A good horror game has some common themes. There’s always eerie music and ambient sounds, segments of subtle suspense, heart-pounding action sequences, creepy settings, and of course a truckload of blood and gore. F.E.A.R. 3 doesn’t deviate far from that equation, but its lacklustre story keeps it from being a standout chiller. It is, above all, a game full of details, exciting action, and wonderful co-op re-playability. And, even if it is a bit light on the scare meter, it’s certainly an enjoyable first-person shooter with solid gameplay mechanics, mildly original features, entertaining multiplayer, and settings so detailed you’ll swear the walls in your house are bleeding.
F.E.A.R. 3 is best played with a friend, as the entire campaign can be played in local and online co-op. You can play as either Point Man, a genetically enhanced soldier with the ability to slow time, or his brother Paxton Fettel, a ghost with even more supernatural powers, including the ability to possess an enemy’s body. Both characters are quite unique. Point Man is better with weapons and brute force, while Paxton is more of a mindbender. The ghostly brother is far more interesting to play as, so you may need to fight your friend so you may claim the ability to levitate enemies and shoot bolts of energy at baddies.
If you have followed the storyline so far, you’ll know all about Alma and her promiscuous ways. OK, so she wasn’t a tramp, but she was impregnated by Becket from F.E.A.R. 2. The campaign sends players on a quest to make sure Alma doesn’t give birth for fear the child will be even more powerful than the demonic woman. If you play solo, you’ll have to play through each level as Point Man first, but you can play again as Paxton Fettel. The story is primarily told with Point Man in mind, and your brother fills in details about the man who tested and tortured the pair as youth.
I won’t spoil the story, but it’s important to note you’ll fight some different kinds of enemies. The first are traditional soldier-types, but the second and far more interesting demonic creatures created by Alma. She has, after all, taken over the city of Fairport as evident through the crazy paranormal anomalies that occur throughout the game. Her influence is also thrown in your face throughout each level. Sometimes you’ll catch glimpses of Alma walking around, and other times random pieces of the environment will catch fire. The game isn’t very subtle in its scare tactics, so don’t expect a nice prolonged menacing feeling as you progress through the story; instead, look for standards like distant screams, falling boxes, blood soaked walls, and creepy zombie-like creatures. This is all fine, but it’s not a real fright fest.
The detail is impeccable, and it’s clear atmosphere was the focus, as opposed to breaking new grounds in the horror-shooter genre. Levels are fairly long and expansive. Some highlights include a jaunt through a giant store. One part has you fight through a Best Buy-style showroom, and then you’ll find yourself in the food section including a meat processing facility. The levels give you plenty of graphical variety, too. Each has a distinct look and feel, but the all carry that slightly washed, almost dated visual styling that almost comes off as a B movie. Save and load segments scattered throughout levels keep the action fluid, but it occasionally stalls and breaks that wonderful atmosphere. The sound really adds a first-class touch to what would be an otherwise decent presentation. I highly recommend turning down the lights, and cranking the volume to get the full experience. Again, it’s not the biggest scare you’ll find on the market, but it has a nice heavy layer of creepiness. The eight levels, called intervals, can take you about five hours to finish solo, but likely faster with co-op. It’s a short campaign, but it’s also quite concise. I did have some issues with the ending and the last level, but that is strictly a pacing concern. Also, the final boss fight is quite out of place, but that’s not a huge problem since the game wraps up nicely.
F.E.A.R. 3’s mechanics are spot-on with other first-person shooters. There is a decent cover system that allows you to lock on to nearly every wall and object, but I was surprised that you don’t really need to use cover. Sure, you will want to duck to avoid headshots, but you can often outsmart your enemies—especially if you are playing with a friend. Point Man can only carry two guns at a time, along with some grenades, and the weapons are quite standard. Actually, they feel realistic for a paranormal-inspired title, so that again helps set that nice atmosphere Day 1 Studios established. Paxton Fettel has the ability to shoot red energy balls at enemies, but he can also take over their bodies and weapons for a limited time.
The progression and scoring system, which also works in multiplayer, gives both characters perks such as additional health. You’ll earn points, becoming the Favorite Son, by performing random activities like staying behind cover for a certain period of time, getting 15 melee kills, and knocking off enemies with certain guns. Perks and new skills are added automatically so your character is more powerful offline and online. Speaking of online, the multiplayer components are quite refreshing. They break the traditional FPS mold by offering unique modes like Fu**ing Run! which sends you and your friends on a frantic escape from the Wall of Death. Your squad must push through forces to out run the deathly cloud, and this is truly a thrilling experience. Soul Survivor is also team-based, but you randomly turn on your friends. The other modes include Soul King, which allows players to possess human enemies, fighting off AI combatants. You must collect the most souls to win. The final mode, Contractions, is like Zombie mode from Call of Duty. Your squad must face waves of Alma’s minions and frantically loot ammo. All of the multiplayer modes can be played with four players and there are plenty of unique maps to keep you busy.
F.E.A.R. 3 gets a lot of things right. It’s a real solid FPS, there is great co-op and re-playability, and the overall aesthetics are top notch. The boss fights are quite repetitive since there are really only two types—outside of the final encounter, that is. I would have liked some more variation, but it is still fun to kill any enemy in F.E.A.R. 3. You won’t soil your pants in a stinky mess playing F.E.A.R. 3, but you will probably have a lot of fun.