F.E.A.R. 3 Review
A creepy, fast paced First Person Shooter that sometimes comes off as a bit generic
Horror games require a certain type of atmosphere for them to be enjoyed fully. The room should be dark and any other distractions, i.e. computer monitors and other television sets should be turned off. Since I live under the blazing Californian sun it was hard to achieve the desired effect during the day, so I decided to wait until nightfall before putting some hours in on F.E.A.R. 3 (Or F.3.A.R. if you speak L337). Beyond the monotony of some of the game's missions there are some very creepy moments. John Carpenter, the director of many great horror films, was a creative consultant for F.E.A.R. 3 and his influence shines through in those said moments.
F.E.A.R. 3 follows the story of Point Man and his brother, Fettel. They are the sons of Alma, who is a very powerful psychic. Even though her psychical self died previously, she still lives on as a force to be reckoned with. Before the events of the third game, Point Man killed his own brother, however their psychic link was so strong that Fettel lives on as a ghostly presence that follows and assists Point Man throughout the game. He also narrates a lot of the story, since Point Man is your typical silent protagonist. Their mission is to find their mother, who is pregnant. Point Man has a difficult choice to make: terminate his mother's pregnancy in order to save the world or listen to his brother and save their unborn brother so the family can live on as Gods. It is not as simple as it sounds. Point Man is constantly being hunted down by Armacham, the corporation that made Alma the monster she is now and also the ones who helped cultivate Point Man and Fettel's terrifying powers. Along with the many confrontations with Aramacham's soldiers, the brothers also have to face terrifying creatures spawned from Alma's tortured mind and zombie-like people who've been psychically touched by Alma.
Whether or not Point Man chooses to save the world or reunite his family, he has some cool things to help him accomplish his goal. His special power can be activated by pressing the Triangle button. This puts the action in slow motion allowing Point Man to take out several targets at once, bringing the situation back under his control. It's a very useful power and you'll be using it a lot when things start to get a little hairy. There's a gauge that depletes when the slow motion effect is activated, however it regenerates over time. Players can increase the length of the gauge by leveling up, which is accomplished by finding certain glowing bodies and pressing Square when next to them to increase his own psychic link or completing challenges. The challenges range from successfully staying in cover for a certain amount of time to killing 50 enemies in a row. Even though slow motion bullet time has been used over and over again in video games since the first Max Payne, I still think it's cool to run into a room full of enemies and mow them all down before they have anytime to properly react. Maybe this is why this feature is still alive today albeit given different names.
Much of this game is basic modern First Person Shooter fare. Point Man doesn't have a life bar; instead his life slowly regenerates as long as he's not taking damage. The player can only hold two weapons at a time, so I went through most of the game with a machine gun and a shot gun. There are many other options such as a rivet gun or a plasma beam, but I didn't find most of them as useful as my 'machine gun for distanced confrontations and a shot gun to blow off a monster's face' combination. There are a few sequences in some of the missions that give the player an opportunity to hop into a mechanized armor suit. These sections brought me great joy as I was able to walk through the environments and completely destroy anyone in my path. The destruction level is ramped up a bit when you face off against one or two other soldiers who are also equipped with their own power suits. I actually found myself kind of sad when I ran into a wall or some other obstacle that forced me to get out of the suit to continue.
As mentioned before there are two different enemy types that Point Man will have to face to complete the mission. There are many times when you will come into a room and the two groups are engaged in a conflict. It's pretty easy to hang back and wait until one group wipes out the other and then deal with whoever remains. If you're detected by either one group, then both will break off their attack and rush to tear you to pieces or put a few new holes in your head. I suppose in F.E.A.R. 3's case the enemy of your enemy is still not your friend. Each level contains frequent checkpoints, usually after each firefight. The level structure then becomes very predictable.
The missions consist of a series of firefights. The story line is advanced during interactive cut-scenes that take place in between said fights. During the scenes the player is transported into the mind of Dr. Harlan Wade, the man who studied and trained Point Man and Fettel. It is in these sequences where the players learn how the children and Alma were treated by Wade and Armacham during the corporation's efforts to turn them into super human weapons. Many of these cut-scenes are genuinely creepy and also the reason why one would want to play F.E.A.R. 3. In one of the early missions, Point Man has to go through a department store warehouse that has been converted into a blood thirsty psychopath's wet dream. The walls shine with fresh blood that reflects the light of half melted candles. It's pretty interesting to stop and admire the symbols and cryptic messages that are messily scribed on the wall and crates.
