Not far from Kowloon Walled City, its architecture was another visual influence.

« Stan probably got a lot of inspiration from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser movie series—he was also a big fan of his books too. »

From the Italian seventies/eighties horror to Ghost In The Shell and many more subtle nods the connoisseurs will notice, with a smirk on their faces. The music composed by Matt Furniss is fantastic. A lot of cultural influences as well, Chinese Mythology, for example. FE blends a lot of different genres and themes, so many that this cocktail could've ended up being sour. But it worked. The world of FE is dark and run by money, it mixes harsh, grounded reality with the supernatural. The story simple at first: the daughter of a billionaire is abducted, your mission is to get her, you struggle against the kidnappers and other parties who want to get her too, and at the end of the story, you're literally fighting the King of Hell's legions incoming to scorch the earth. And crossing zombies in the middle.

« I believe there was interest in making a movie. At one time, Uwe Boll showed interest. Another story was that a Hong Kong filmmaker was also interested creating a movie.»

The main protagonists are grey characters, morally ambiguous anti-heroes, and the quality level of the voice acting is high. We're talking Hollywood's skill level. They all have a troubled past:

The Good

Glas in Fear Effect Inferno

Glas Artwork Fear Effect prototype

Royce Glas sports the Spaghetti Westerns shave and scarf square jawed. His name alone sounds like something transparent, cold and hard. This guy was a man since he was a boy, a Ex military. Part-time suicidal and full-time alcoholic after problems occurred during a suicide mission full of drama and betrayal with his own brother. His sense of loyalty and duty got in the way. This said, he's still a killing machine.

The Bad

Hana Tsu Vachel, born 18 june 2024, is half French, half Chinese. She grew up in a brothel and had to "work" there; she is owned by the triads. Sexy and mouthful, she later changed branch and chose to be a mercenary. She's a skilled pilot, skilled in combat, as Captain Bryant would say: "Talk about the Beauty and the Beast, she's both". However, she will be able to show herself capable of empathy, despite all the scars left by her experience, experiences that she will know how to use to her advantage in certain situations. There is something good inside her, Rain will unearth that good side from time to time. Rain Qin will unearth this positive character trait buried inside her.

Hana in Fear Effect Inferno

Hana Artwork Fear Effect Inferno
Hana Fear Effect Kronos.jpg

The Ugly

Deke in Fear Effect Inferno

Deke Fear Effect Inferno Artwork
Deke Artwork Kronos Entertainment
Fear Effect Inferno Deke.jpg

Jacob "Deke'" Decourt not from the army but taught how to kill during Australian wars, psychotic, sadistic, and sick of SIDEN. A sickness that is important to the plot, at least 700 million people are dying from it, it gave them a four years life span at best, like Nexus 6 Replicants. But Deke is still alive after 8 years... That Aussie who utters politically incorrect dialogues most of the time, is as endearing as the other two, despite the fact that he has less screentime.

« Stan pretty much came up with the idea and storyline and we all went with it. I don’t think anyone was “Team Hana” or “Team Rain”—everyone liked all the main characters in the series. »

These guys feel more genuine than most video game heroes. Stan wanted to develop these characters, so the player would build a bond with them and care for them. That's what was done in the sequel, which is a prequel. Around 800,000 copies were sold worldwide. But the game was not released in Japan. On a side note, some people didn't like the lack of accuracy and tank controls, which can be frustrating sometimes. I prefer a challenge. It turns the game into a memorable experience rather than just another way to kill time. Anyway, Retro Helix was greenlighted.

Fear Effect 2: Fear Effect 2 : Retro Helix

As soon as the Retro Helix subject falls, the infamous marketing campaign scandal will always be mentioned. Stan Liu himself was surprised by the angle chosen but even more surprised by the critics who focused on the erotic and suggestive themes, but he was glad that the sequel was not advertised like it was another Resident Evil clone. He said: "It completely boggles my mind how the ad agency and the media had made such a huge deal out of that, when in the opening cinematic alone, we had genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, prostitution, drug abuse, alcoholism and cold-blooded murder. It kind of gives you a good sense on how deprived our society truly is!".

« I don’t think censorship was a big issue—we thought it was fun to push the envelope to see how far we could take it—and that controversy helped market the game, in my opinion. »

It's rather funny to notice that the people who criticized the sapphic theme back then would praise it nowadays. Besides, the few women on the development team such as Joan Igawa,  wouldn't care either.

Remember that at the time, men represented 90% of the customers, so Eidos choice was logical. The game had so much more to offer than just eye candy and cleavages, but you had to insert the CDs inside the PlayStation and actually play them to enjoy them.

Nil, Glas' ex-girlfriend

Kronos Artwork Fear Effect Inferno

Fear Effect Inferno's unfinished puzzle with subplots...

Rain Hana Puzzle Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

Stan created the beginning of an original love triangle between Hana, Glas and Rain, for the sake of originality rather than ideology. Rain Qin is a new character, introduced in RH, there are hints of Hana and Rain being bisexuals, later confirmed in other games. The three main protagonists will thus become four.

Not only that love triangle is original, but it's also tremendeously dramatic because of Glas's inner conflict: Helping Rain to save Hana from Hell because he loves she, despite the fact that he knows that Hana loves Rain.

Let's introduce Rain Quin, like Hana; she's half Chinese and half Caucasian. Unlike her, Rain's features, inspired by French model Laetitia Casta, leaned more on the Caucasian appearance, blonde, blue eyes. Her origin must be discovered while playing. Unlike Hana, she is naive and has a quiet life, usually reluctant to kill. But she can still show, on rare occasions, a cold and bad side when Hana insists. Tech-savvy, she is the exact opposite of Hana while being one with her, as if they symbolized the Yin and Yang symbol of Chinese mythology, the black part for Hana and the white for Rain.

