Anthony Taormina of Game Rant reviews F.E.A.R. 3
While some games in the horror shooter genre have struggled to find the right balance between high-octane action and well-paced thrills, the past two F.E.A.R. iterations have been a perfect example of how to do it right. Though the game becomes bogged down by its somewhat convoluted storyline, the gameplay itself has proven worthwhile enough to warrant F.E.A.R. 3.
Set nine months after the events of the second game, F.E.A.R. 3 puts players back in control of the Point Man, or his brother Paxton Fettel (if the series’ new co-op mode is on the menu), as they attempt to stop the supernatural events occurring as a result of their mother Alma’s pregnancy. With a single player and co-op campaign, and a fully featured multiplayer mode, there is a ton of content packed into F.E.A.R. 3, but is it enough to prove the series still has life, or is this title D.O.A?As was said before, the storylines in the F.E.A.R. games tend to become a bit convoluted, and F.E.A.R. 3 is no different. There are some clever twists and turns (and the way in which F.E.A.R. 3 tries to incorporate elements from the past two games should please fans) but ultimately there isn’t much to hold onto. Essentially, the storyline is a mixed bag — fans of the series will find enough to enjoy that the experience won’t feel empty, but its resolution will leave a lot to be desired.
In keeping with the mixed bag theme, gameplay in F.E.A.R. 3 feels like two distinct experiences: one enjoyable and one extremely frustrating. The enjoyable gameplay takes on the form of strategic first person shooter sequences highlighted by the player’s ability to slow down time for even greater accuracy and destruction. Moments where the player must strategically take-on the Armacham forces who (bolstered by the game’s impeccable AI) are constantly flanking and attempting to outwit gamers, are fast-paced and exciting – and remain a major selling point for the series thus far.
Or, if so inclined, the player can take on the persona of Paxton Fettel, who uses his supernatural abilities for everything from creating levitating cannon fodder for the Point Man or even to possess enemies himself. Fettel’s mechanics, especially when in control of an enemy character, are essentially FPS-based, but his supernatural abilities help create the idea these are two unique playable characters. One’s a little more over-the-top, but the core mechanics remain very similar.
Taking the game’s sense of over-the-top action even further are a few sections that put the player in control of extremely overpowered mech suits. Seen in the previous F.E.A.R., these sequences do away with tactics and organization in favor of feeling like a one man wrecking crew. They are the most fun and help keep the gameplay fresh.
Unfortunately, these higher tempo moments make up only three-fourths of the gameplay, leaving the remainder a real disappointment. Though these slower paced sequences utilize the game’s solid visuals and brilliant sound design to great effect – they attempt to keep the player engaged through sequences in which the gamer is bombarded with wave after wave of mindless supernatural enemies.
Rather than attacking with the strategy and tactics of the human Armacham foes, these creatures (that result from Alma’s supernatural birth contractions) cause frustration and headache. For the majority of these moments, players will find themselves abandoning all sense of rhyme or reason and simply running in circles hoping to survive.
It’s a real shame the sections that were meant to be all about ambiance and environment, and have in the past made the game a list-topper in the scariest game categories, are filled with enemies that often times push the already brutal difficulty over the top. These moments won’t halt your progress or anything, they will simply force players to ask if continuing on is worth it.
Thankfully, developer Day 1 Studios has brought perhaps the most welcome addition to F.E.A.R. 3 with the decision to make the entire campaign playable with two players, one as Point Man and one as Fettel. By playing with a friend, not only will players have a much better chance of surviving the brutally difficult Armacham enemies and the mind-numbingly frustrating supernatural foes – but each will get their own unique experience dependent on which character they choose.
A standard rank-based progression system is at play in the single player, but it’s in the co-op that the rewards from completing skill or weapon-based objectives feel important. Tabulating scores and determining a mission winner will not only fuel your competitive edge, but will have a greater influence on some of the game’s final moments. F.E.A.R. 3′s cooperative campaign is by far the best part of the title, and brings enough new to the table to warrant both a single player and a co-op playthrough.
Then, of course, comes the multiplayer of F.E.A.R. 3 that supports up to four players across two competitive and two cooperative modes. Each mode is a unique riff on a common variant, with a trademark F.E.A.R. twist thrown in, but none are standouts. The cooperative modes lack the amount of coherence that made the co-op campaign shine, and competing against one another with NPC-focused matches lacks the immediacy of going truly head-to-head. Contractions, in which the team must survive increasing waves of enemies, will probably go down as the favorite, but even then it doesn’t feel as refined as modes of the same ilk.
Without a traditional deathmatch, and a tendency to alienate players who like to “go it alone,” F.E.A.R. 3’s multiplayer isn’t going to prolong the experience as much as Day 1 might have hoped. Like most titles, the multiplayer will add a couple hours to the girth of the game, but it won’t keep players coming back again and again.
It’s very hard not to be impressed by F.E.A.R. 3 when looking at the entire package. As well-stocked FPS sequels go, gamers will be hard-pressed to find anything that offers this much variety. There are elements, like the game’s storyline, a few moments in the campaign, and the lackluster multiplayer, that don’t feel refined – but each is only a small slice of a larger picture.
Yes, the game has its problems in every mode (single player, co-op, and multiplayer), but it gets right almost everything that fans of the series have come to expect. The jump-scares are clever, the gunplay and strategy is solid, and there are enough nods to F.E.A.R.’s past to make this a must play for anyone who is the least bit familiar with the property.
The game is the definition of “filled to the brim,” but that will only take some gamers far. Players who like longevity in a game package, or who are huge fans of the series, will most definitely want to give F.E.A.R. 3 a look, but casual fans of the genre might want to seek out something with a little more polish and a much more engaging story.
F.E.A.R. 3 is available now for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.