When the first F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) released years ago it managed to differentiate itself among the plethora of the crowded shooter genre with its unique scare tactics and engaging storyline centered around a little girl named Alma. It had solid controls and mechanics like slow-motion; while not unseen before, but done very well with a story that kept you pushing forward as long as you were able to in a single sitting without getting too freaked out.
FEARs premise from the beginning was all about a compelling storyline while trying to frighten the player as much as possible. The direct sequel was somewhat of a letdown, so when FEAR 3 was announced, I was hopeful that this would play more like the first and give me those scares I loved when Alma would jump out at the screen even though this is being done by a new development studio.
Well, I hope that youve played the first two FEAR games inside and out because the information about what happened in the first two games is so scarce that a new player to the series isnt going to have any clue at whats going on, whos who and why. FEAR 3 assumes youve played the previous games and will wrap up the loose ties from the first two games rather than help new players (or people who have forgotten) up to speed on whats happened.
Its been nine months since the conclusion of FEAR 2s twisted ending showing Alma using Beckets (protagonist from FEAR 2) body to make herself pregnant. Point Man returns once again who you played in the original FEAR and is on a mission to stop Alma, his mother, from bringing her newest child into the world at all costs. Point Man was captured and put in a prison to be interrogated only to then be rescued by his brother Paxton Fettel (Almas other son and the man Point Man was trying to fight against in the first game). To escape they form an alliance that will undoubtedly be broken shortly, but they need each other to find their mother for their own reasons.
With Point Man no longer helping the F.E.A.R. squad, he is free to do as he likes however he wishes. Fettel is constantly by his side, helping him every step of the way but its unclear why until later on once you learn Alma is soon going to be giving birth. I wont delve too much into the story beyond this, but its somewhat interesting if youve followed the other games. Unfortunately though if you havent, you wont have any idea whos doing what for any reason at all. Also, being made by a new studio, the story itself doesnt seem to have the same impact that Monolith gave it so few years ago. You wont really connect with many of the characters aide from nostalgia and finally seeing the conclusion of Point Man and Fettels relationship in regards to their mother in a short five hour campaign.
Point Man was originally a secret prototype experiment that the Armacham Technology Corporation used Almas womb to give birth to him. Alma was tortured, tormented and had paranormal powers which is why shes seeking revenge from all her pain in the first game. Point Man followed any order given, even those that had him shoot his own brother in the head and set off an explosion in midst of a crowded city.
Fettel was created incase Point Man couldnt be managed or failed his missions. Fettel was under constant testing and psychotherapy which eventually granted him psychonetic powers to control soldiers. Alma had a psychic connection with Fettle though and was actually able to command him through her thoughts. Eventually Point Man shot Fettel and now he exists almost like a spirit but ever go dangerous and potent. Hes now bound to his brother with an unclear agenda. As you complete intervals (chapters) with Point Man you can then replay them as Fettel which is infinitely more fun and entertaining as Point Man plays like almost any other shooter. Fettel on the other hand can use his powers to control enemies, take their bodies, suspend them in midair and more.
If you were a fan of Becket from FEAR 2 youll be happy to know he returns, albeit very briefly and is not given the sendoff he deserved in my opinion, but this is a recurring theme once you see the final credits roll. While I enjoyed the story since Ive been a fan of the series, the story seems to rushed and is in no way as memorable as the previous games.
Point Man plays like most other shooters with access to two separate guns at any given time and a handful of grenades to help clear a path forwards. You have to think a little strategically with what weapons to carry and reserve ammo at times but I never felt like I had the wrong weapons at any time. As mentioned above, playing as Fettel though is a completely different experience, especially when playing co-op with a friend. Fettel can lift enemies in the air for Point Man to shoot or can take over their bodies for a short amount of time and use their equipped weapons. Fettel can also place a shield on Point Man in those hairy situations much like how a Medic in Team Fortress 2 works. With Fettel being completely overpowered and infinitely more enjoyable to play, its simply not as enjoyable to play as your standard Point Man.
There is a cover system ala Gear of War but it is nowhere near as smooth or intuitive. You press B to stick to a wall or cover then either use your triggers or movement stick to peek out and shoot. Sometimes youll forget youre stuck on a wall and cant figure out why you arent able to run forward to your next objective. I guess in a way its good that youre completely attacked to the object, but without pressing the B button again it isnt going to happen.