Rain in Fear Effect Inferno

Rain Fear Effect Inferno prototype
Rain Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

« I really enjoyed creating Hana. Rain’s concept was more Stan’s idea. »

Even if RH was clearly a fruit dropped not too far from the same tree, It was somewhat a different experience because of the gameplay style remained mostly the same, but the game focused more on puzzles solving rather than pure action, perhaps that disappointed some players. New slightly enhanced controls were added, they acknowledged the critics about some very difficult parts due to the controls problem. Graphics used the same excellent Cel-shading style.

Chinese roll puzzle (Inferno)


The scenario continues to develop the protagonists in depth, and the game sheds light on their first meeting, each owning a piece of the puzzle. Glas, a soldier in the American army, recovered a blood sample from one of his brothers in arms after a mission that turned out to be only a double cross based on a serum, his own blood brother even tries to kill him, Glas having no choice but to eliminate him finds himself in a suicidal state of mind. Deke is hired by a sponsor, who asks him to recover a genetic marker for money and a medical intervention which will definitively free him from SIDEN. Hana, who wants to buy her freedom is offered 25 million to infiltrate a Christmas banquet and steal DNA sequences for the triads. They will end up crossing paths in the temple from Xi'an, this is where their amoral side will give a lot of flavor to their interactions.

There are unforgettable sequences, such as playing Wargames against China’s Emperor Qin Zheng (based on the real Emperor Qin Shi Huang, born in 259 BCE). David Roven, a new composer for the series, earns his first video game credit with a brilliant, brand new, powerful score that reinforces the game's overall atmosphere.

Again, the good outweighs the bad. I would say that both games complement each other seamlessly, similar to how the movies Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990) complement each other: different pacing, same spirit. The mature and kinky tone is there, the multiple possible endings are present, and even if the scenario sounds weird, the existential themes—dark, serious, and avant-garde, like the SIDEN epidemic—resonate with recent world events

If you liked the original, Retro Helix is essential. Stan Liu did not compromise. The game was, unfortunately, too ahead of its time and criticized on subjective elements. It 'only' sold 200,000 copies, Japanese release included, but a sequel was still planned.

Fear Effect Sedna

Sedna was a divisive indie game created by Sushee, a team based in the north of France. It was not a risky bet for Square Enix, given that it was crowdfunded. However, with a budget of approximately €107,000, they were forced to make a different type of game: an isometric shoot 'em up reminiscent of Shadowrun.

If I remember correctly, different teams pitched their ideas and concepts with Sushee eventually being chosen. One of the original FE writers, John Zuur Platten, worked on the project too. He said that their story fits the spirit of the franchise, saying the same about Retro Helix too.

As a purist fan of the first two games, I'd say that, like most, I'm frustrated to get a sequel which is so different in style. This is a very different kind of game but at the same time, the concept of supernatural Greenlandic myths and legends is not a bad idea and fits the franchise. The overall atmosphere also fits even though it's a big change from the usual Chinese mythology. It felt great to catch up with our beloved characters too, with so much time having passed since we've seen them in the Inferno vids. The action sequences themselves practically felt like they were just a fun excuse to see these guys back for more. Matt Furniss is back for the music - producing a good, and sometimes great, soundtrack which helps to make up for a reduction in visceral and graphical horror due to the isometric view.

Fear Effect Sedna in-game

Fear Effect Sedna.jpg

If you really love the first two games, and not only for the gameplay, Sedna is worth playing as once again the good outweighs the bad. Even more sexy angles and character outfits would have been welcomed as, even though it's not important to the plot, it's a large part of the original's aesthetics and I think Fear Effects' specific aesthetic is an important and noteworthy pillar of the franchise. Times change but purists don't, and it looks like the beginning of a compromise even though another pillar of this franchise is to be uncompromising. The voice acting quality decreased in this episode and the dialogue had less panache, but that's mostly due to budget constraints...

Fear Effect Sedna promotional renderings

Fear Effect Sedna promo.png

With that said, I agree with Benjamin Ansaume about the (still uneasy) teamwork being an important element of the franchise and Sedna's gameplay is still based on it, only this time it's simultaneous teamwork most of the time. It feels like the development team loved the old games and wanted to please the fanbase as much as they could; that's something we have to respect. I'd recommend playing Sedna at least once

Fear Effect Reinvented (Unreleased)

Sedna's quality was another attempt to create a spark - to check if there was any heartbeat left in this franchise and sure enough, Sedna was successful enough to greenlight a remake of the original. It was supposed to be the same game but with reworked graphics and a choice of two control methods; one that was old school for the original players, and a new control scheme adapted for new players.

A rare screenshot of Fear Effect Reinvented

Fear Effect Reinvented In Game.webp

Story and dialogue too would remain the same with the teaser and couple of gameplay videos shown during a french video game convention looking promising. The only change worth mentioning from them being the ideological breast reduction. At one point Sushee was not in charge of the project anymore and another team worked on it. The concept was changed to become a dull third person cover shooter and all their updates were dreadful, with Glas looking like a Sims! (a fan wrote that one). Deke's face was so wrong and missed his angry stare. I remember writing comments about the fact that they should cancel that project because I believed it would harm the franchise. It wasn't sarcasm

The Fear Effect franchise deserves some respect. Some would argue that Reinvented would've become a hit and helped Inferno get picked up and finished but I guess we'll never know for sure... although I do remember that the number of dislikes was bigger than the number of likes for the official trailer.

