This is a Jerry Springer show that I would love to see. Firstly you have the brother that has been raised to be a super soldier. Then there is the other brother who was shot in the head by the first and is now trying to be all brotherly in his ghost form. And family funtime is completed by the mother, Alma, who is also dead and an incredibly powerful psychic. Things get a little more confusing when the two brothers seem intent on hunting their mother down and destroying her, due in part to the fact that she is pregnant and about to give birth to something really nasty.
So far as the story goes in this third installment in the F.E.A.R. series of games, a lot of assumptions are made. Assumptions that the player has played the previous two installments and paid attention enough to know what the hell is going on, and assumptions that players will remember all of the pieces of the storyline that are wrapped up in F.E.A.R.3. There is very little by way of explanation, which will leave new players scratching their heads, wondering why everyone seems out to get them. The reality is that the story is not really that important in this game, although I am sure that fans of the series will get something out of it, and new players, whilst being a little confused, will still be able to enjoy the game without needing to know what is really going on.
Players will take on the role of Point Man, grizzled super soldier with a look that will make any man buy him a pint out of fear. FPS players will be comfortable with this guy, being able to swap out weapons, and take cover when the bullets start flying. In a slightly “not of this world” way, he also comes equipped with the ability to slow time, which comes in handy for bullet dodging and getting up close and personal with the enemies.
Players get to enjoy the full campaign as the super soldier Point Man, with his suitably impressive combat skills. But as each level is completed, they then get to play through as Point Man’s brother Paxton Fettel. Despite being dead, shot in the head by Point Man, Fettel is quite capable of dealing damage through a variety of different psychic abilities. He is able to perform a psychic missile style ranged attack, immobilise and suspend enemies in mid air and even possess his adversaries, giving him access to all of their weaponry and abilities. This makes for a very different experience to playing as Point Man and means that playing through the levels again is worthwhile.
However, the real standout point of the campaign comes from playing in co-op, with players taking the role of one brother each. The vastly different powers of the two brothers complement each other very well, making for an enjoyable experience in which each player can support, and even revive, the other as they play through the story. Whilst playing alone is fun, certain encounters seem to be more tailored to the co-op game and will be difficult to overcome as a single player.
Something else that emphasises the importance of co-op play in F.E.A.R.3 is the scoring. Throughout each level, the player will work towards certain achievements which they will be scored for at the end of the level. This scoring goes towards leveling the players up, but also allows them to compete with each other to be title “Favorite Son”, which is a questionable accolade considering it is bestowed by a crazy, dead, psychic woman.
It has to be said that although there are some quite creepy moments in the game, the room filled with untuned TV screens being one, it feels as though the emphasis is more on action than horror this time around. The game has a certain Kane and Lynch feeling about it, especially given the strained relationship between the two brothers, which is in no way a bad thing, just unexpected. Most of the environments are menacingly dark, possibly too dark in some cases, so as to build upon the feelings of terror, and there are plenty of blood stains and associated imagery around to generate fear. Even the soundtrack goes a long way towards making the hairs stand up on the back of the neck, with mystery footsteps and occasional screams. But a lot of this goes unnoticed as the player is too busy concentrating on being shot at, or ran towards by hammer wielding maniacs.
F.E.A.R.3 has taken the not uncommon route of providing a code for certain aspects of online play when the player buys the game new. Without the code, players will still have access to two multiplayer modes, but all four modes will only be available to those who buy the game new, or pay out for an online pass. Sadly I didn’t have an online pass, so will only be able to comment on the two “free” modes. Contractions challenges the players to survive wave after wave of enemies as a Point Man style soldier. The twist in this mode is that the player has to leave the relative safety (I say relative because it is not really safe) of the beginning area to hunt down weapon crates that must then be taken back to the beginning area to provide extra weapons and ammo. The second mode, Soul King, is more competitive as players take on the form of a Fettel type creature that can possess enemies or fire psychic bolts. In this mode the players compete to gather souls from those that they kill, with the winner being the person with the most souls at the end of the round.
Both of these modes are great fun, with one being co-operative and the other competitive, and are playable online or locally through split-screen, for those wishing to carry on the split-screen fun from the campaign. The other two modes, for those lucky enough to have a code, include Soul Survivor in which one player will become corrupted by Alma and will have to corrupt the others, and the excellently titled Fu**ing Run! in which players must fight their way through adversaries whilst being pursued by a cloud of death.
One issue that I have had with the game, both in multiplayer and the campaign, is one that I touched on earlier, the darkness of the environments. Whilst it is understandable that the setting of the game requires a certain amount of darkness, I did find myself turning up the brightness on the TV just to be able to see who was shooting at me. I am sure that others will declare that the low light is just part of the game, but for me personally it was somewhat irritating. That being said, it was by no means gamebreaking.
F.E.A.R.3 has a lot going for it. The story is certainly interesting for those who know what the hell is going on, the multiplayer modes are different to what can usually be found, and the two drastically different playable characters make for completely different experiences through the single player game. But, all of that taken into account, playing through the story in co-op is easily the highlight of the game and how it should be played, either locally via split-screen or online. Convince a friend to buy the game, or get them to come around and make an evening of it. The brothers work best together and F.E.A.R.3 is at its best with two players.