I remember the first time I saw a trailer for F.3.A.R. – I knew I had to play it. Looking back at myself playing the original two titles brings back fond memories! The scares were not conventional or expected and the atmosphere was creepy and tense for 90% of the game. F.3.A.R. is not as frightening as it’s predecessor and the format of the game varies a lot.That being said, however, this does not spoil the game for me, but in fact enhances it. It’s nice to see that Day 1 Studios have not simply free-loaded on the success of F.E.A.R. 2. They’ve taken a refreshing approach to the story which I find thoroughly enjoyable. So what is so diverse about the newest game in the series compared to those before it? F.3.A.R. is much more based on the tactics and skills of the player than the other titles in the series and seems much more influences by first-person shooter games than horror.
In my opinion, the game pulls off the new format very well and I really enjoyed the new ‘Challenges’ system. The game offers 78 different challenges for you to complete – some in single player and some cooperatively. The challenges are grouped into four categories (aggression, tactics, aptitude and psychic) for easy readability and it’s good to see an ordered, well thought out list rather than a jumbled afterthought. As an avid collector/completionist, this element of the game was exactly what I was looking for. Challenges also range in difficulty as well as theme, meaning that if you want to complete them all, you’ll have tonnes of replayability that will keep you at it for days on end.
The brand new scoring system is twinned with the above challenges scheme. The achievements for the ‘Level Scores’ are secret and so you don’t anticipate how high they actually are – until you get what seems to be an awesome score, but does not unlock the achievement. Gaining all of the level score achievements is not as simple as it appears and shouldn’t be taken lightly. A dedicated playthrough of each level is required and every point counts, which is very endearing and really makes the player strive to succeed.
Achieving the super-high score on each level is fun, challenging and enjoyable on six of the game’s eight intervals. I personally found Interval 6 (Bridge) and Interval 8 (Ward) a little tiresome. It’s understandable why the developers made the final level the way they did but it gets tedious on times. The entire interval (with the exclusion of the boss fight) takes places on a ward, no less, in which the area is very dark and disorientating. Either Pointman - the game’s protagonist and somewhat good guy, or Fettel - the game’s unlockable sinister character, must destroy memories galore and it seems a bit lazy. Though the intention was clearly to create atmosphere and wrap up the story, more action and shoot-em-up would have enhanced this interval. The level picks it up in the finale during the battle with the detestable ‘Creep’ Dr. Wade, along with his Ghost Soldiers and allows a last burst of energy for this fantastic game. As for Interval 6, it is the lack of enemy variation that gets to me. Disappointingly the only enemy on the level is ‘The Scavenger’ - a melee-based, bumbling monster that’s really quite hard to kill. On easier difficulties the problem does not arise but when playing on Insane, for example, the Scavengers are fast and capable of dodging countless attacks no matter what the weapon of choice. The screeching of the suspiciously Silent Hill looking Scavengers gets under your skin and can be distracting.
F.3.A.R. conveys its characters effortlessly. The cutscenes are not particularly lengthy but the player gets another insight into the heavily faceted characters of the Pointman, Paxton Fettel and Dr. Harlan Wade. Tough-guy Pointman struggles to overcome the pressures being enforced by his psychopathic sibling to stay true to his family and the player is involved with his fight between ultimate freedom and doing what’s right. In comparison to his moral brother, Fettel is a sadistic and intense character who is incredibly dislikeable but at the same time, a work of genius. Everything he exudes has been well planned and implemented – from his memorable husky voice to his worrying and slightly perverse grin.On the subject of Paxton Fettel, the introduction of him as a playable character brings a whole new altitude to the game, as not seen in many games to date. Taking control of Fettel is poles apart from that of Pointman and is a lot more manic and out of control, much like his character. The player is able to possess and levitate enemies, as well as ‘Fettel Blasting’ them which is totally in contrast to shooting or striking them. Some say the fact that Fettel can only use human weaponry whilst in possession is a downfall – but is this not just an added challenge that is presented to us?
Harlan Wade is explored in detail in F.3.A.R. as we learn of the cruel games he played with the troubled brothers as children and why they ultimately share a hatred for him. Known as ‘The Creep’, the doctor appears from time to time to terrorise the player, with jumpy scares and an eerie sense that one is being followed...Alma’s character does not show up in the game as much as in F.E.A.R. 2, which is a shame. I personally love the traditional bedraggled, evil-but-to-be-pitied, little girl character showcased in the series and would have liked to have seen more of her here. The game could have benefitted from some of the second title’s heavily Alma based structure, possibly bringing back a few heart-in-mouth moments and shocking thrills seen previously. In all, F.3.A.R. must rank among one of my most-loved games. The story is gripping and for me, the characters are flawless. The new game format is vibrant and exciting and encapsulates both elements of horror and shooter. F.3.A.R. is much more than a cheap, jump-a-minute, flash in the pan gore-fest than it may have been pigeon-holed as and deserves credit for being a game that is gripping, clever and mind-blowing.