Nothing To Fear
Aside from its preposterous acronym, the biggest problem with F.E.A.R. 3 is that it misrepresents itself. It may be a horror-themed shooter, but if you're expecting scares then you'll be left wholly disappointed. Early on it becomes apparent that the shocks are scripted events and can't actually hurt you, at which point it becomes about as spooky as your neighbour's haunted house. If you've come for frights then look elsewhere, but if you're looking for an exceptional first-person shooter, F.E.A.R. 3 will hit the spot.
Get To The Point, Man
You reprise your role as Point Man from the first F.E.A.R. After being taken prisoner by ominous technology corporation Armacham, you're rescued by the ghost of your murderous brother Paxton Fettel, the antagonist of the first game. The brothers unite to look for their pregnant mother - a creepy, undead psychic whose tortured childhood and shattered mental state manifests itself as spooky happenings throughout the city. Despite comic book writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and film director John Carpenter (The Thing) taking on the writing and cinematic duties respectively, the story is a muddled mess.
Where the F.E.A.R. series always excelled was its exhilarating combat, and F.E.A.R. 3 is no exception. Due to clever enemy AI, cunning level design, and satisfying slow-motion, gunplay is fast and frantic. New to the series is a cover system, though enemies will do their best to suss you out so you can't stay prone for long. Scrambling around for cover only to be intercepted by a couple of soldiers, then having to pump them full of lead in slow motion is riveting.
The Ghost With The Most
F.E.A.R. 3 really stands apart from its predecessors through the inclusion of secondary character, Paxton Fettel. Fettel can be played either in two-player co-op (offline split-screen or online) or in any single-player mission you've already completed as Point Man. Since Fettel's a ghost, he can't use conventional weapons or go into slow-mo. His otherworldly powers include levitating foes with a spectral vine, shooting projectiles, a melee attack where he squishes enemies to a pulp by clenching his fist, and in co-op he can create a shield around Point Man by keeping him tethered to his vine. Even more noteworthy is his power to possess enemy soldiers.
Inhabiting their bodies confers their abilities on you - though you can only claim a host for so long before you burst out of them in a shower of gore. You can extend your stay by collecting the red skulls dropped by any enemy you kill while in possession of a host. It's a "cat and mouse" feel that encourages you to play aggressively while inhabiting a body, but defensively when booted back to your shadowy form. Playing as Fettel is a joy in single player and even better in co-op where the two vastly different playstyles complement one another.
All 4 One, And One 4 All
F.E.A.R. 3's innovations don't end there as the game contains four unique multiplayer modes, each designed around four players. Convulsions is a riff on Gears of War's Horde mode, where you stave off increasingly threatening waves of enemies. Soul King puts players in the role of phantoms competing for points based on collecting the skulls left by fallen foes. Phantoms are vulnerable, but move quickly, jump high and can possess enemies. Getting killed as a phantom makes you forfeit half your points, so it remains anyone's game throughout.
The best two modes are DLC that come bundled with new copies of the game as a free unlock code. One such mode has four players sprinting through enemy terrain while being chased by a wall of smoke. If anyone gets taken by the fog, it's game over for everyone. Taking care of your squad mates while on the run is just the right amount of stressful. Lastly, Soul Survivor pits one random player as a phantom - assigned to convert the other players who are busy fending off enemies. Once converted, players switch sides and whether you're playing the hunter or the hunted, it's equally good fun.
F.E.A.R. 3 may not be scary and the story is lacking, but it more than makes up for these shortcomings with refined and inventive gameplay. The base mechanics of the game subtly improves upon its predecessors without compromising their integrity, while its new ideas are a resounding success. Whether played as single player, co-op or multiplayer, F.E.A.R. 3 is a brilliant gem of a shooter.
- Excellent combat.
- Playing as a ghost is inspired.
- Multiplayer is a blast.
- Not scary.
- Story is poorly told.
- Somewhat misleading title.