At first glance F.E.A.R 3 looks to be the shootiest shooter on the market, which is saying a lot with games like Black Ops, Homefront, and Halo. There’s shooting in the suburbs, shooting in an airport, shooting in slums, and shooting in sewers. There are some semi-scary non-shooting sections to break it up a bit, but it’s still a very shooty games as even the vehicle sections where very shooty.
That’s not a bad thing as the shooting in the F.E.A.R games is some of the best in the business. Why you ask? Well the folks at Day 1 Studios have managed to retain and build on the great enemy AI from the previous games. When you face large groups of enemies they will attempt to flank you, suppress you with heavy fire, and all kinds of things you don’t see in other shooters. They will actually run away to find better cover if you press them, which I was found out when I had flushed a guy out of cover and had to chase him through two rooms before finally cornering him.
This is helped by how they communicate with each other as you fight them. They will call to each other when they spot you,lose sight of you, and when they are hit. Of course the dialog is laced with expletives but it adds to the effect.
The other great part of the F.E.A.R. combat is the great slo-mo time system that allows you to slow time down, making it easy to accurately place bullets in heads and work your way close to enemies to unleash devastating melee attacks, another staple of the series. The combat is so rock solid that you don’t mind the single mindedness of the game.
Before we get too much further let’s talk about the backstory of the F.E.A.R universe. In the first game
you played Point Man, a member of the F.E.A.R team who’s sent to stop Paxton Fettel. Paxton is a psychic and he’s managed to gain mental control of an army of super soldiers created by the Aramacham corporation. It turns out that things aren’t quite as simple as Point Man and his team are assaulted by supernatural images and it turns out that they are being created by Paxton and his mother Alma.
In a Lucasian plot twist, it turns out that Paxton is Point Man’s brother which makes things a bit awkward when Point Man kills Paxton and then detonates a bomb that was supposed to wipe out his mother and the rest of the F.E.A.R team.
I didn’t play F.E.A.R 2
but after finishing the game and scanning the F.E.A.R 2 wikipedia page, the only thing you need to know about it is that Alma survived the blast and now has a bun in her haunted little oven.
F.E.A.R 3 takes place nine months after the events of F.E.A.R 2. Point Man has been captured by the Armacham and is being held prisoner until he is freed by his brother, who has somehow come back from the dead. Now you must join together and try to save/stop your mother from destroying the world.
Remember how I talked about all the shooting? Well that’s actually only part of the story as the campaign portion of the game can be played three ways. You can play it as Point Man, Fettel, or co-op with a friend. While it’s the same missions and structure, the game plays differently depending on which option you choose. If you choose Point Man, it’s shooting time. If you play as Fettel, then you have a completely different skill set. Fettel can’t use weapons himself but he does have a blast skill that he can use to harm enemies directly and he can pick up and throw things.
Fettel's main skill allows him to possess the bodies of enemies. This lets him use weapons and kill enemies which puts a completely different spin on the game as you have to think about the enemies you possess and how you want to get through a level. You do have to finish a level with Point Man before you can re-play it with Fettel though, which is odd but semi-understandable.
I didn’t get a chance to try the co-op mode but I could see where having the two characters playing together would create some fun opportunities. Part of Fettel’s possession ability allows him to levitate enemies so having one person lift while the other shoots offers some fun possibilities.
The single player campaign isn’t that short either as it took me about seven hours to get through one play through with Point Man and that’s playing the last half of the game on the easy mode. The game does get hard in places, even on the easy difficulty. It doesn’t get controller throwing hard but I will admit to that I had to walk away more than once. The game does encourage replay with the two ways to play through the campaign and it does score your performance along the way so perfectionists will want to go back and try to claim the top spot on the game’s leaderboards.
I do have to give props to the folks at Day One for some of the level design in the game. Chief among them is the third level where it takes place as a bulk food store (think CostCo/Sam’s Club) and features some good scares mixed with some solid action.
Some of the horror/scary levels occasionally venture into cheesy haunted house territory but the game does offer some decent scares and builds suspense in some of the key areas toward the end. That said it would have been nice to have the occasional puzzle or even jumping puzzle to break up the non-stop shooting in the game.
Plot wise the game can be a little hard to follow, especially at the start. The game does clear things up a bit towards the end but I’m still not sure I understood all the story nuances. The game does have different endings depending on which character you play and if you play the game with a partner, be prepared to be judged on how you played it in comparison to your companion.
The game also ships with four multiplayer modes, Fu**king Run, Soul Survivor, Soul King, and Contractions. Since the game was reviewed before release, I could not play with actual people who owned it so these impressions are based on a 60 minute session with members of the PR and development team.
Fu**king Run has you and three compatriots running and gunning through various maps while being chased by an ever moving Wall of Death. If any member of your party touches it, the level ends and you’re forced to re-start. Each dash is about 90 seconds or so in length which doesn’t sound like a lot until you hear and see the wall chasing you.
Soul Survivor and Contractions are twists on the now ubiquitous horde mode. In Contractions you must defend a base against ever increasing waves of enemies. Between each round you can run out and get supplies that produce new weapons and ammo from the surround area. However you don’t want to get caught outside the base as that’s almost instant death (yes, I kept getting caught outside the area).
Soul Survivor is the same thing but with one twist. Instead of facing increasing hordes of enemies, at the start of each round one member of your group is “corrupted” by Alma and must wipe out the party by using the creatures that spawn against the group. It’s a really nice twist that I enjoyed once I figured out what I was doing.
Soul King was the one mode I had the most trouble with as each player starts as a spectre and the goal is to possess the AI enemies in the game. Each possession gains you points that you hold onto until you are killed. Killing someone/getting killed releases half the points which you much rush to take. It’s a little chaotic and a little confusing to get used to but it’s something I could get used to with a little more practice.
For me F.E.A.R 3 was a fairly satisfying experience as the combat in the game is just top notch. There’s something magical about how the AI, Slo-Mo, melee combat, and weapons all work together. It’s not a perfect game as the game’s multiplayer focus is shown by having a single player lobby that games are launched from but it’s still a fun even though it’s a bit grindy in parts and the graphics are a smidge dated in a few sections. It’s an acquired taste, but if you like guns and tight combat it’s one you’ll enjoy.