Nearly six years ago Monolith Productions released a title which many gamers consider to be a classic, F.E.A.R. This horror based first person shooter was very much influenced by movies coming out of Japan at the time and brought us plenty of scares as we were sent to contain a situation where supernatural events were occurring.
F.E.A.R was followed by a couple of expansion packs before Monolith released the sequel "Project Origin" in 2009, a game which expanded the backstory of Alma, the main supernatural being in the franchise.
Now with F.E.A.R. 3 we have the next instalment in the franchise which takes us back to the first game as it is developed by the company who first ported the original to PS3 and 360... and focuses on the characters from that initial title.
At its core F.E.A.R 3 is a modern day first person shooter so all of the key ingredients are here, the ability to carry multiple weapons, including two of the same type for dual handed attacks, we can zoom to target and health regenerates when we seek cover. Day 1 have however retained some of the key aspects of the original title which ensure that this feels like a F.E.A.R title, the main thing being the ability to slow time while attacking which allows us to target and attack multiple enemies more successfully in dangerous situations.
The reason we can do this is that our main character, Point Man, is essentially an enhanced human who was experimented on and trained from an early age to be a super solider. The problem is though that these events have essentially driven our character over the edge to a point where we have lost our grip on reality... something which isn't helped by the fact that we are haunted by the ghost of our dead brother who we killed earlier in the timeline.
The inclusion of the brother as an aspect of the game has a few impacts on the gameplay of F.E.A.R 3, firstly we have co-op play where a second player can take control of Paxton Fettel (the ghost) using various supernatural abilities to assist the main player. Secondly there is the ability to replay levels as Fettel after they have been completed as Point Man and finally the relationship between the two brothers, and Alma is the basis for the story and so our journey through the game progresses the plot which is one of the best aspects of F.E.A.R 3.
Also driving us through the game are the usual selection of Steam achievements which are added to by the ability to level up in the game by scoring points for killing in particular ways, or gathering souls as we progress. These level ups allow our character to increase in skill, for example being able to carry more ammo for each weapon.
As well as the single player and co-op aspects of the campaign we have a good selection of multiplayer modes in F.E.A.R. 3. In some modes we work with other players (Fucking Run and Contradictions) either working our way through waves of enemies or defending against them. In other modes we take on a more supernatural guise, possessing enemies to fight against other players (Soul King and Soul Survivor). Each mode is fun although matching up can take a while and at quieter times finding a game which meets our settings can sometimes be a challenge. Usually quick match works though.
Graphics and Audio
F.E.A.R 3's engine is reasonably impressive with one of the key aspects being that there are basically no load screens on the PC version. Areas are loaded in the background just before we get to them and this creates a seamless experience to each level, regardless of how large it is.
In terms of graphics the engine does a good job of creating a nice environment and while it doesn't look great at low resolutions as we scale up and add anti-aliasing things improve. On our Eyefinity system which was used to play through the game we were particularly impressed by how some of the levels looked, the sewers being a prime example of what was possible with the engine. We also noted some interesting stylistic choices throughout which worked well as our character slips in and out of reality, the screen becoming grainy being one effect which is used.
The soundtrack in fear is a mix of atmospheric music mixed with sounds that are designed to maximise the scare potential of the game. On occasion the music can be a little too busy, the final section of level 2 where we try to reach a helicopter being one example, but overall everything here works well and the voiceover from Pettel is particularly good which makes up for some rather repetitive shouts from the enemy soldiers. On that final point it is a little bit of a shame that there is not more variation on that front, when we are ducking and diving early on in the game and the NPC's are shouting over there behind the barrel or similar comments, recognising our actions it is quite cool however as things progress and we hear the same for the hundredth time it isn't quite as impressive.
There is a lot to like about F.E.A.R 3, the controls are responsive and the environments reasonably destructive. The ability to slow down time enhances the game and there is plenty of gore to go along with the horror aspects. In addition to this there are some very cool set pieces, walking through a meat freezer with hanging carcases being one and a section around the same time where we walk through a warehouse of pale, flickering flatscreen TV's with enemies stalking us in the shadows.
There are some issues however, the pacing of the game early on is a little slow as we battle through wave upon wave of enemies with little variation, although the AI is decent which minimises the effect. This pacing impacts the plot which is actually very good and this more than anything else keeps us going through the levels as we wait to see what the next cutscene will reveal.
There is also an issue with the level of "scare" in the game, in our opinion this isn't quite balanced right and rarely hits the same level of dread or fright as the original game. Still, there is plenty of fun to be had from the game and of course everyone's F.E.A.R threshold is different.
||A solid shooter with decent co-op mode and a good plot.
||Not quite cutting edge buy they work well and look good at higher resolutions.
||An occasionally busy soundtrack is otherwise good at adding atmosphere.
||Good campaign which can be played on our own, co-op and again as the 2nd character. Good online modes add value.
(Not an Average)
||A good FPS with plenty of action and gore. Loads of longevity through replay and online modes... just a shame that it isn't quite scary enough for our tastes.