Youll constantly be gaining xp from single player or multiplayer games by fulfilling objectives and finding secrets. Youll gain xp from maybe reloading 10 times in an interval or using your slow-mo fully three times for example. Complete these mini objectives and youll gain small bonuses such as quicker health regen, more slow-mo, larger ammo count and more.
Level design is very linear and even so, youre somehow able to get lost quite easily since there are no markers or hints telling you the correct direction without trial and error. Some fans will be happy to know that the out of place Mech sections return once again (and are more powerful) though I was never a fan of these sections as they never seemed to fit the original setting.
The most disappointing change to FEAR 3 is the lack of actual fear. The original game was one of those experiences that playing with all the lights off and sound up was a challenge. It was actually scary and gave double meaning to the games title; FEAR. The scariness was toned down quite a bit in the sequel so I had hopes that they would get things back on track with the third title. Unfortunately, it seems that all forms of horror have been taken out of the series as there wasnt a single scare when compared to the first game. Granted, there are creepy bits scattered throughout the campaign but its more creepy than actually scary. Gone are the big boos that made you actually have fear about every upcoming corner and opening doors. Its a shame that FEAR 3 is the tamest of the series as it was one of the nuances that really made it stand out when the original was released.
There is a multiplayer component to FEAR 3 aside from co-op in the campaign but dont expect to find your standard Deathmatch, Team Deatchmatch or Capture the Flag. Surprisingly these standard modes are nowhere to be found and all of the new modes are limited to four players only. In the end Im kind of glad its not just another run of the mill multiplayer that has no depth to it. There are some interesting multiplayer modes but Im curious about the longevity if you dont have friends to play along with.
Soul Survivor mode is almost like a zombie infection mode. One person turn into a corrupted soul and they need to try and defeat and corrupt the other remaining players. They are able to use any of the constant onslaught of npc enemies and take control of their bodies much like Fettel does in campaign. Soul King mode is like a twisted take on Halo Reachs Headhunter mode. Players start off as ghosts that can possess any solider but they need to kill the others and players to collect their souls. Whomever has the most souls at the end of the round wins but this becomes difficult when you die since you lose half your souls.
Contractions mode has you and three friends fending off waves of enemies that seems like a mixture of Zombies from Black Ops and Horde mode from Gears of War 2. As you find supplies outside your home base youll gain access to bigger and more powerful weapons. Between rounds you can fix your barricades just like in Black Ops and rounds start to become quite difficult the further in you go as the fog gets thicker and enemies spawn more frequently.
The last multiplayer mode Ive saved for last as I found this to be the most enjoyable part of all of FEAR 3, campaign included. The mode is actually called F**cking Run and it starts your squad off with a set timer and a checkpoint you need to get to before. The catch is that you have a foggy wall of death right on your heels at all times and you have enemies in your way onto the next checkpoint. Theres no slowing down here to take delicate shots at enemies, if you stop running and someone gets swallowed by the wall of death and the whole match is over. What made this even more interesting is that its not just a simple corridor you need to navigate, its actual city streets and alleyways littered with enemies. Youll even need to go vertically sometimes to the rooftops to make the objectives time. Its a very simple concept but its scary as hell when you can hear the wall right behind you knowing you need to keep running no matter what. The issue I had with the online multiplayer though was actually finding a game; if I wasnt hosting it seemed near impossible to find any games by the time the refresh list was done if I was even able to connect at all.
There are two endings to FEAR 3 (Point Mans or Fettels) depending on who scored better during the intervals playthrough. Both endings were to me vastly underwhelming and unsatisfying that will leave you with more questions than answers; at least the credits roll to Mother by Danzig which is the perfect song to end the series.
There were some things that really bugged me and stood out though that made me really think about what to score the game as a whole. For one, the host of co-op always has to play as Point Man; the only way to play Fettel is to join someone elses game. This seems unneeded and its not explained anywhere either (since there is no instruction book in the actual case).
Lastly, I found it ironic that a game named Fear didnt scare me even once. The horror factor was a big integral part of what made FEAR so good and now it seems that part of the equation is missing unfortunately. While I enjoyed FEAR 3 because Im a fan of the series, I dont think the average person picking this up will know all the missing tidbits of knowledge the game doesnt give you to piece it all together. Honestly, I think that F**cking Run is what saved the whole experience for me (aside from playing as Fettel) and will keep me playing a little but longer. I do hope that the studio that does F.E.4.R. (If it should happen) learns that FEAR is about a story driven horror game with strong characters that shouldnt be killed off without a second thought.