Fear Effect Inferno (Unreleased)

We didn't see the cancellation coming - we were so close to getting the game. We got some cutscene videos and a few pictures and the development team gave us some hints about the direction and what to expect. The previews and vids were promising, showing it to be beautiful, dark and sexy. It felt like a perfect sequel which would get the PS2 treatment. 20 years have passed after it was unfairly canceled and It's hard to assess the completion percentage. Fortunately the betas offer a lot of information and provide actual gameplay which was never displayed in motion, only ever photographs. I have to confess that it still hurts when my musings wander back to that time. And I'm certainly not alone

« I can’t remember why it was cancelled—maybe because the first two games only had moderate success and very little marketing. It was disappointing because after that, Kronos had to scramble to secure another project to keep running. Unfortunately, we couldn’t.»

An unexpected death


In this new sequel, taking place after the first game, Hana was to be killed while trying to snuff out the triad boss, Minkz, who owns her and refuses to let her go despite Hana having the money to buy herself out. She hires Glas, Deke and Rain for the mission. Hana is now in a kind of purgatory and her final fate is yet to be decided, depending on the player choices and the chain of events

« That was Stan’s idea—I guess because it was an attention getter—killing off the main character in the beginning—that would intrigue a lot of players to to find out what happens. I liked the idea of Hana in Hell—more creative monsters, characters which would have been really fun to create. »

The gameplay is much smoother as promised, designed for action. Skin animation is more stylized, and less rigid. The puzzles are still present, as is the mode where we embody a minion of the triads who fights Deke. The technical upgrade due to the upgrade from PS1 to PS2 is unmissable and successful with pre-rendered backgrounds mixed with 3D, for optimum visual splendor. Hand-to-hand combat is simplified but varied with a button to chain punches or kicks, a grab, a primary weapon and a secondary weapon. The chance to finish off enemies lying on the ground without the slightest mercy exists, with Hana being given a lethal throat slit, Deke a devastating neck break (as a nod to the first game) and a good old wrestling 'elbow drop' for Glas.

« I can’t remember how many people were working on the game—maybe 25 to 30 people. I think we might have been halfway done with the game before it was shelved. »

Areas are either vividly colored or dark but always sinister, as usual. The triad harem, the psych ward (you're gonna love the Lethal Weapon 2 reference out there), the abandoned city, Rain's apartment with the rain pouring on the windows... Inferno is nothing short of perfection, the continuity with the first two games is total. The characters will have to make choices, and the chain of events will be impacted by those. The ending is, as usual, great and surprising with a brief appearance from Lucifer himself.

« The main bad guy was named after Stan’s buddy Minkz. »

In the colorful alleys of the Mansion

Mansion Fear Effect 3.jpg

The voice acting quality is very high too. Hana is voiced by Wendee Lee, who voiced Faye in Cowboy Bebop. The voice actors for Glas and Deke are unknown to me, but they perform their lines well

Have fun with these betas, but be aware that by doing so the frustration of not seeing them wonderfully completed and released will grow even bigger.

Fear Effect Inferno must be completed and made available. I believe that it can be done without any kind of financial risk, maybe using another crowdfunding? More than ever, we need videogames which dare, there is a real interest in reviving this franchise. For the newbies, don't wait to play these games and enjoy liberty of tone  and an old-school approach in video games, which, who knows, could disappear for good in the future. If you don't feel like playing, go watch the long plays on YouTube. You're still there?

Text by : fred_derf

Fear Effect Inferno and its prototype of April 16, 2003

This build of Fear Effect Inferno PlayStation 2, a treasure trove for fans of the Fear Effect franchise and for lovers of narrative games, dates from April 16, 2003 at 11:27:22 (timestamp in the main menu). Given the scope of the project, the scale of its development and the complexity of Kronos Digital Entertainment's game, it's hard to estimate the percentage of its development before cancellation: probably 50%. A postponement of its release to 2004, originally scheduled for 2003, would have been inevitable. The work put in by members of the Dev Team in writing, scripting, sketching, storyboarding and programming is considerable and of high quality, despite the fact that we're only playing a prototype version, with all its innumerable flaws.

The main menu, everything happens here

Main Menu Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

Placeholder of a map using a presentation from the pause menu

Placeholder Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

We want to see more Cutscene (Placeholder)!

Cutscene Placeholder Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

Unplayable Looping Background (greyboxing)

greyboxin video game Fear Effect.jpg

Rain's back kick in library 2 (*Greyboxing)

greyboxing Fear Effect Inferno PS2.jpg

Map just playable without volume (White Boxing)


The Placeholder of the "Load" option

Option Fear Effect 3 PS2.jpg

Model of Rain "Rags" crashing the game while playing it

Rain Rags Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

Lisa Dergan

Lisa Dergan Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

Puzzle not accessible in game (Mansion)

Mansion Puzzle Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

Trailer of Fear Effect Inferno prototypes

Eidos, the project's original publisher and financial backer, did not wish to continue development of Fear Effect Inferno on PlayStation 2 for mysterious reasons. Stan Liu and his team, in search of a new publishing house to bring their project to fruition, turned to SEGA in the hope of continuing the FEI adventure under the banner of the blue hedgehog’s firm. Sega of America, after *evaluation of the game, unfortunately did not want to take the risk of publishing it. The obscure provenance of one of the Fear Effect Inferno PS2 prototypes supports this hypothesis.

*When evaluating a video game, the choice of whether or not to support it is based on criteria such as its quality, its relevance to the market, its integration into the publisher's portfolio and the latter's business plans. Putting a publisher's financial and human resources at the service of a title means that every team (Marketing, QA...) will be involved. This means choosing carefully, and remembering that even virtually unknown titles with modest sales targets absorb the same amount of resources as big projects. As SEGA had incredible in-house development teams at the time (Sonic Team, AM2....), it was difficult for outside developers to compete for the same publishing resources.

