Developer: Day 1 Studios
Publisher: 1, 2 player split-screen & online co-op, 1-4 online co-operative survival multiplayer mode.
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: Warner Bros
F3AR (did they really have to do the Ďuse 3 as an Eí thing? Huh, did they?) is set nine months after the events of the earlier games F.E.A.R., F.E.A.R. Files and F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin. You play as a character known as the Point Man, captured, imprisoned and brutally interrogated by Armacham Security in an asylum when they realize the superdupernatural powers he possesses. A man with even more amazing powers (Paxton Fettel) interrupts the interrogation, kills your captors and frees you, announcing that heís your brother. You then form an uneasy alliance and escape the Asylum... So continues the utterly bonkers storyline based around Alma, the disturbingly evil and scary little girl with awesome supernatural powers, the manifestation of which tend to end up with a lot of people dying, weird creatures and apparitions appearing and things flying around.
Iíll get it over and done with now and say that the F.E.A.R. acronym stands for First Encounter Assault Recon (I knew youíd have forgotten and would want to know). AllĖnew features are apparent at the main options screen, and the best of which, a shiny new split-screen co-op mode is sure to make F3AR more popular that its scary-as-hell prequels with wussies like... well me actually. Sharing the action works well, the second player taking the part of Fettel with the screen is split vertically but slightly trimmed (it helps keep the frame rate up), giving each player a distinct area to focus on. The game features plenty of Gears of War-style co-op moments (opening doors for each other when you take different routes etc) and whether played online or split-screen really adds a new dimension to the gameplay.
F3ARís game engine is a significant improvement on previous games and actually looks like a new game. Previous F£ARs have always had tons of effects plastered over the top of rather a basic-looking scenery modelling. F$AR has a cover mode that many FPS could do with, itís simple matter of tapping ĎBí when behind cover at which point a forward movement of the left stick pops your head up to take a shot. Press ĎAĎfrom this position and youíll vault over an object, meaning F%AR Ďhandlesí a lot better than its predecessors. The enhanced movement also means that you get a Ďslideí attack similar to Bulletstorm and Crysis 2ís, and also the ability to kick doors in, and itís nice to have a running attack and an alternative to gently opening a door.
Without straying into spoilerville, Fettel is in fact a dead guy, and can possess the bodies of enemies for a short time, discarding them when he wishes or when theyíve taken too much damage. He can also do a supernatural energy blast with the right trigger that kills most human enemies with a head shot.
FEAR 3ís (itís no good, I canít go on abusing that Ď3í in F3AR) main multiplayer mode is a survival mode called ĎContractionsí that, whilst featuring plenty of FEAR-centricities, steals shamelessly from Call of Dutyís inexplicably popular Zombies mode, complete with unlockable weapons, repairable barricades and 4-player co-op play. The other modes are "F**king Run!" "Soul Survivor" and "Soul King". the aptly named "F**king Run!" features 4 players running through waves of enemies, while simultaneously running from Alma's massive black "Wall of Death". You start off in a safe room and proceed through levels, killing enemies but running away from the wall, if a team player is downed, one of the co-op players must revive them because if one player is killed itís ĎGame Overí. "Soul Survivor" is a four-player versus game with one player playing as a "Spectre" who must possess enemies to kill the other three players and turn them into Spectres before the time runs out. "Soul King" is similar to Soul Survivor but all the players play as Spectres with the objective being to possess enemies to kill each other and collect the most souls that drop from the dead. Joining games seems to be problematic at best, and some people I played with said they get booted to the menus or dropped from games arbitrarily. Dodgy netcode aside the multiplayer mode plays rather well, and a good deal of FEAR 3ís dev time was clearly spent on it...
This is apparent because of a rather short story campaign (4 hours-ish), which is artificially lengthened with some bitchily-placed checkpoints cruelly distanced from Ďbossí encounters that are likely to see you die on the first play-through and send you way, way back before the fight that killed you, to the point where you canít even remember where you encountered the enemy that finished you off. FEAR 3 gave me plenty of jumps and scares, and the seriesí trademark apparitions and hallucinations are well done too, although I didnít find the game as scary or disturbing as previous episodes.
One problem I found with FEAR 3 is that itís difficult to be terrified when youíre as powerful as Point Man or Fettel, a lot of the time, rather than killing enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible, I found myself toying with them Ďjust because I couldí-FEAR 3 is that type of game. Itís also a bit of a shame that, considering thereís plenty of destructible scenery and most things seem to be moveable, you canít throw more objects around with Fettelís telekinetic powers; youíre limited to levitating enemies, tossing grenades, fire extinguishers and explosive oil drums. Throwing furniture and other random objects at heavily-armed Armacham soldiers would have been great fun.
In-game challenges (you can pull up the list at any time) earn you XP in a new addition to the game (again, similar to Bulletstorm), and your campaign level and online multiplayer rank is the same. Iím not sure what benefits levelling up has other than having a higher number and nastier-sounding title against your Gamertag, but then I donít really understand why Day 1 spent all that time on a FEAR 3 multiplayer mode anyway. The co-op play suits the game down to the ground and could attract new players to the franchise; multiplayer just feels like yet another, inferior CoD clone.
Completing missions unlocks them so you can replay them as Fettel, and while the totally different gameplay means youíll probably want to play the game through twice (this especially the case if you have a buddy to split-screen or online co-op the game with), the story cut-scenes are repeated from Point Manís viewpoint, which seems a bit lackadaisical.
F3 isnít as epic as Crysis 2 but parts of it reminded me of Crytekís epic shooter. The designers even managed to fit a bridge level in, and itís really good-Iím always amazed how often bridges feature in FPS, from the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty series through Halo to Homefrontís stunning finale on the Golden Gate Bridge.
F3 has definitely earned its place in upper echelons the scary first person game roster with its weirdly original storylines and consistently frightening gameplay. This latest instalment has taken inspiration from all kinds of top games - Killzone, Crysis 2, CoD and Bulletstorm, while still retaining plenty of originality. Itís therefore a real shame that the story campaign is so brief, because it deserved more and would have scored higher if it had been more substantial.
- The best-looking F.E.A.R. yet. - 2-player split-screen and online co-op is just about as good as it gets. - Decent multiplayer modes.
- The shortest F.E.A.R. yet. - Too much emphasis on the multiplayer side.