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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Warner Bros. Interactive

 

Developer

Day 1 Studios

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

June 21, 2011

 

 

- Fast paced firefights (with slow-mo benefits)
- Refreshing multiplayer modes
- Co-op and experience points encourages replay

 

 

- Shoddy network interface
- Scares are sparse and subpar
- Narrative is (literally) one-sided

 

 

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Review: No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way (PC)

 

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F.E.A.R. 3

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

fear 3          fear 3

 

When the original F.E.A.R. hit PCs back in 2005, it quickly earned a respectable position in the overcrowded FPS market with its fast-paced (and often gory) firefights and cerebral horror sequences, creating a unique marriage of Resident Evil’s bombastic action with Silent Hill’s nail-biting atmosphere.

But the gaming market is now more crowded than ever with first person shooters, and with F.E.A.R.’s 2009 follow-up failing to hook fans growing tired of the same old haunted house routine, the series is in danger of losing its relevancy, much like

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Jason or Freddy’s hundredth sequel.

Set nine months after the second game, F.E.A.R. 3’s story focuses back on the Point Man, the silent protagonist of the original game. After being captured by Armacham Security, he is saved from a prolonged interrogation by original big bad (and younger brother, as previously revealed)

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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).

 

fear 3          fear 3

 

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 survival.

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 affairs.

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)

 

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