As you near the end of the game, the levels become increasingly apocalyptic. Alma is holed up in one of the Armacham's strongholds as she enters into labor. A vicious ripple that tears through the orange and blood red sky accompanies each one of Alma's cries of pain. They envelop everything around them in a tremor of psychic energy. These levels are easily my favorite because the environment itself lent to the game's already frantic and intense pace.
While the campaign is fast paced and you'll never really be bored, it comes off as another generic modern First Person Shooter, however with a horror twist. The game play is balanced and the controls are well placed and smooth, but the levels will have you going from one room full of enemies to another, pressing buttons and pulling switches without too much variety. The game's selling points for me were the environments and the scares, which it does very well. There will be several instances where you'll be emptying a magazine on a shadow that was mistaken for a creature sneaking up on you. The game immerses you in areas that are creepy and that will keep you on your toes for a short while before switching back into an uninspired, cover based firefight.
Upon completion of each mission, Fettel is unlocked for play. Using Point Man's brother is quiet a different experience. First off, he has no real offensive capabilities on his own besides throwing red balls of psychic energy or performing a melee attack. For him to use any other types of weapons he must possess enemies. When targeting an enemy and pressing R2, Fettel will levitate the poor sap in the air which will prompt the player to press Triangle to possess him. Once in the point of view of the possessed, the game plays just like as if you were in the control of Point Man sans the slow-mo power. Instead, the gauge tracks how long Fettel can remain in the enemies body before bursting out of it in a very grotesque fashion. Once the body is used up, Fettel must wait for the gauge to refill before possessing another. Hopping into the shoes of an enemy and turning his weapon on his comrades made playing as Point Man's ghostly brother very fun. The act of possessing another character is the basis of a couple of F.E.A.R. 3's multiplayer modes.
F.E.A.R. 3's multiplayer takes a step away from the usual death and capture the flag matches of other games. The game offers four different types of matches: Soul Survivor, Contractions, F**king Run and Soul King. The first three modes depend heavily on team work. Soul Survivor picks whether the player will control one of the members of the F.E.A.R. team or a spectre. When playing as one of the F.E.A.R. members, the group must fend off groups of enemies that consist of Aramacham's soldiers and Alma's pasty followers. If you're playing as a spectre, it's your job to possess all of the members of the opposing team by downing them and then holding Square for a short time.
Contractions (Get it? Because Alma is pregnant...) is very similar to Call of Duty's Nazi Zombies mode in which you have a base that must be defended from waves of enemies. In between waves, players must rebuild their barricades and venture outside of the base to gather weapons and supplies. Alma appears in certain areas in this mode and it's not a good idea to look at her. In F**king Run, a smoky wall of death follows your squad. To have the wall catch up with you means the end of the game. This mode is the most dependent on player cooperation, because if one player goes down the whole team loses. Running from the wall isn't as easy as it sounds, as hordes of enemies stand between your team and the extraction point.
Soul King is the closest you'll get to a death match type of game because everyone is on their own. Each player will play as a spectre fighting against enemy bots. To increase their offensiveness, they can possess their foes. Upon defeat, an enemy will drop a skull. The goal of the match is to collect more skulls than the other players to become the Soul King. Extra points can be collected if you kill an opposing player instead of a bot. There's also a co-op mode where one player will control Point Man and the other player controls Fettel.
I found the multiplayer modes refreshing as they took a step away from the norms. If you join a lobby of people who know how to work together, it can turn out to be a very fun match. Unfortunately, I got matched up with some people who didn't and everything fell apart pretty quickly in those instances. Out of all the modes, I had the most fun with Soul King but maybe my competitive nature is to blame for that.
F.E.A.R. 3 is a tight, fast paced First Person Shooter experience with some nicely detailed, blood drenched environments. The campaign mode does have an interesting way of unveiling the story with its interactive cut-scenes, however the fact that you're just going from section to section of cover based combat leaves it feeling uninspired. Playing as Fettel is an interesting take on the genre as it gives you some new abilities to toy around with. F.E.A.R. 3's multiplayer modes hold a good amount of replay value because of their uniqueness, you can even play the modes solo if you feel like you need some practice. As stated before, I fell in love with the game's environments and set pieces. While the game's creepy claustrophobic moments are short lived, they're very well done. I'd recommend this game to anyone who enjoys an intense, fast paced game. Even though the action is generic, there is a lot of fun to be had. Just make sure that all the lights are turned off before you begin to play through F.E.A.R. 3's campaign.