Multiplayer Makes Up For the Disappointing Campaign
F.E.A.R 3, the latest in the F.E.A.R series, is the first game in the trilogy to be made by a studio other than Monolith. While the two previous games offered genuine scares and exciting minute-to-minute action, F.E.A.R 3 disappoints by offering little to no terrifying moments and standard gunplay. It feels like a game trying to imitate the series instead of one that’s a part of it. The cooperative multiplayer makes up for this some by providing interesting modes that are a lot of fun, but F.E.A.R 3 is easily the weakest game in the franchise.
Picking up some time after the events of the previous games, Alma, the supernatural little girl who leaves nothing but death and destruction in her wake, is pregnant. With her about to give birth to something that could spell disaster for humanity, Point Man, the silent protagonist from the original F.E.A.R, along with his deranged ghost brother Paxton Fettel, the main antagonist from the original F.E.A.R, must find Alma and put a stop to her child’s birth.
Considering that the main storyline of the game involves hunting down a pregnant demon child, it’s odd that the story here feels so predictable. There are no real twists or exciting developments throughout the 6-7 hour campaign. It also lacks any real scares. There are some moments of genuine creepiness, like when seeing Alma out of the corner of your eye, but they come infrequently. Fans of the franchise may appreciate the game’s attempt to flesh out the history of the two brothers, but the story in F.E.A.R 3 is weak overall and has a rather unsatisfying ending.
While you do get to play the campaign as both characters, the game requires you to complete a level first as Point Man before the option to choose becomes available. When playing as Point Man, you’ll be playing a pretty standard first person shooter. Movement feels stiff at first and the default controller layout takes some getting used to, but it won’t be long before you’re running and gunning with relative ease. There’s nothing wrong with the gunplay in practice, but it does nothing to stand out. You can perform certain melee attacks, like a sliding kick, but these usually aren’t very effective. There is also a new cover system, similar to the Killzone games, which sticks you to cover and has you popping out to take shots. As Point Man, you also get the ability to temporarily go into slow motion and take out multiple enemies quickly, and, while this can be helpful, it’s nothing new.
The gameplay does get more interesting when playing as Fettel. Since he is a ghost, Fettel can possess most enemies, which puts you in their shoes with whatever weapons they were carrying. He can also shoot blasts of energy out of his hand and lift enemies in the air to make shooting them easier. The possession mechanic is neat at first, allowing you to cross distances quickly and flank enemies, but since you just switch back to the normal shooting upon possession, the mechanic loses it’s impact after awhile. Regardless of who you play as, the campaign does some difficulty issues, sometimes putting you in situations with little ammunition or no one to possess against overwhelming odds, which results in some frustration. These moments are remedied somewhat by the inclusion of sequences where you pilot a mech and lay waste to tons of enemies with ease, but these sequences are few and far between.
The campaign can be played through cooperatively and, while this doesn’t change the way the game is played, it can helpful to have a buddy along. Fettel can hold up an enemy while Point Man riddles them with bullets, and having Fettel cause a distraction by possessing a solider can make rushing a group as Point Man less difficult. It adds some flavor to the standard action, but doesn't improve the campaign experience much.
One small addition to note is the in-game challenge system. As you kill enemies with different weapons, pick up ammunition, or perform cooperative acts, you’ll notice a counter appear on the bottom left of the screen. Completing challenges earns you points that obtain you ranks. While you do get bonuses, like extra health or having slow motion last a bit longer, they do little to change the way you play the game. When playing co-op, whichever player has the better score will affect which unsatisfying ending is seen, but this challenge system is a rather pointless addition.
While the campaign may be lacking, it’s the four player cooperative multiplayer that saves F.E.A.R 3 from being a total disappointment. There are four modes on offer, each with three unique maps specific to their goal. Contractions, which is similar to Nazi Zombies from Call of Duty, has you surviving waves upon waves of enemies, leaving the safety of your main base to collect weapon crates to beef up your arsenal; Soul Survivor, which casts one player as a specter with the goal of downing and converting the other three; Soul King, a competitive mode where all players are specters trying to obtain the most souls by rounds end; and finally the appropriately named F**king Run, which has you and your teammates running for your lives from checkpoint to checkpoint with a massive cloud of death hot on your heels.
Each mode is a ton of chaotic fun, with everyone scrambling to find ammo and survive the onslaught of enemies. It’s here that F.E.A.R 3 shines. Matchmaking can be an issue, with the game attempting to join a lobby indefinitely, forcing you to return to the dashboard, but it’s a small price to pay once you’ve started playing. With only three maps per mode, it’s uncertain if the multiplayer will have any long-term staying power without post launch support, but it can’t be denied that the content on the disc is a hell of a lot of fun. It should be noted that both Soul Survivor and F**king Run are only available if you buy the game new.
F.E.A.R 3 is not a bad looking game by any means, but it certainly is not the best looking game either. It tech looks slightly dated, though most of the game is so dark it’s hard to notice these flaws. Hitches while the game is loading happens often, but is a minor blemish. One thing F.E.A.R 3 has is a lot of is gore. Walls are covered in blood, enemies lose limbs, and even explode into a cloud of red mist when killed with certain weapons. However, the gore can border of the level of ridiculous, especially when a solider with no face is still fighting as normal and shouting orders. Sound itself is solid with good weapon effects and solid voice acting, although the audio mixing itself is sloppy, with dialogue occasionally being drowned out by other sound effects and music. It’s recommended you adjust these settings or turn on subtitles.
F.E.A.R 3 is a disappointing F.E.A.R game, falling on standard shooting mechanics and lacking the scares the made the previous games so special. If you are interested in the game solely to see how the trilogy concludes, then rent it, beat it, and return it. But, if you have a few friends and want to play some exceptionally fun multiplayer, F.E.A.R 3 just might be worth a purchase.