F.E.A.R 3 Review
Microsoft Xbox 360Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3
Many reviews for FEAR 3 (or F3AR if you love marketing speak) would have you think that it’s not at all a scary game, that bringing in John Carpenter and Steve Niles did little or nothing to bring any shock or horror to this above average franchise. Comparing the game to its predecessor it is very difficult to see not only the love for it but also the raft of review comments condemning FEAR 3 for lack of horror or scares. FEAR 3 is at times bloody scary, offering plenty of traditional scares along with a ridiculous amount of gore. The earlier iteration was a very dull, grey, bland corridor shooter which offered little in the way of scares, bizarre narrative and after the initial few levels became really tedious.
FEAR 3 is gory and littered throughout the campaign are many freaky and scary moments. If you like horror within your games, you’d be a fool not to give this one a try. It’s not up there with Dead Space 2 on the scares front but that’s actually more to do with pace and gameplay than what is visually presented on the screen to the gamer. Dead Space 2 is a slower gameplay experience, whereas FEAR 3 is very much run and gun. The slower pace allows for tension builds and multiple cat moments from the first Alien movie.
The single player campaign is made up of a series of intervals, essentially chapters. You play initially as Point Man, a one man killing machine who is still unable to get over the fact he’s been assigned the worst character name in FPS gaming history, along with the fact that his mother is a psychotic telepathic freak who cannot help but bring death and destruction to the world. He’s fighting an ongoing battle on two fronts but sadly he will never overcome the awful name.
As with previous outings the focus of the game is based around the same seriously messed up family unit. Point Man is joined by his undead brother, Paxton Fettel, whom he put a bullet in during the first FEAR outing, and as with the previous games the main cause of all the death and destruction is mummy dearest...Alma. This time around Alma is pregnant and not only is she craving the oddest flavours of ice cream but she is also causing supernatural events along with horrendous amounts of gory blood soaked death and destruction. Fair to say that by the time you reach the conclusion of the campaign, you will be convinced she isn’t the type to go for a pool birth, holding the hand of her partner, all the while performing soothing breathing exercises. No, this birth is going to have some complications!
The story is incredibly muddled, confusing and a bit of a mess. Even fans of the franchise will even be completely confused to the point of bordering on lost, and there are quite a few plot holes big enough to drive a bus through. To the game's credit there are a series of nice flashbacks which attempt to flesh out the history of the relationship of the two brothers but it’s all a bit token and never really grabs you. As a result of the weak, confusing plot, you can never truly empathise or despise any of the characters within the game, they simply serve the purpose of shuffling you along from one shooting gallery to the next. Although arguably unjustified the FEAR series does inspire love in its core fans and for any-one who comes to this after reading multiple reviews, it’s really no worse than the second outing in terms of narrative and daft confusing plot. If anything the development house can be commended for trying to spice it up a little as the second outing was very straight forward, grey and dull.
Gameplay wise Day 1 Studios have taken Monolith’s toys, re-using them all and adding a handful of neat tweaks and tricks. The slow motion mechanic is still in place excellent to witness, but ultimately pointless in combat, as are the very cool mechs. A highlight in previous games, there are two core mech levels. One is in an itty bitty mech storming through a destructible supermarket and another across a huge bridge in a giant mech, all the while being chased by multiple helicopters.
These small gameplay variations do a good job of breaking up the standard run and gun gameplay which is essentially Call of Duty with some odd button mapping and a gory overlay. Aside from this odd button mapping (change weapon is oddly left bumper) it really is standard FPS fare with a layer of supernatural coloured over the top. It’s all serviceable and early on quite enjoyable, but it soon becomes overly repetitive.
One of the key additions made in FEAR 3 is the introduction of a cover system; your character can vault over objects and strafe around them, to reasonably good effect. Enemies are not entirely stupid either on the harder difficulty setting and will show some intelligence when trying to gun you down. They will flank you, they will gang up on you and they are often deadly with a grenade.
Despite these additions and the undeniably cool mech sequences, it does start to get a tad boring towards the end of the main campaign. The campaign clocks in at about 5 hours long, which is a pretty poor show these days, and that is made even worse when you consider that it gets tiresome. The final interval and main big boss battle is a bit of a let down, partially saved by a lovely little touch right at the end when you finally meet mummy, which will not be spoilt here.
