Since its debut in 2006, the F.E.A.R. franchise has managed to capture the minds of many gamers despite the plethora of first person shooters available on the market. The atmosphere, the joys of racking up kills in slo-mo, Alma...these elements among others paired with an interesting story arc made F.E.A.R.3 an highly anticipated game for fans.
It doesn’t mean that shooter lovers in general won’t appreciate what Day 1 Studios accomplished but in order to fully understand the latest entry in the franchise, a little knowledge of the series is required. But if playing a game that will glue you in front of your TV set in a dim room at Midnight is what you’re looking for, then by all means, let this one take you for a ride.
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin ended with the playable character (Michael Becket) being used by Alma to impregnate herself. Point Man, the protagonist from the first game who is also Alma’s son, leads a squad to stop that baby from being brought into the world. However, things don’t go so easy for him once his long forgotten, deceased brother - Paxton Fettel (another fan-favourite F.E.A.R. character) - comes back as a spectre with the intent to convince Point Man to let their little sibling be born. Now that you are all caught up on the rather complex storyline, you’ll be happy to know that the story picks up and continues in this eight chapter, six hour campaign. Short? Yes. Fortunately, Day 1 Studios has added a significant new element to the replay value by letting players re-experience the story as Fettel, either at the end of each chapter or once the Point Man playthrough is completed. While Point Man is all about using weapons in conjunction with his genetically-enhanced powers, his brother uses psychic powers to suspend his enemies in the air, shock them and even enter their bodies to use their weapons for a short time. Personally, I find F.E.A.R.3 much better - and more fun - when playing as Fettel.
The campaign can also be played cooperatively locally or online, each player as one of the two brothers. Co-op play makes F.E.A.R.3 somewhat interesting but it’s not necessarily the best way to experience the game. A challenge system was implemented into the story, forcing the two players to “compete” for the best scores based on four categories: Aggression, Tactics, Aptitude and Psychic. Points are given based on a different set of in-game achievements - easy, difficult and something in between - like racking 25 kills while being in cover, amass 60 ammo/grenade pick-ups in a level or eliminating ten enemies after executing a slide kick. All challenge points gathered in single player, as well as in co-op and multiplayer, are added to one single meta-score (i.e Level). The higher the level, the more perks and skills become available in multiplayer, which by the way is worth checking out. More on that later on. At the end of each chapter, scores are compiled and the one with the highest score receives the Favorite Son title. Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say that two different endings are available and directly tied to who’s the favorite. It makes things different based on the fact that some challenges can only be completed by one character. In the end, these decisions will impact the game’s conclusion.
While F.E.A.R.3’s scriptwriting is captivating, thanks to the wits of comic book writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), the ways used to deliver it aren’t that new. Aside from a few exploration moments for ammo/weapon stashes and hidden dolls scattered across the levels, Point Man’s quest is incredibly linear, which also explains the campaign’s short length. Most modern shooters suffer from this design issue but Day 1 Studios manages to partially compensate with the aforementioned Challenge system, which is something of a saving grace. Unfortunately, despite some great moments, the franchise’s haunting signature presentation seems to be less effective. The visions of horror, the blood splattered everywhere, the gore...all those visual details that made the franchise popular seven years ago are there still but aren’t as striking as they once were. How big was John Carpenter’s input into the game? Arguably, the franchise didn’t need his involvement but someone at Warner felt like he could bring the franchise’s frights to new level. Unfortunately, this isn’t at all evident. Visually, the game doesn’t look any better than Project Origin so those expecting state-of-the-art graphics will be disappointed. Luckily, nothing breaks, tears or hangs...so that’s a plus. Voice-overs are fairly limited since Point Man doesn’t speak, leaving Fettel’s presence and the distinctive audio nuances do the work. Nothing unique but serviceable enough to make a positive impact on the overall product.
The usual suspects like Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch/Capture The Flag modes were replaced by much more appealing options. For instance, Contractions forces players to build barricades and gather supplies between Alma’s contractions, sending out waves of possessed enemies with each push. To add a certain degree of difficulty, a fog rolls in, becoming thicker with every wave. A frantic take on Call Of Duty’s Zombie mode. Another cool mode is Soul Survivor. A four player F.E.A.R. team goes in and one is corrupted by Alma, the corrupted player must try to corrupt the remaining players. Once corrupted, the hunt is joined. For those left the only option is survival...against their undead ex-teammates and the hoards of NPC enemies. In Soul King, all players start off as ghosts capable of possessing human enemies. The goal is to possess a soldier, kill the others and collect their souls. Whoever gathers the most souls at the end of the round, wins. However, the trick is to score enough souls as every time a Spectre dies, half of his souls are taken away. Finally, Fu**ing Run (my favorite) puts the four player squad against hordes of enemies while Alma’s Wall of Death creeps out behind. Push forward and reach the safe zones before the deadly fog catches up.
F.E.A.R.3 isn’t flawless, nor inventive but in the end, it works and deliver the thrills and excitement fans and non-fans are looking for in a $60 game. Aside from the complex story arc - if past games weren’t played - there’s enough substance to make it an easy and recommendable purchase.
Release date : 2011-06-21
Publisher : Warner Games
Developer : Day1 Studios
Gameplay : Shooter
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