The first F.E.A.R. lived up to its name with lots of claustrophobic scares. The second (“Fairly Enjoyable Albeit Redundant“, we reckoned) had a superb “what the hell just happened” ending. So I’ve been looking forward to F.E.A.R. 3, and feel like it had a lot to live up to…
From the off, FEAR 3’s narrative amounts to little more than “get to Alma”. The focus is on Point Man and his ghostly brother Paxton Fettel; the more intriguing consequences of the supernatural Armageddon are shunted aside. John Carpenter was brought in to help the horror side of things, and while this is in evidence occasionally, the huge influence seems to be Call of Duty. One level is set in a favela in broad daylight, and it’s like having a spring break in the middle of Silent Hill.
Gameplay-wise, it’s a standard console shooter, but the guns go boom and it can still hold its head up high. Even the standard troopers really flank and cover well, and you have to respond in kind. The slow motion bullet time returns, but it’s no tactic for domination – it merely helps to even the odds.
The game has some mech sections to add more explosions and some pure supernatural sequences to fold in some scares, but the supernatural foes are disappointing in terms of both design and behaviour – they’re either zombies or demon dogs, and all just mindlessly rush at you. Alma returns to haunt us, but mainly in ineffective cameos, while her two super-powered sons are overkill when it comes to scares, as it’s often the enemies who are crapping their pants in terror.
The flipside to the “brothers format” is co-operative play. Fettel’s supernatural powers add a new gameplay mechanism (and you can replay levels as in him in single player). There’s also a multiplayer element with flavoursome modes such as the fun-but-short “F***king run”, where players are chased by a wall of death – and this is all neatly tied together with a level-up system that covers both single and multiplayer.
Fear 3 is a good value package but it’s difficult to see where the franchise could be taken next without refocusing on actual fear and getting lost in general FPS noise.