Paxton Fettel, who is now some sort of
psychic ghost that only Point Man can see. Together the two form an
uneasy alliance to escape their captors and reunite with their mother
Alma, who is on the verge of giving birth to her newest psychic
abomination. Characters from both of the previous F.E.A.R. titles play a
role as the trilogy wraps up while reality itself begins crumbling apart
from Alma’s out-of-control powers.
While the plot maintains the same “hell on earth” feel from the previous
games, displaying everyday settings like neighborhoods and airports
crumbling apart through violence and madness, the overall narrative
falls flat. This is largely due to the stubborn insistence on keeping
the Point Man silent, even when he’s seen in the third person during
cutscenes. Adding to the problem is Fettel himself, who originally came
across as a prophetic and often chilling madman, but is now reduced to
an almost cartoonish misfit spouting hammy and repetitive dialog
throughout. As an extra bit of silliness, the protagonist is literally
referred to as “Point Man” in the narrative, unintentionally labeling
him as a rejected Mega Man villain.
Furthermore, anyone exclusively hoping for more of the illusionary
imagery of child specter Alma haunting players in the dark best be
prepared: the horror elements in F.E.A.R. 3 have been drastically
reduced to the point of rarity. While this could be seen as a positive
in order to make Alma’s sudden appearances more meaningful, they
ultimately result in the same old tricks that just don’t work anymore.
Anyone who has had experience with previous F.E.A.R. titles will just
roll their eyes with the peek-a-boo tactics that already grew stale one
game and several expansions ago, while everyone else will just grow
frustrated by the visual distractions cluttering up the first person
view (one instance near the end results in health that can’t be
regenerated, resulting in players actually missing crucial story
information due to the obscured screen).
Fortunately, the shooting elements still
hold up, even if they have been outfitted with the same old refinements
required in FPS games since Modern Warfare; melee attacking with a
knife, vaulting over cover, and taking down helicopters with RPGs is
nothing new at this point, but the slow-mo button is still a satisfying
gameplay element, especially for gore hounds who want o observe every
blood splatter and disemboweled body part floating in the air. It’s far
more important as a tactical element, however, especially with the speed
and tenacity that the enemies possessed.
Don’t let the billions of bodies left behind by other FPS games deter
you: F.E.A.R. 3 is difficult. The enemy AI is competent enough to not
stand still and let you shoot them, and they will use their numbers to
their advantage by trying to bring you into a corner, or take you out of
cover with a well-tossed grenade. In truth, though, the majority of
difficulty is due to the number of hits they can endure; even when shot
in the head at point-blank range, the heavily-armored soldiers can take
more damage than the average Call of Duty mook, but fortunately the same
can be said for the player.
As solid as the shooting elements are, the game still does little to
distinguish itself from other titles in the same genre. In an attempt to
spice things up further, there is now a co-op element where two players
can play the entire campaign as both Point Man and Paxton, utilizing
each of their respective abilities to subdue enemies in grisly fashion.
Using Fettel is a more unique experience with his abilities to possess
the bodies of nearby soldiers, or psychically suspend them in the air
for Point Man to dispatch. Also adding to the experience is a Ranking
system, where completing certain challenges in each level (such as the
number of kills obtained during slow-mo, staying in cover for X amount
of seconds, killing Y enemies with a certain weapon) offer players with
experience points, eventually causing a Rank Up that offers bonuses such
as faster health regeneration and extra slow-mo time. Points can also be
shared evenly between players or hoarded individually, which will no
doubt result in many heated arguments both offline and on. It’s a solid
experience that is unfortunately hampered by several technical issues
and otherwise poor decisions, including the inability to instantly drop
in and out while in a game.
Heaven help the FPS that doesn’t include some sort of multiplayer
experience, so it’s fortunate that F.E.A.R. 3 includes four of them.
While the main campaign borrows heavily from other games in the genre,
the multiplayer modes surprisingly do not. Rather than tack on a Team
Deathmatch or Capture the Flag variant, Monolith instead has included
some unique and refreshing game modes.
The most unique of these modes is “Fucking Run”, which is a pretty apt
description of the multiplayer experience; in this mode, four players
must co-operate in order to fend off enemies and reach the target goal.
The kicker here is that a massive “wall of death” is closing in behind
them, and will instantly kill anyone who gets caught in it. This
mechanic basically reinvents the term “running and gunning” and turns it
into a race for survival, making every enemy encounter and downed
teammate into an experience more tense than the entirety of the
campaign. Players had best learn to work together, because if even one
teammate falls behind, it’s game over for everyone else.
“Soul King” is like a deathmatch free-for-all, but the twist in this one
is that all players are specters, ghostly aberrations that can only harm
one another by possessing the body of a nearby enemy. Once they take
over the AI foe, they can take out all other opponents while racking up
points. The person who racks up the most points is the winner. “Soul
Survivor” is a similar variant which has just one player as a specter
and is tasked with possessing everyone else. Lastly, “Contractions” is a
wave-based survival game in the vein of Gears of War 2’s Horde Mode,
with players working together to fortify their defenses while facing off
waves of increasingly tough foes; rather than procure weapons from
corpses, teammates must collect supply crates that add additional
weapons to their main base. As another added twist, Alma herself can be
seen roaming around the map, and anyone who stares or shoots at her will
be met with a ghostly incapacitation that impact their odds for
All four of these modes add a refreshing experience that makes F.E.A.R.
3 a more worthwhile package, were it not for one crucial problem: the
netcode is an atrocious, unplayable mess. As of this writing, it’s
virtually impossible to join a game without receiving an error message,
or being disconnected from the lobby minutes upon entering. What’s worse
is that there is also an issue where searching for games will not
display all the available games currently being hosted by other players.
Even the campaign co-op suffers from this technical nightmare, thus
making the online experience virtually dead upon arrival. In all
likelihood a patch will be forthcoming that will hopefully fix these
issues, but in the bloated FPS market, even a week of downtime is enough
to deter people from ever hopping back into a title that isn’t as big a
name as Call of Duty, Battlefield, or any of Valve’s multiplayer
While neither innovative in its gameplay mechanics or its fright-fests,
F.E.A.R. 3’s solo outing is still a better-than-average experience that
is made all the more entertaining with another player. Its multiplayer
offerings are on the opposite side of the spectrum, featuring
interesting and fun new gameplay modes that deserve to be imitated by
future FPS titles. Unfortunately, the current netcode issues keeps
gamers from discovering this for themselves, as if Alma’s vengeful
spirit lingers as a ghost in the machine.
- Jorge Fernandez
(July 4, 2011)