Be afraid, be very afraid... or not, as the case may be
Warner Bros Interactive
Day 1 Studios and Monolith Productions
XBox 360, PS3, PC
First Person Shooter
We like a good scare as much as the next person, which is why we were particularly looking forward to the latest instalment in the F.E.A.R. series. While the second game was a little hit and miss at times, and did occasionally feel like a bit of a letdown, the original was so drenched in atmosphere and pant browning moments that we were sure Day 1 and Monolith were going to serve up the excellent return to form we’ve all been craving.
The game takes place nine months after the events of F.E.A.R. 2, and once again follows Point Man. Going it alone without a F.E.A.R. squad to back him up this time, Point Man is accompanied by the spectre of his dead cannibal brother Paxton Fettle in a bid to finally end the paranormal influence of their mother Alma Wade. While Point Man seems to be set on his target, Fettle continually tries to convince him that finding and destroying Alma is not the way to go, and that as a family they should be sticking together.
To complicate matters even further Alma (who was previously killed, but now seems to exist in the form of pure paranormal energy) is pregnant, and suspicions are that the ever increasing paranormal events taking place in Fairport are signalling the imminent arrival of her latest spawn, meaning even more bad news for the remaining earthly inhabitants of the city.
With John Carpenter and Seven Niles on board to help with the narrative and cut scene side of things, F.E.A.R. 3 really should have been the ultimate instalment of the series to date. With so much previously established mythology to build upon , as well as the fact that the original was one of the scariest games ever made, it seemed like we were truly set for something special.
However, somewhere along the way something went horribly wrong. F.E.A.R. 3, despite being as competent a first person shooter as you’ll find anywhere, feels rather unfortunately like a bit of a non event. As things kicked off we weren’t surprised that the pace was somewhat slower and less menacing than we have come to expect from the series, given the need to ease newcomers into the overall feel of the franchise. As we picked our way through a quickly destabilising prison, there were moments where we felt like big things were just around the corner. A sudden sense of uneasiness set in as things went dark and we were forced to rely on our flashlight in order to make our way through the maze of cells and corridors, just waiting for the inevitable scare that awaited us. But it never came.
This was a pattern that repeated itself from start to rather disappointing finish. The game almost exclusively relies on loud and unexpected musical cues in order to make you jump – a cheap replacement for actual horror, and something that begins to grate as you get further and further into the game.
Alma’s influence is disappointing, and it’s not until the last half an hour or so that things really start to heat up and then, just like that, it’s over. Our first play through of the campaign as Point Man lasted no more than four and a half hours which, although increasingly common in first person shooters nowadays, simply isn’t good enough in our books. Some may point at the fact that you can play through the game again as Fettle should you wish as a minor saving grace, but while he does bring a different feel to things, it just feels like a bit of a cop out.
Sure, people will point at the multiplayer and say that that’s where the game’s real intentions lie, but without the intensity and edginess of the first two games it’s just another generic first person shooter experience. Co-op play features heavily in the multiplayer, and the Contractions mode is certainly fun with a decent team, but it’s essentially Gears of War’s Horde Mode with less interesting enemies and slightly duller maps.
It might sound like we’re being unduly harsh on a game we have already pointed out is actually a really solid shooter, after all the mechanics are all spot on from the mech suit control to the gunplay, and even the cover system has its moments, but there is such a dearth of anything even remotely new on offer that the whole thing feels like a chore from start to finish – and not so much as an occasional scare to keep us going.
In short it’s a serviceable shooter that’s pretty to look at and handles exceptionally well, but walk into any game store these days and you can’t spit for hitting a dozen titles that could be summed up in much the same way. Hopefully Monolith and Day 1 will up their game next time around.