It's a rare find not to be highlighted, but this version of Fear Effect Inferno includes complete debugging symbols. For Reverse Engineering aficionados, this data is a key to opening the game's code through the debugging symbols. This involves, for example, additional information on the activation of debugging modes exclusive to the title. The Alpha version of Space Channel 5, a similar case recently discovered on Dreamcast, also contained debugging symbols. According to the preliminary report on the inspection of the build files by Team Wulinshu's LemonHaze, it is possible to extract the game source code, the engine source code and the audio engine source code, at least in part.

Fear Effect Inferno's "RenderWare" engine is the same used in Rockstar Games' best-selling games such as GTA III, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas, Liberty City Stories, Vice City Stories and Bully.

A little videogame history, the "RenderWare" engine was coded by the programmers at Criterion Games. The British development studio, world-famous for its Burnout license (see the Japanese Unreleased version of Burnout 1 here), also sold it as a generic turnkey engine.

The developers made a custom PlayStation 2 module for FEI audio called "AUDIOPS2. IRX", a process unique to Kronos. The audio device doesn't just play the music, it modifies its behavior according to the number of "angry" enemies in the player's vicinity. The rhythm changes, amplifies, according to events unfolding on screen, in harmony with the unrivalled health system of the characters in the Fear Effect series.

Fear Effect Inferno is not linearly playable, in other words, from A to Z. Performance is less than optimal, without being catastrophic. An engine error message signals game crashes. These occur, for the most part, when the prototype attempts to load problematic or non-existent files. Freezes, sometimes avoidable, occur on terrains using the *blockout realization process. Fixes, injected into the build from the "Cheat Engine" program, created by LemonHaze, correct some of these inconveniences marring the gaming experience.

On the second pass through the library on level "Mansion (A)", the prototype displays the perimeter of the library and its decorative objects in a rudimentary but recognizable way, albeit without any real textures (*greyboxing, blocking out, *blockout, whiteboxing). The full-3D area is playable but unstable. Looping Backgrounds on the "City of The Dead (E)" level, employing the same manufacturing secret, are not so lucky - they're impracticable!

*Greyboxing (or *blockout) is an iterative, creative and exploratory process that involves blocking out a concept at an approximate level, using simple geometric shapes and replacement geometry to test ideas before working out the details.

Other areas of Fear Effect Inferno are not set in volume. Textures similar to a red/black or white/black checkered flag mark out the future perimeter of the terrain that the character can walk on. In these few examples, the Kronos programmers placed primitives (basic elements in computer programming language) to represent the final shape of the level. This process, known as "White Boxing", meant they didn't have to wait for the artists to make the actual content of the zone. In a way, they were sketching out the zone in the making, not with pencil and paper, but with code.

An unidentifiable software error compromises the loading of the 3D environment "The Butcher Room". "The Baccart Room", another hazardous area, loads on a black background with a few decorative components visible in the distance. The Debug Menu's collision options allow you to "visualize" its configuration.

A large number of "Placeholders" (temporary elements used during game development in place of final elements) replace cutscenes, multiple-choice selection screens, gameplay, zones and even the music ("01. Title Theme"), which is the one already heard on the title screen of Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix PlayStation 1.

Placeholders images from the Minkz Mansion security system turn out to be funny, especially the one of Lisa Dergan, Playboy magazine's playmate for July 1998.

The prototype doesn't allow you to meet certain NPCs, enemies and even the 4 heroes with their characteristic clothing or during their transformation in the FEI scenario in a natural way, i.e. as you progress through the game. The "Model Viewer" tool in the Main Menu supports their 3D models.

Most of the options in the rudimentarily laid-out Pause Menu do not work. Setting the volume of music or sound effects is impossible. Among other things, the game doesn't allow players to quit a game from it. Fortunately, a button combo allows you to return to the Main Menu. The "Load" option contains the informative message "Mmm. Placeholder", which says it all!

The game treats puzzles as Looping Background. For this reason, even if they cannot be completed for a number of reasons (not related to the story, still in Placeholder in game, incomplete, etc.), the "Movie Viewer" tool in the Main Menu and sometimes the "Current view" option in the Debug Menu show a preview of them.

Rather than using pre-rendered 2D backgrounds, Fear Effects' environments are composed of continuous or looping video. The player moves from scene to scene using a process called Looping Background (the camera is fixed and frames the scene like a film) along a predefined path, following the example of Resident Evil or the father of Survival Horror, Alone in the Dark. Fear Effect Inferno continues the formula of previous episodes, incorporating, for the first time, Full-3D environments. Initially, the game from the team led by Stan Liu was to feature only LBs. During development, perhaps prompted by the publisher's desire to compete with upcoming productions on Sony's new console and to fully exploit the capabilities of the PlayStation 2, plans changed and the developers decided to transform some of the pre-calculated scenery already designed into fully 3D zones. The remnants of almost all 3D Looping Background environments have not been removed and can be accessed, in story mode but unplayable in 99.5% of cases, by manipulating the "Current View" option in the Debug Menu. Alternatively, you can view them from the cutscene viewer.

Looping Background of the kitchen and its final 3D rendering

Kronos Fear Effect Loop Background.jpg
Kitchen 3D Fear Effect Inferno.jpg

Looping Background of the aquarium and its final 3D rendering

Aquarium Fear Effect Inferno.jpg
Aquarium map Fear Effect PS2.jpg

Referring to the Scripts and Storyboards of the cutscenes, some are incomplete when they are not simply placeholders. Camera shots and details important to understanding the events taking place and even the game's overall plot are missing. A mansion cinematic is a mix of sequences from two cutscenes to temporarily form one.

Far from being finished with all the problems that entails, the pleasure of playing Fear Effect Inferno is genuine. Going through it in length and breadth, consolidated by an massive amount of conceptual material to consult (214 ~ Script, 1597 ~ extracts of Storyboards, 389 ~Artworks), offers an enthralling experience.

