When F.E.A.R. released in 2005, it was praised for its horrific setting and well polished FPS gameplay, but F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origins was criticized for a lack of innovation, a common but crippling fault in the ever crowded FPS genre. Let’s find out if F.E.A.R. 3 brings enough to the table to set itself apart from the competition, or if it’ll simply get lost in the dark.
F.E.A.R. 3 lets players take control of the original protagonist in F.E.A.R., Point Man, as well the original antagonist Fettel, who is his brother. Fettel is dead, but his psychic link keep his ghost anchored to Point Man, opening the game up to the co-operative gameplay that F.E.A.R. 3 is built for. The campaign of the game is fully playable in single player or co-op play, but the ability to play as either Point Man or Fettel lets players tackle situations in entirely different ways thanks to their differing abilities. While Point Man plays like a soldier in any standard shooter, albeit with his bullet time effect intact, Fettel’s psychic powers allow him to posses enemies temporarily and use their skills to his advantage. The mix of old and new mechanics make F.E.A.R. 3 a good nostalgic experience for fans of the original, while giving all players something fresh and fun to play with.
Playing as Point Man yields some very familiar, smooth and solid shooter mechanics, with a great cover system in place. A simple tap of circle button lets you stick to nearly any object as cover and use the analog to peek out at enemies for quick pop shots, and a slide mechanic allows for transitions without breaking cover. This slide can also be used to kick out an enemies legs too, or Fettel can perform a jumping kick to knock them back. Like its predecessors, there isn’t a huge assortment of weapons at hand, but each serves a specific purpose, making them feel useful and powerful when used properly. SMGs make up the standard equipment for most of the game, but trading off a sniper rifle, double Uzis, a plasma beam rifle, and an extremely bad ass shotgun make for a great selection from the 2 guns you can carry to each battle. Later battles utilize more mechs similar to those found in F.E.A.R. 2, which help provide some variety to the cover based shooting.
While this is all pretty standard territory, Fettel brings a slight mix to the game with his ability to take over an enemy’s body. Fettel has a ghostly form which is fairly weak to damage, and only has a melee and ranged blast attack. However, he can levitate enemies for Point Man to shoot, or for him to possess, where upon he’s able to use any weapon they’re holding. This includes soldiers, zombie creatures, and super soldiers encountered later in the game, making battles slightly more strategic as you choose which body to use. Any possessed body has a time limit before it wears out, but enemies killed drop points that can be absorbed to extend the body’s time limit. Should the body be killed, Fettel returns to his ghostly form, which is weak to damage, but essentially grants him another chance to survive.
Since Point Man is more powerful than Fettel, but Fettel’s special abilities allow him to easily flank enemies, working together in F.E.A.R. 3 is a lot of fun, and makes a lot of the more frustrating battles interesting instead of a headache. However, playing by yourself yields a slightly different experience where the player is forced to play through as Point Man first, and will face some brutal scenarios. It’s still a fun game, but besides the slow motion ability, it plays like almost any other military shooter, albeit with a dark and creepy setting. The story line revolves around Point Man’s perspective, but like he was in F.E.A.R., Point Man is mysteriously silent throughout the entire game. It’s never clear whether he’s supposed to be a mute, but it leads to a total lack of emotional reaction to extremely dire situations, making him difficult to relate to or care about. Fettel dominates the dialogue in the game, and is fairly clear about his intentions, but you never know whether or not Point Man wishes to work with his brother, or against him until very late in the game.
Upon beating the game in single player campaign it can be replayed as Fettel, which makes one hope for a unique perspective, and maybe even different paths in the game while playing as him. Unfortunately, playing solo treats the player as if they’re Point Man, even though it’s clear they’re in control of Fettel. It’s really a shame, since Fettel makes the game interesting, but he seems to be thrown to the side in several aspects of the game, except his dialogue. Not only does the storyline revolve around Point Man, but attempting to play an online co-op game prevents players from choosing their character. Instead of allowing one to continue their solo game online with a friend normally, it always plops the host of the game back into Point Man’s shoes. This means that to play Fettel in online co-op joining a game is necessary, and knowing a friend really helps since searching to join a game almost always yields no hosts. Luckily Fettel does get a little respect by the end of the game, since playing solo or playing well in co-op as him will yield a new ending to the game.
The multiplayer modes in F.E.A.R. 3 are quite different from previous games, and omit the common deathmatch mode, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and other similar variations. Instead we find Contractions, Soul King, and Fucking Run! as multiplayer modes, each serving up their own twist. Contractions is immediately familiar as a 4 player co-op survival versus wave after wave of enemies. A base can be defended strategically while supplies can be picked up from the field and returned to provide weapons and ammo for the team, which increase in value as the difficulty steadily increases too.
Soul King pits 4 players against each other as phantoms seeking souls for points. Similar to playing as Fettel, they’re able to possess AI enemies which drop souls upon death. Souls grant players points, but dying causes players to drop a large portion of their points, making it much more beneficial to kill player opponents and to steal their points. Whoever has the most points at any time is designated as king, which highlights their silhouette for all enemy players, making them a prime target. The ability to steal points means that it’s anyone’s game up until the final seconds. While hectic and fun, Soul King often suffers from lag, which can lead to frustration since players in their ghostly form move incredibly fast, and appear to jump across the screen.
The final mode included is Fucking Run, which forces players to fight through areas full of enemies while a giant wall of death chases them from behind. If any player dies it’s instant game over, putting the pressure on every one to fight skilfully and quickly to the end. Overall these modes provide for a different experience than the usual FPS crowd, but somehow it still feels lacking without a truly direct competitive mode.
F.E.A.R. 3 provides about 8-9 hours of length within the campaign, and if you play through again as Fettel that’s easily doubled. His differing abilities make for a fresh take on familiar battles, keeping the second play through almost as fun as the first, even if the game still thinks you’re Point Man. The game is best played with a buddy, and if that’s what you’re looking for you can’t miss. The multiplayer mode provides fun, if limited, entertainment that gives a nice change from the standard run of the mill deathmatch modes. Throughout all of this, the graphics and sounds are top notch, and there were no major glitches to ruin the experience. If F.E.A.R. 3 has one major drawback it’s the fact that it’s not scary at all, but instead is just mildly creepy most of the time. Dark atmosphere runs rampant, but rarely does anything come out of it that’s even remotely terrifying. It’s still fun destroying everything standing in my way, especially with my wing man on my flank, but it wouldn’t have killed Day 1 Studios to make the attempt to strike some fear into me. Regardless, anyone looking for a great co-operative shooter should look no further – F.E.A.R. 3 is here.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Great Co-operative Gameplay
+ Solid and Satisfying Shooter Mechanics
– Lacking Scare Factor