The shooter market is definitely a saturated one, rife with derivative titles that rarely buck any trends. But every so often, a title comes along that does things a little bit differently. F.E.A.R. 3 is one such game. A horror and gore-inspired romp, F.E.A.R. 3 approaches the conventions of first-person shooters from a different perspective and successfully mixes together familiar gameplay elements with a unique and authentically chilling setting. F.E.A.R. 3 isn't without its problems, and these problems stop it from being a top echelon shooter. Still, its tendency to go off the beaten path is largely successful and will appeal to shooter fans and horror aficionados alike.
In F.E.A.R. 3, gamers are placed in the role of the genetically-enhanced Point Man, the protagonist from the original F.E.A.R. As you may remember from the end of F.E.A.R. 2, the mysterious female foil Alma forces herself upon that game's playable character -- Becket -- and becomes pregnant with his child. Alma is an evil psychic dynamo manipulated by Armacham, the same company responsible for Point Man's genetic enhancement, but her powers far outweigh his own. Thus, stopping Alma from having this kid is the name of the game in F.E.A.R. 3. Because after all, if Alma is so powerful, who knows what that kid is capable of?
Stopping Alma's pregnancy will be no easy task for Point Man, especially because he's accompanied continuously by the apparition of fellow Project Origin prototype Paxton Fettel, another character fans of the series will be familiar with. One of F.E.A.R. 3's great strengths is that you can actually play as Fettel through any level that Point Man already beaten, which gives a completely different feel for getting through the main campaign.
While Point Man is your typical gun-toting badass, Fettel is able to possess enemy soldiers and generally cause an insane amount of havoc. Better yet, you can play the campaign together with a friend locally or online, utilizing both characters' strengths simultaneously.
In terms of aesthetics, F.E.A.R. 3 provides passable graphics that look slightly dated but still get the job done. And the game runs fairly smoothly, with the exception of some stuttering when the game is loading and saving mid-play. Regardless, you won't mistake F.E.A.R. 3 for a top tier shooter in terms of its looks. On the other hand, F.E.A.R. 3 is a sonically appealing game. The voice-acting is at times over the top, but the sound effects and music add greatly to the scary feel of the game. There's audio nuance everywhere.
Both single player and co-op will require you to work your way through the same eight stages (known as Intervals). Playing through on co-op will allow you to blaze through the game significantly faster than playing on your own, but F.E.A.R. 3's campaign is best enjoyed as a solo affair. Though the game is much more difficult this way, playing on your own maximizes the frights and scares. Co-op is a fun experience in its own right, but should definitely be left for those who have already played through the campaign once before.
Mechanically, F.E.A.R. 3 will feel familiar to fans of the FPS genre. Your characters will have access to a number of firearms, explosives and more. Point Man and Fettel can also use their own psychic powers, primarily in the form of time slow-down and enemy possession respectively. The combination of the conventional and the supernatural isn't revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination, but it works well in F.E.A.R. 3. And though the stages are generally linear, there's reason for ancillary exploration, mostly to take in the sheer amount of ambiance present on most levels (not to mention to find collectibles).
If I have one major complaint about F.E.A.R. 3's core gameplay, it's in terms of grenade throwing. It's hard to use grenades in the game with any modicum of accuracy. Chucking grenades way over the intended target is more likely to happen than the perfect toss. Additionally, the AI glitched out on me once in a while, not reacting to my presence when I was clearly in view. None of this breaks the experience, but it certainly hampers it unnecessarily.
But there's good news for gamers who are looking for more than a campaign. F.E.A.R. 3's greatest strength rests in its multiplayer offering. This is no typical multiplayer game, and it shows from the get-go.
F.E.A.R. 3's four modes each only allow a maximum of four players at a time, greatly focusing the experience while giving gamers something different and fresh. Each mode has its own unique maps with no crossover between modes, and each mode will appeal to different tasks you want to complete.
For instance, Soul King is a mode that pits gamers against one another as ghastly creatures that can possess enemies around them. As zombies and soldiers do battle on the map, you'll be able to possess them, turning their weapons on fellow players. All dead enemies drop souls, and by collecting souls, you earn points. Hanging on to those points by the time the clock runs out is the real challenge here. On the other hand, Contractions is styled after Call of Duty's Zombie Mode in that you and your teammates are tasked with protecting a static location from incoming waves of enemies, all the while keeping yourself stocked-up with weapons.
But my favorite two multiplayer modes are F**king Run and Soul Survivor. Both are team-based games with a twist. In F**king Run, you and your team have to run away from an ever-incoming cloud of smoke while dodging and fighting enemies. With little room for error and no time to stop, you have to plow through obstacles while ensuring that the smoke never catches up with any member of your team. On the flipside, Soul Survivor is a unique mode where one of the four gamers is randomly made into a ghost that can possess other players. In the time allotted, the goal here is to turn the other three human members of the team into the undead before time runs out.
Everything in F.E.A.R. 3 is wrapped-up into an overarching score system that keeps track of your progress in single player, co-op and online. Points are mostly earned in single player and co-op by completing certain tasks -- menial, difficult and everywhere in between. So you may earn 1,000 points for using cover for 100 seconds, while 5,000 points can be earned for killing 10 enemies in a row without taking any damage. When carried over to the points you're earning online, your profile will be leveled-up, unlocking new perks and skills for you to use no matter where you're playing, whether in the realm of single or multiplayer.
This feeling of progression kept me locked-in to the experience. I wanted to play more, I wanted to play better, and I wanted to see and do everything I could in the game. I found this aspect of the game somewhat addicting. The fact that the game separates how, when and where you earned your points for you to examine later simply gives you more of a reason to come back for more. Trying to beat high scores in single player and co-op can be challenging, but rewarding, and the more you play multiplayer, the more points you'll earn towards making your character stronger and more viable in all of F.E.A.R. 3's modes.