The levels of Fear Effect Inferno

Fear Effect Inferno's zany scenario and sensational film sequences increase the player's immersion in an ambiguous story rich in twists and turns. Strange sensations will run through the player's body as he surveys the 4 levels that make up the Kronos title. FEI's developers play with viewers' emotions, plunging them in turn into feelings of sadness, anger, euphoria, anguish and wonder. Everything is an illusion, even death, whether in the corridors of Mansion (A), the maze of Hospital (B), the landscapes of Shan Xi (D) or the alleyways of City Of The Dead (E).

Mansion (A)

The first level takes place in the Minkz mansion, a complex where life is good. There's so much to do here, who wouldn't succumb to the pleasures of the flesh? Hana, Rain, Deke and Glas aim to infiltrate the Triad leader's residence, eliminate him and free Hana from his grip. Tragedy will punctuate their high-risk mission, a major turning point in the plot of Fear Effect Inferno.

The level is complete and playable from start to finish. Biff (Guard), the character to play as at the start of the journey through the mansion's corridors, lends a touch of humor to the game. It's a pity his appearance is brief. Gameplay mechanics are missing from the second passage through the aquarium, and probably elsewhere too. Reviewing the Storyboards and Scripts for the area, water would fill the room in which a hungry shark would devour Deke. Mansion (A) timidly introduces the notion of multiple choices, with a temporary selection screen leading to two cutscenes that are almost identical except for one detail. 95% of the cutscenes are present without necessarily being finalized.

Biff is the best

Kronos Digital Entertainment Fear Effect Inferno.jpg
Fear Effect Inferno Mansion Walktrougth.png

Hospital (C)

In the second level, Hana fights for survival. As she plunges into the abyss of a hospital where death and life are intertwined, what she thought was a waking nightmare turns into an unbelievable truth. Inside this cursed place, the scriptwriters give free rein to their desires and their wild imagination. The comings and goings in the hospital's aseptic corridors testify to the richness of the Script in this Kronos Digital Entertainment production. Fear Effect Inferno's narrative never ceases to amaze.

The Angel of Death

The most accomplished level of all, it can be played from Hana's room to the battle against the master of the house, the Underworld Ferryman. This time, the player will enter the level in command of an angel of death in the person of Helga (Nurse), providing plenty of variety. 98% of the cinematics are present but not necessarily completed. Well-conceived puzzles will captivate puzzle buffs. References to 80s/90s horror cinema, from Poltergeist to The Thing, will delight discerning cinephiles. Without a doubt, "Hospital (C)" is a total success. There's just one flaw: it's all too quickly dispatched, in around 40 minutes...

Helga Fear Effect Inferno.jpg
Fear Effect Inferno Hospital Walktrougth B.png

Shan Xi (D)

In the third level of Fear Effect Inferno, Glas, Rain and Deke wake up from nightmares about Hana with scratch marks on their arms. They decide to go to "Shan Xi (D)" knowing a portal to Hell has been created that Hana triggered by killing Madame Chen in the first episode of the series. Glas relives the incident that cost him his left arm, while Deke recalls his assassination by the demonic Chen. As for Rain, she's determined to get to the place where the damned suffer eternal punishment.

The level is partially playable. As the "MCHEN" boss's combat mechanics are not implemented (no code) in the prototype, he will remain undefeated. His unintentional invincibility prevents progress in the "Shan Xi (D)" timeline. By selecting and then bringing the character into the correct Looping Background using the Debug Menu's "Current view" option, this process allows the level's plot to be picked up just before its final conclusion. This technique renders a large explorable portion of the ancient Chinese city impassable, from a storyline point of view. 90% of Shan Xi (D)'s cinematics are placeholders describing the ending of the cinematic with a brief explanatory text displayed on screen. The notion of multiple choices, in embryonic form, makes a comeback at the start of the level. Depending on the choice made, Glas will either prove gallant or take advantage of Rain's distress...

Rain in a little dress


Strolling through Shan Xi (D) and solving the Chinese scroll puzzle provides a tantalizing preview of the level. In the Asian city's full-3D environments (World Viewer), it's entertaining to pilot Glas with his left arm cut off (Outfit: One Arm) or Deke with a stake driven through his right eye (Outfit: Spike). The cinematics, in which their misadventures occur, do exist. In the final analysis, starting the level as Rain, dressed in sexy lingerie after a naughty romp with Glas, at the player's discretion and based on their previous decision, is worth it just for that!

City Of The Dead (E)

At the end of the fourth level, "City Of The Dead", the four protagonists all die waiting for their judgment, on a moving chair, by Yim Lau Wong aka The King Of The Underworld, Jin's true identity. Hana then uses her supernatural eyes to travel back in time and prevent her own death in "Mansion (A)". Incidentally, an abomination wrapped in the body of a surgeon wanted to take over Hana's eyes in the hospital. Fortunately, it doesn’t succeed. Just goes to show that even the smallest detail in Fear Effect Inferno is decisive!

The "City Of The Dead (E)" level is fragmentary. Unlike the other three, which are partially or fully operational, this evil metropolis appears to be explorable only, just about. Looping Backgrounds (from E113L to E120L) are unfinished, perhaps based on the greyboxing process, and not linked to the game in any conventional way. The only way to access them is from the "Movie Viewer" in the Main Menu. Enemies are positioned at key points in the level, while bosses do not occupy their respective battle arenas, as their models are not found in the prototype files. Puzzles, which can only be accessed via the Debug Menu's "Current View" option, are confusing due to their incompleteness. In the casino, trying to play the Black Jack mini-game will result in an engine error message. The game doesn't retrieve the right data. In short, there is no progression curve in the level scenario.