In an attempt to increase the content of the game, and one can only assume to try to add a little bit of fun to the proceedings, we see the introduction of a points scoring system. Players are awarded points for performing certain actions throughout the campaign and you have the ability through a neat little interface to see how you compare against the rest of the world. This does, in a small way, provide some additional fun when completing the game, especially when you are able to chain some combo’s together using the slow mo functionality. These points act as a sort of XP levelling system and allow you to rank up your character. The level up additions are set and include such things as additional slow mo time, better reflexes and less weapon recoil to name a few.
The real draw with FEAR 3 campaign is that it can be played entirely in co-op mode with a friend, both locally and online. Here a friend is given the opportunity to play the entire campaign as Fettel, via local or network (XBL in this case), retaining his body capturing powers and of his supernatural abilities. Co-op really is where this game sells itself campaign wise, and should really only be considered a sound purchase if you have a co-op buddy to play with. The experience, as with most games of this ilk, is a vastly superior one when you play through with a friend. There are many occasions, particularly in the later levels, where a distraction is required to get the job done quick and easy. It is also hugely beneficial have a companion with a real brain to save you when you are dying. At the very least when playing in co-op mode you can both laugh at how incredibly gory and inappropriate everything that’s going on around you is.
You are also encouraged to play the campaign mode a second time upon completion through the unlocking of the highest difficulty level and the ability to replay as Fettel. This is a nice touch and he is undeniably more interesting, albeit limited in his abilities without other people around to possess. For achievement/trophy lovers, it is important to note that BOTH players get the achievements in full co-op. Also worth noting that Fettel often scores a lot more points (ironically) than Point Man in the XP stakes therefore if you played through the entire campaign as Point Man initially you will need to go again to get the top achievements.
As well as the main story campaign there are the obligatory online modes, of which there are four. Well, there are four if you buy the game brand new, there are two if you buy it second hand. Yes folks, it’s online pass discussion time again and FEAR 3 has one which unlocks full modes (and odd design choice) and three maps for each game modes. That’s quite a lot of content to be missing out on if you buy second hand. You can ofcourse buy the online pass and on XBL this is 800pts.
The multiplayer modes themselves are:
- Contractions is essentially horde or firefight, but with the added twist of venturing out in the newly risen fog to bring back new weaponry before the next wave, and Alma is wandering around like a lost puppy just waiting for you to look in to her eyes.....this is not recommended for reference.
- Soul king is a points game, all four players begin as spectres and the object is to kill foes and other players alike, the longer you last the more points you accrue.
- Soul Survivor is pretty much the same thing but with one player as the spectre and the aim is to kill and/or possess foes and other players alike. Again, it’s a points game.
- Fucking run (great name) sees you legging it with your companions away from a wall of death, while taking out foes as you run. With the right party (one which works as a team), this mode is the standout.
All modes support up to four players, and the two you can play without buying the game new (or the online pass) are Contractions and Soul King. If you do purchase FEAR 3 and want to squeeze every last drop out of it content wise, these online modes are where you will spend the majority of your time. Each of these modes demands a good amount of teamwork and the use of voice comms to guarantee success. Running around with randoms can prove very tough going but with a dedicated team of friends each of the modes can be entertaining. It’s quite tough going with randoms as each mode requires good comms and a lot of teamwork, however with a dedicated crew of friends, these can be entertaining.
From a technical perspective Day 1 Studios are to be commended. The graphics and sound found within the game are of a high standard and to a degree this level of quality does also extend to the FPS mechanics. It’s very competent in what it sets out to achieve and at times does so with gusto. It’s unfortunate that these moments are infrequent, plus the short campaign, slightly uninspired later levels and ‘tight knit crew’ focused multiplayer variations holds it back.
At this stage it would make sense to say that this title is an ideal rental but given the odd online pass design decision, that’s not really the case. Whilst parts of this review portray FEAR 3 in a fairly negative light, it is a good blast, containing plenty of gore but ultimately just falls short of the AAA status it aspires to.
It’s a solid effort and should be picked up new for around the £20 mark. If you have a co-op buddy and/or a team of 3-4 players looking for some more horde style game play FEAR 3 becomes easier to recommend. Sadly if you are on your lonesome, it’s a tough sell, especially now as we enter silly season.
+1 to the review score if played in co-op 2 player and with 4 friends online.