|System: PC, PS3, X360|
|Dev: Day 1 Studios|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive|
|Release: June 21, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language|
by Robert VerBruggen
In the F.E.A.R. series' first two entries, Warner Bros. Interactive took some uninspiring shooter mechanics and made them interesting by combining them with a horror story. With obvious inspiration from Japanese horror flicks such as The Ring and Ju-On: The Grudge (complete with a creepy girl with long, dark hair), F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2 freaked out countless gamers with their dark atmospheres and barrages of disturbing imagery.
The big question is whether F.E.A.R. 3 -- or rather, F.3.A.R., as the branding gurus who decide these things chose to title the third iteration -- can push the series forward instead of treading water. Going on the information available today, we're definitely looking forward to another round of frightening visions, and we even have hopes for a more innovative gameplay experience.
So far as the horror goes, it's hard to believe F.3.A.R. will be any less scary than its predecessors. Not only is the series' formula well-established and sure to chill the spine, but the developers brought on no less a horror expert than John Carpenter to help out with the cinematics. If the genius behind everything from Halloween to the underappreciated Cigarette Burns can't give this franchise a boost, we don't know who could. Also on board is Steve Niles, author of the 30 Days of Night comic book (which inspired the movie of the same name).
Gameplay is where the franchise is most in need of a boost; as far as killing things went, the previous two entries were cookie-cutter modern shooters. You played as a member of the military who battles paranormal threats, and the basic action felt like a poor man's Call of Duty. Fortunately, Day 1 Studios, which is taking over development from Monolith Productions, promises some major improvements. There will be a new cover system, as well as a co-op mode. Co-op might kill the sense of isolation (as some said it did in Resident Evil 5), but it's something new for the series, and we can't wait to try it out. Similarly, too much emphasis on cover might take the emphasis off horror and put it on tactical fighting, but the innovation seems worth the risk.
F.3.A.R. co-op will be a little different from what you're used to. The second player is a ghost rather than a soldier, and thus cannot use weapons unless he possesses an enemy. Most of the time, he has to use his paranormal powers (such as telekenesis) to attack the enemy and help the living player survive. In addition to setting this iteration apart from its predecessors, this feature will add to replay value, because most players will want to beat the game with both players. Unfortunately, however, only the human is controllable in single-player games. We just hope the ghost's A.I. will be good enough that single-player gamers won't be left out of the F.3.A.R. experience completely.
The cover system, meanwhile, has been provoking comparisons to Gears of War. Most likely, this means a lot of pop-and-shoot sequences. Also, combined with the addition of a second player, it will allow you to flank enemies and revive your teammate when he gets killed. What's more, a new enemy-spawning system allows bad guys to come from anywhere, so you can no longer just memorize the patterns. This is a problem with the entire first-person shooter genre, so if it works, other developers might take note. Hopefully, all of this will work together to make combat a more memorable experience than it has been in the F.E.A.R. franchise to date. Shooting shouldn't just be something you do between looking at blood smears and angry ghosts.
The plot will pick up where F.E.A.R. 2 (or, as we've taken to calling it, F.E.A.2.) left off. Alma, the creepy long-haired girl who haunts the series thanks to (what else?) a military experiment gone haywire, is pregnant with the child of Sgt. Michael Becket, the protagonist of F.E.A.R. 2. You play either as Point Man (the soldier) or as Paxton Fettel (the ghost). Point Man and Paxton are Alma's sons, and they were the main character and antagonist respectively of the original game. The idea, of course, is to end the reign of destruction that Alma's spirit has visited on the world. Two brothers with a history of not getting along, one of whom is dead, and an evil ghost mother? Sounds like an opportunity to mix some family drama in with the horror.
Up until now, the F.E.A.R. games have given us great moments of terror interspersed with mediocre action. The developers seem aware of this, and are seeking to keep the horror going with improved combat mechanics. Given they've assembled a great team, borrowed the cover system from Gears of War, and implemented an interesting new co-op mode, we're eagerly awaiting the results.
By Robert VerBruggen
CCC Freelance Writer