Hana poses for a photo


Moving around in one of the Looping Backgrounds of the brothel, when this area will eventually be shaped in full-3D, is imaginable despite a deplorable collision system. This is the only playable LB reworked in 3 dimensions. To access the 3D version, use the "World Viewer" tool. The build will load its pre-calculated 2D background and not its 3D map in the "Shan Xi (E)" story mode.

The Looping Background of the brothel and its final 3D rendering, not forgetting its sketch

whorehouse Fear Effect concept
City of the dead Fear Effect Inferno.jpg
Brothel Fear Effect Inferno Playstation.jpg

It's heartbreaking not to be able to see more and take full advantage of the citadel of the World of Darkness, knowing that the level has the most conceptual material of all. If only it were possible to watch cutscenes...

Arena (B)

Added to this is an "Arena (B)" game mode based on a ranking, scoring and survival system. Kronos Digital Entertainment had never communicated on this subject. The character, only Hana in "Matrix" clothing, must defeat 32 waves of enemies (information scattered throughout the FEI code) without perishing in the morgue of "Hospital (C)". It's imperative to manage ammunition sparingly and use the heroine's hand-to-hand combat techniques. The game mode is crudely packaged, from the interface to the score calculation. At this stage of Fear Effect Inferno's development, this game mode doesn't end with the player's high score table like other games opting for Scoring. After the 32nd wave, enemies will continue to appear endlessly.

Like a John Woo movie


The final phase of Hana's journey will see her revisit the Minkz mansion. This crucial stage, which can be considered the fifth and final level of the game, brings Fear Effect Inferno's narrative arc to a fitting conclusion. She will avoid the tragedy at the start of the game, which plunged her and her friends into an extraordinary adventure where reality rubbed shoulders with the paranormal.

Emulation and bug fixes for Fear Effect Inferno

Important : Only the "PCSX2" emulator has been tested to play Fear Effect Inferno prototypes. Some versions of this open source PlayStation 2 emulator do not support them correctly. If the character doesn't load when starting a new game in "Mansion (A)", the currently installed version of "PCSX2" prevents the game from running properly, so you may need to use an earlier version of the software. No malfunctions to report with the French version 1.4.0 of the emulator, whereas 1.6.0 causes problems. Please contact me privately for further information.

Recurring bugs cause the game to crash with warnings from the "RenderWare" engine. These anomalies thwart progression through levels or scrolling through their environments from the "Current View" option in the Debug Menu. Team Wulinshu's LemonHaze (many thanks to him) has provided "Fixes" to inject in-game with the "Cheat Engine" program to get around some of them. Here's how it works:

For the best possible gaming experience with Fear Effect Inferno, launch the April 2003 build on "PCSX2", then open the "Cheat Engine" program. Select the "Select a process to open" icon next to the folder icon in the top left-hand corner, then choose the PlayStation 2 emulator logo. Perform a "First Scan", remembering to check the "Hex" box beforehand. Then click on "Add Address Manually" in the bottom right-hand corner. In the window that opens, paste the corresponding code "XXXXXX" in the "Address" box, then click OK to confirm. You'll return to the main "Cheat Engine" screen, with the number you previously entered at the bottom. By double-clicking under "Value", you can choose the value of the code.

  • To repair the constraining bug in "Mansion (A)" that hinders level completion, change the value of address "2021BBFC" to 0.
  • To repair a confusing bug in "City Of The Dead (E)" restricting exploration of the level by scrolling through its environments with the Debug Menu's "Current View" option, change the value of address "2021D89C" to 0.

Cheat Engine & Fear Effect Inferno

Cheat Engine Fear Effect 3 Playstation 2.jpg

Saving a game with the "Fixes" made to the prototype also seems to save them for future play without the need to open the "Cheat Engine" again. As a precaution, every time you launch your emulator and want to enjoy Fear Effect Inferno, repeat the bug fixing process. The "Fixes" described above only apply to the April 2003 prototype and PCSX2.

We tried to remove other errors from the prototype without success, such as the crash caused by the 3D map "The Butcher Room". The result of the "Patch" for Hana's "Rags" garment was unsatisfactory, with the garment distorting on screen and not adding any value to the "City Of The Dead (E)" level.

Fear Effect Inferno's Debug Menu, Main Menu and Development Options

An introduction to Fear Effect Inferno begins with an understanding of how it works and the methodology behind its construction. Once this information has been assimilated, the Debug Menu, Development Options and Main Menu become easier to use. As the build is very specific, you'll need to use these developer-only tools regularly to get to grips with the game, or you'll miss out on a lot.

Codification of 3D zones


Footage of Fear Effect Inferno

Code of the Looping Background


Each cutscene and Looping Background has its own unique code, both in the prototype files and in-game. The first letter corresponds to the level: "A" for Mansion, "B" for Arena, "C" for Hospital, "D" for Shan Xi and "E" for City Of the Dead. The last letter refers to the design of the sequence, "N (Narrative)" for a cutscene and "L (Loop)" for a "Looping Background". The numbers between the two letters refer to the sequence number in the level. For full-3D environments, the Kronos developers have added a "3D" designation between the first letter and the digits of the code. Puzzles are considered "Looping Background". The same nomenclature links Scripts and Storyboards to their respective cinematics.

Once understood, the Fear Effect Inferno architecture is elementary and effective. Kronos' gameplay seems modular, and needs to be explored further...

