PLATFORM: Xbox 360
PUBLISHER: Warner Bros. Interactive
DEVELOPER: Day 1 Studios
MULTIPLAYER: 2-player coop story/ 4-player online
Gamers who played the original F.E.A.R back in 2005 on PC or Xbox 360 were treated to a delightfully terrifying experience. The first F.E.A.R combined the bullet time action of games like Max Payne and used its horror elements uniquely to distinguish itself from gaming juggernauts such as Resident Evil or Silent Hill. This was largely due to F.E.A.R’s creepy atmosphere and a mysterious little girl named Alma who constantly frightened us throughout the campaign. The next entry in the franchise F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin was a lackluster sequel that tried too hard to be scary and is arguably the series low-point. The latest installment F.E.A.R 3 definitely provides the best gameplay of the three but doesn’t come close to the terrifying experience found in the original.
::SPOILER ALERT FOR FIRST TWO F.E.A.R GAMES::
The story of F.E.A.R 3 follows protagonist Point Man and psychic villain Paxton Fettel working together to witness the birth of Alma’s new child. The story leading up to F.E.A.R 3 is definitely a bizarre convoluted mess. Basically in the first game, Point man is a member of a Special Forces squad sent to investigate paranormal activities. His mission is to eliminate a terrorist named Paxton Fettel who is in command of a legion of cloned-soldiers killing innocent civilians. As the game progresses we come to learn that Point Man and Paxton Fettel are actually brothers and that their mother was the creepy little girl Alma. At the end of the first F.E.A.R Point Man kills Paxton Fettel with a bullet to the head. The story of F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin takes place just minutes before the end of the first F.E.A.R. This time players assume the role of Michael Beckett who is a member of a squad sent in to apprehend a suspect and bring her into protective custody. Long story short—Michael Beckett somehow impregnates Alma at the end of F.E.A.R 2. At the beginning of F.E.A.R 3 Paxton Fettel has somehow returned from the dead to form an unlikely alliance with his brother who killed him.
Confused? Don’t worry. Sure F.E.A.R 3 has a ridiculous plot, but that’s not where this game shines. Where F.E.A.R 3 does shine is in its coop and multiplayer modes. If you have the chance to play the game with a friend in split-screen or online, I highly recommend doing so. What’s great about the campaign is the fact that even if you begin the story solo, you can take your saved game and experience points online with you. I personally played the game with random strangers, who willingly joined my game session and I still had a blast. First player assumes the role as Point Man and Second player assumes the role as Paxton Fettel. Point Man is able to slow down time and has access to all guns throughout the game. Fettel is not able to pick up weapons or ammo in his main form, but instead possesses unique and awesome powers. These powers allow Fettel to pick up enemies, shock them till they explode, or possess them entirely for a short time. These two characters unique powers combined allows for a co-op experience unlike any other. For example, my co-op partner would suspend an enemy in air for me to shoot, or I would weaken a larger enemy and my co-op partner would possess him. In addition my co-op partner would scout around looking for ammo and weapons for me to use. While playing F.E.A.R 3 players are awarded experience points for completing certain challenges such as killing 10 enemies without taking any damage. Upon completing these challenges throughout the game, players are rewarded with experience points that increase their level. Gaining a level provides access to stronger powers, new abilities and increased health. Throughout F.E.A.R 3 there are also hidden dead bodies containing paranormal energy and Alma dolls that can be collected for experience points. Players don’t always have to work together and there is an option where you can either share experience points or just take them all yourself. Teamwork is not just a gimmick in F.E.A.R 3 but actually provides an overall better experience.
While F.E.A.R 3 excels in co-op, the experience only lasts about 5-6 hours and it definitely sacrifices horror for action. The problem with F.E.A.R 3 is that it plays too much like a military first-person shooter than a traditional horror game. That might not sound like such a bad thing, but the fact that F.E.A.R 3 is supposed to be scary really distracts from the overall experience. F.E.A.R 3 plays like a solid shooter but often feels like it’s having a bit of an identity crisis. The few horror elements it does have just feel tacked in and slow down an otherwise amazing action game. The campaign takes you through prisons, destroyed neighborhoods, retail stores, and subways but some areas are just better designed than others. Unless your afraid of satanic candle rituals littered throughout a retail store or what look like screaming zombie bums with bombs attached to them—you will be pretty disappointed. When F.E.A.R 3 is not trying too hard to be scary, it actually becomes a pretty awesome action game. Fighting off waves of enemies and big super armored soldiers who can teleport around the room is definitely a blast in co-op. However my favorite areas in the game have to be the moments where players enter mechanical robots and rain down havoc on opposing forces. These areas are few and far between, but they provide some of the most destructively fun moments in the game.
The icing on the cake is F.E.A.R 3’s diverse multiplayer offerings. While there are only four modes to choose from and only support for up to four players, each is completely unique in its own way. The first mode called Fucking Run is a race through an enemy infested level while a steady approaching wall of death pursues players. Soul King let’s players assume the role as specters that must possess enemies and kill other players for points. Soul Survivor pits one player as a specter, against the other three players and the main goal is to turn the other players into specters before time runs out. Lastly there is Contractions, which is similar to Call of Duty’s Nazi zombies or Gears of War’s Horde mode. In this mode players must stop oncoming waves of diverse enemies while re-supplying weapons and boarding up windows between rounds.
In the end, F.E.A.R 3 is a polished shooter that offers some amazing multiplayer opportunities for players sick of the same old things. Although the story is lacking and most horror fans are likely be disappointed, there is enough content here to keep most gamers glued to their televisions for the rest of the summer. While F.E.A.R 3 is not a horror masterpiece, it’s definitely worth a look for gamers that are fans of action and co-op.