Developer: Day 1 Studios | Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment | Release Date: 2011 | Genre: First Person Shooter | Website: N/A | Purchase: Steam
The original F.E.A.R was one of the premier first person shooter titles on PC back in the day. Two expansions that were deemed non-cannon and a sequel that was a console port brought down the franchise a few notches but the brand name still generates some excitement. This third installment was handled by Day 1 studios instead of Monolith and the console versions were once again the priority so is the PC version still worth your time?
If you have been following the series right from the start, then you will know that the last game ended in quite a bizarre fashion. After having her wicked way with the F.E.A.R 2 lead, Michael Becket, Alma is now pregnant and her contractions are tearing the fabric of reality apart. Brothers and unholy offspring of Alma, Point-Man and Paxton Fettel, reunite to find their creep mother, each for their own reasons. As the protagonist and antagonist respectively, of the first game, the brothers have had their differences in the past, but must now work together towards their common goal. There is still some lingering resentment seeing as Point-Man did put a bullet in Paxtons skull, but thanks to his immense psychic powers the latter now exists as some sort of evil apparition with the ability to possess foes. The story was helped pen by writer Steve Niles but never really takes off I’m afraid.
The game opens with Point-Man (and yes everyone addresses him as such despite how daft it sounds) being beaten by some Armacham facility guards. Paxton shows up to save the day and from there it’s an action packed, bullet and blood drenched roller coaster ride spread out across eight “intervals.” The journey back to Freeport will take you through sewers, slums, suburbs and even a demolished airport. It’s very clear right from the start that this game was designed with co-op in mind. Playing as Point-Man gives you the typical first person shooter experience as you go in guns blazing. He still has the ability to activate slow motion, which makes lining up those headshots easier. Paxton on the other hand cannot pick up any guns due to his corporeal form. He makes up for this by hurling bolts of psychic energy at enemies and possessing targets. As long as he has a hold over enemies, things turn back into a typical shooter, although slain foes drop tokens that allow him to stay in possession mode longer. Paxton is vulnerable while in his own body so do not think that being a ghost makes you invincible.
If you play in solo mode, only Point-Man is initially available with Paxton being unlocked at the conclusion of each interval. I thought that this would offer a unique glimpse at another side of the story, but the levels and cut-scenes (bar the ending) remains the same. Speaking of cut-scenes, these are generally pretty good and give a deeper insight into the troubled childhood that the brothers shared. John Carpenter apparently lent a hand for the cinematics, but I was disappointed by how little revelations there were plot wise. It seems that everything, including the scares, took a backseat to the action. In a typical level you might see a few flickering lights or some objects moving along with a random Alma sighting, but its not long before hordes of enemies pour in, screaming expletives and shooting the place up.
Enemy encounters tend to last a while (especially on higher skill levels) as foes can soak up damage and are quite proficient at flushing you out with grenades or flanking you. There is a new first person cover mechanic where you can take shelter behind objects to take pot shots at enemies. Cover is destructible, which keeps you on the move, but I would have liked to see greater damage to the environment. You can expect to stomp around in a giant mech suite a few times and shoot down helicopters using a rocket launcher as well which is all very cool, but doesn’t’ exactly make things spooky. One of the levels which pits you against cultists in a large abandoned store come close to the F.E.A.R of old, but the sheer amount of enemies that hurl themselves at you with explosives strapped to their bodies made it feel like a Serious Sam title. Some nightmarish creatures, conjured up by Alma’s imagination also make an appearance later on but fail to provide frights. Even the “Creep” which stalks you through the game fails to live up to its potential, although the showdown with it is somewhat cool.
The co-op mode is where the game really comes into its own. Paxtons abilities compliment those of Point-Man, so one player can levitate enemies, making it easier for the other to riddle them with bullets. Like in solo mode, you get points and achievements for absolutely everything you do which not only increases your rank (giving you new perks) but also determines who is the “favourite son” at the end of each level. Random bodies scattered throughout the game world also reward you with psychic pints so the game subtly encourages you to outdo your partner on each level. While there are a few multi-player modes, they are co-op only in nature and are played with a maximum of three other players.
The visuals in the game are good and do a nice job of showcasing more varied environments. There is nothing here that you have not seen in other games before and there is nothing “cutting-edge” if that is what you want. The audio is a highlight, although Point-Man stubbornly refuses to utter a word. Paxton on the other hand can never keep his mouth closed during cinematics and each time he posses someone he giggles like a schoolgirl. The enemy chatter sounds good, but the most memorable part in the game is where everything becomes almost muted due to some psychic interference.
The game definitely feels like a console port due to the checkpoint saves and field of view. I must admit that I found the lack of scares somewhat disappointing as well. A two-weapon limit and regenerating health further drives the point home. F.E.A.R 3 is a solid shooter with plenty of action and a kick-ass co-op mode, but loses a lot of atmosphere in the process. If you are new to the series, you will definitely have fun, but I would have liked to see a greater emphasis on the creepiness that made the franchise famous.
*Review originally published in 2011.
- OS: Windows XP
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz, AMD Athlon X2 4800+
- Drive Space: 4.4GB
- RAM: 2GB
- Video Card: NVIDIA 8800 GT 512MB RAM, ATI 3850HD 512Mb RAM or better
- DirectX®: 9.0c
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.93Ghz+, Intel quad core 2.66Ghz+, AMD Phenom II X2 550, 3.1Ghz+
- Drive Space: 10.0GB
- RAM: 4GB
- Video Card: NVIDIA 9800 GTX+ 512MB RAM, ATI 5750HD 512Mb RAM or better
- DirectX®: 11