Main Menu (the essentials)

The prototype arrives directly at the Main Menu, which is basically laid out without having to go through the traditional Splash Screen presentation of the editor, studio and copyrights. This is the entry point for exploring this Unreleased. The menu's central parameters for making the most out of Kronos Digital Entertainment’s work:

The 3D zone selector

Unreleased Fear Effect Inferno Viewer.jpg

The Cutscenes viewer

  • The first option in the Main Menu allows, among other things, to launch the desired level of the story mode by selecting "Level XXXXXXX (X)". It also allows the player to use tools such as the "Movie Viewer (view all Fear Effect Inferno cutscenes directly)" and the "Model Viewer (observe the 3D models in the game from all angles)". The "World Viewer", meanwhile, is a map selector that brings together all FEI's full-3D terrains for immediate play.

  • The "Save Game" option lets you load one of the 8 savegames allowed by the build.

Movie Viewer Kronos Fear Effect 3 PS2.jpg
  • The "Character" option gives a choice of 6 playable characters: Hana, Glas, Rain, Deke, Biff and Helga. Some of these cannot be played anywhere, as the engine will indicate this with an error message.

  • The "Outfit" option lets you dress the designated character in the outfit of his or her preference. Clothing styles cause an engine warning message if loaded in an unwarranted area. Ripped "RAGS" clothing bugs.

The developers were undoubtedly assembling Fear effect Inferno before it was cancelled. As a result, some components, such as enemies, which can be identified in the prototype files, have not yet been integrated into the game. You will need to use the options listed above to view them.

The Free Camera option (the essentials)

To take advantage of this option, the view must be set to Third Person Shooter. Free Camera can only be used in full-3D environments. How to take beautiful screenshots :

The tool for visualizing game models (Hana as a whore)

Model Viewer Fear Effect Inferno.jpg
  • Right Analog Stick Directions: Turn with the camera around the character, which is its axis of rotation.

  • Hold R3 + Left or Right directions on the Right Analog Stick: Move the camera away from or towards the character.

  • Hold R3 + the Up or Down Directions on the Right Analog Stick:  Orient the view from top to bottom, and vice versa. The camera remains on a fixed point.

  • Hold L1 + Hold X: Move the camera forward.

  • Hold L1 + Hold Triangle: Move camera backwards.

  • Hold L1 + D-Pad Directions: Turn the camera around the character at reduced speed.

The "Free Camera" option is extremely complex to operate. Other button combos, often associated with the "L1" key, exist with different camera movements.

The Development Options

Originally, what has come to be known as "Cheat Codes" was really just a series of development options that developers were unable to disable properly. Thanks to these options, the most popular of which is "God Mode", quality control was able to quickly test sections of the game without having to complete a full game or navigate through difficult gameplay. Designers sometimes failed to differentiate sufficiently between QA and Final versions, and mistakenly left them out. Production teams then expanded, and hardware became more powerful, enabling entire operating systems (Debug Menu) to be integrated into games to facilitate the development process. This Fear Effect Inferno prototype contains a number of non-cheating features:


  • SELECT: Toggle the player's view between Third Person Shooter and the game's default Survival Horror view, in full-3D zones only.

Light editor

Light Editor Fear Effect Kronos.jpg
  • L1 + L2: Exit a game to return to the Main Menu.

  • L1 + Triangle : Open the light editor window. Use the arrows on the D-Pad to navigate the screen. By holding down the "L2" key and then using the "Left" or "Right" directions on the D-Pad, the values in the columns of the "Color" and "Rotation" lines increase or decrease.

  • SELECT + L1: Display the character in the desired location.

Additional button combos to manipulate the game in depth are still potentially lurking, who knows, to silence the music or pause cutscenes...

The Debug Menu (the essentials)

The Debug Menus are designed to modify in real time what developers want while the game is playing. 4 sub-categories divide it up: "General", "Player", "AI" and "Collision". Press the "L2" or "R2" buttons to switch from one submenu to another. Key points to remember:

Debug Menu (General)

Deke Fear Effect Inferno Debug Menu.jpg

Debug Menu (Player)

Glas Fear Effect Inferno Debug.jpg

Debug Menu (AI)

AI Debug Menu Fear Effect Hana.jpg

Debug Menu (Collision)

Fear Effect Inferno PS2 Debug Rain.jpg
  • "Current View" in the "General" submenu: Examine all sequences in a level (Looping Background, Puzzle, etc.).

  • "Objectives" in the "General" sub-menu: Delete cutscenes and story progress from the level or zone. This option is also available in the Main Menu.

  • "Save Game" from the "General" submenu: Save a game from the 8 available slots.

  • "DisplayViewNum" in the "General" submenu: Shows the sequence code displayed on the screen.

  • The "Players" sub-menu: The equivalent of Cheats such as infinite ammunition, invincibility and so on.

Now you know all you need to know to venture out in Fear Effect Inferno’s world and get the most out of the game. Let's get ready for an extraordinary experience!

You can download this build of Fear Effect Inferno PlayStation 2 below:

Fear Effect Inferno (April 16, 2003 Playstation 2 Prototype)

The Fear Effect Inferno archive

The 2000s were a bloodbath for the video game industry, despite the arrival of Microsoft in the console wars. The fall of SEGA and the bursting of the Internet bubble were no strangers to this. Even Ubisoft was on the verge of closure. Many titles were cancelled, often for unjust reasons, on sixth-generation consoles. Amateur archivists are trying to unearth these Unreleased titles to play them, but above all to pay tribute to the game and the development studio behind it.

The FEI archive


Fear Effect Inferno PlayStation 2 is unfortunately one of them. Developed by Kronos Digital Entertainment, the reasons for its cancellation remain unknown. Sources believe that its publisher "Eidos", then in the midst of a change of policy for its quality assurance program, did not feel the game's quality was high enough to pursue development. Other hypotheses suggest that FEI's development was not progressing fast enough. Stan Liu and his team were never able to find a buyer to finalize the project. When Eidos abandoned the project, the studio closed shortly afterwards.

Today, more than 20 years after its cancellation, this particular Release written as a "Strategy Guide Book" lists thousands of conceptual materials and two Fear Effect Inferno PS2 prototypes freely downloadable. This article serves as the homepage for the "Hell" preservation project dedicated to Kronos' game.

Enjoy reading the Scripts, viewing the Artworks and Storyboards and, above all, playing the game!

Scripts, Storyboards and Artworks

A video game scriptwriter is at the origin of the game's story, one of its most important elements. They write the dialogue to be interpreted by the characters, create a coherent universe, define the events that will take place, and design the flow and plot of a video game. Presented in the form of Scripts, a game's scenario will captivate the player and immerse them in the story of the development studio's future production.

Based on the chosen concept and the game rules listed in the Game Design documents (this process is covered and explained in detail in the Vectorman Playstation 2 release), the Scenarist's work begins. It's up to them to determine the type of narrative. Writing for a video game is similar to writing for the cinema, with its own specific aspects. It must take into account the technical nature of the game, industry codes and the ever-changing expectations of gamers.

Once the Scripts have been finalized, it's the Storyboarder's turn to take over. His task is to create visual shots that describe character actions, camera movements, visual effects and much more. Storyboards (SBs) will capture the essence of the cutscene story and help the rest of the team to capture it reliably. The layout of a SB resembles that of a comic strip, with each thumbnail representing a camera shot. The suggested order is that of the final cut. They are used to assess the readability of the story before the in-game cutscenes are produced.

A Script of Shan Xi (D029N)

Script Fear Effect Inferno PS2 Shan Xi.jpg

It's important to understand what a Storyboard is, as it can be confusing. A SB is the description of an entire sequence (cutscene). It is made up of several numbered shots. Each shot is drawn by a number of sketches, depending on the complexity of the scene. Sometimes there's just one sketch if it's a still shot or if nothing much is happening, such as a close-up of the hero's eyes. Each drawing represents the camera frame.

Shan Xi's D029N cutscene storyboard with in-game rendering

Storyboard Fear Effect Inferno
Unreleased Fear Effect Inferno Shan Xi.jpg
Cutscene Shan Xi Fear Effect Inferno.jpg
Fear Effect Storyboard
Fear Effect Inferno Storyboard
Shan Xi Fear Effect Inferno Cutscene.jpg
Playstation 2 Fear Effect Cutscene.jpg

The Script already gives an idea of the length of a cutscene. Developers set the approximate length of a cutscene before designing it, mainly for production cost reasons. A pre-rendered sequence is expensive to produce. For budgetary reasons, some studios prefer cutscenes made with the "in-game" engine, which are more affordable to produce. 2-minute trailers quickly add up to millions!

The Scriptwriter and Storyboarder complement each other. They work indirectly in tandem, even if these two stages in the creation of a video game don't take place at the same time. Back and forth between one and the other is frequent. The better the scripts are written, the faster the storyboards will be drawn.

Given the complexity of Fear Effect Inferno's storyline, it's hardly surprising that it took 6 months to write. As for their Storyboards, the Scripts being well written, the artist in charge of making them could have pencilled 2 minutes of cutscene (40 extracts of 2 drawings making up the SB) per day.

Scripts, Storyboards and prototypes all added up, the cost of developing Fear Effect Inferno was high. Kronos’ dev team's expertise was obvious!

Storyboards Fear Effect Inferno Mansion.png
Storyboard Fear Effect Inferno Hospital.png
Shan Xi Storyboard Fear Effect.png
City of the dead storyboard fear effect inferno.png
Artwork Fear Effect Kronos.png

The Homemade Fear Effect Inferno PlayStation 2 cover

A homemade Fear Effect Inferno cover has been designed to celebrate the release of the game's information, Scripts, Storyboards, Artworks and prototypes 20 years after its cancellation. The discovery of an Unreleased should be celebrated with a festive fanfare in its honor and thank all those who worked on it.

Fear Effect Inferno Playstation 2 Cover.jpg

Home-made English cover for Fear Effect Inferno, designed by Benedikt Scheffer.

  • Download the Fear Effect Inferno PlayStation 2 Homemade Cover.

  • To print the cover, open the PDF and choose "print full size" in the dialog box.

  • The PDF is the right size, so you can dress up your game!

You can download this Fear Effect Inferno PlayStation 2 Homemade Cover below:

Cover Homemade de Fear Effect Inferno PS2

Other Fear Effect Inferno prototypes with a dedicated page

These Fear Effect Inferno PS2 prototypes are very special. For this reason, a page is dedicated to them, detailing their particular features (a build analysis).


I'd like to thank Joan Igawa: for her availability, her kindness, for taking the time to answer my questions and even more. Her testimony takes us back in time to the development of Fear Effect PlayStation 1 and Fear Effect Inferno PS2!

We'd like to thank the team at Kronos Digital Entertainment (Mobygames link to Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix) involved in the Fear Effect Inferno project for their efforts in bringing a new, exciting episode to PlayStation 2. We can only feel sorry for them that they couldn't follow through on their desires and creations!

Special thanks to:

  • LemonHaze (from Team Wulinshu) for digging through the game files and creating the “Fixes

  • Benedikt Scheffer for creating the Fear Effect Inferno PS2 Cover

  • Vince proofreading the english articles

  • Hicks proofreading the french articles

  • fred_derf who wrote the introduction for the main page

  • La Rétrogamerie for their help with writing some articles, especially the Walkthroughs

  • Didier Chanfray (Art Director at No Cliché) for his explanations about the Storyboards

  • Joan Igawa (Character Texture Artist at Kronos Digital Entertainment) for her kind replies to my questions

Feel free to have a look at the "other Unreleased games" I found" For the more curious among you, I created a "List of all the unreleased games of the Dreamcast".

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