|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|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 Josh Wirtanen
F.E.A.R. 3 tells the story of two brothers reunited who are searching for their mother. Only one brother is dead—murdered by the other brother—and he's now a ghost. And the search is much less of a family reunion and more of a hunt. You see, the mother is Alma, a ghost with psychic powers so advanced she can turn humans into molten puddles of goo without batting an eyelash.
And to complicate matters even worse, Michael Becket, the protagonist of F.E.A.R. 2, has managed to get Alma pregnant. While living, she gave birth to Point Man and Fettel. Now that she's dead, what sort of monstrosity will she bring into the world? Point Man hopes he won't have to find out. He sets out to find Alma and destroy her, along with her unborn child.
In the F.E.A.R. world, being dead has some advantages. Fettel is an example of this. He has the ability to toss bolts of energy, and he can possess people and walk around in their skin. Of course, the host cannot survive a Fettel possession, so body-hopping tends to result in piles of corpses.
F.E.A.R. 3 is all about the atmosphere. It is just plain creepy. There are enigmatic blood scrawled images on the walls, things can be heard crawling just around the next corner, and Alma shows up at random times to mess with your head. Blood splotches on just about everything serve as a constant reminder that you are not ever safe, and specters pop in and out of your field of vision, forcing you to question your own sanity.
For the most part, the sound design is excellent. The voice acting is a bit flat, yet it's an improvement over F.E.A.R. 2. It's the little details that make F.E.A.R. 3 stand out though. There's the scampering of little footsteps that will make you jump, whispers in the background that make your hair stand on end, and shrill shrieks—apparently caused by Alma's labor pains—that are often accompanied by some sort of supernatural psionic blast that can knock choppers out of the sky. There's even one point as when your sound starts getting muffled, presumably by all the psychic activity. F.E.A.R. 3 is a creepy game, and the audio is a huge part of that.
The graphics are very nice as well. I may have seen one or two objects pop in during the bridge scene, but aside from that, the game looks great. There was clearly a lot of effort put into the little visual details, and the art design comes with the strong vibe that the people involved were pretty disturbed. As an added bonus, there is a subtle theme of childhood that makes things feel a bit off, and also serves as a recurring allusion to Alma's pregnancy. When they show up, the bloody cradle and the teddy bear are particularly haunting.
The gameplay is solid as well. It comes with the fairly standard FPS-style control scheme, with the option to swap out your trigger buttons to make the controls feel more like the Call of Duty games. There is also a cover system, which, once you get used to it, feels alright. It's definitely not game-making or game-breaking, and you could easily play through the entire campaign without ever using cover.
However, I do have some complaints, but these don't really start showing up until the later portion of the game. First of all, you only fight one type of boss in the entire game. Well, two actually: the Phase Commander and the Phase Caster. However, they are just two versions of the same type of soldier. You will encounter different versions of this same fight at the end of just about every mission, and even in the middle of a few. While the varied environments make each fight feel slightly different, it's hard to ignore that this is just several versions of the same boss fight. (Okay, the final boss fight is something new entirely. But the rest of the boss fights in the game involve Phase Commanders and the Phase Casters.)
Solo players will have trouble with the later boss fights, particularly those found in the airport mission. You will literally find yourself not having enough ammo to bring them down. As Point Man, you can carry two weapons at a time, but even if you have two of the most powerful guns in the game with the maximum amount of ammo, you will not be able to finish the fight without having to hunt for ammo. And that's if you make every shot count. This is needlessly difficult. I'm fine with fighting against a tough boss, but when you literally cannot carry enough ammo to bring a boss down, that's crossing a line.
I assume this flaw occurs because the game was designed with co-op in mind. If you have a friend along with you, you won't run out of ammo during a boss fight—Fettel has an unlimited psychic attack. However, as a solo player, you'll have to rely on exploits in order to get through. For better or worse, there are a few exploits available to clever players. One exploit I found lets you hide behind a specific crate where the boss will inexplicably not attack you, even though you can fire at him from point-blank range.
A much smaller complaint I have is that the enemy A.I. seems to get a little wonky toward the end of the game. You'll find your enemies doing strange things, like standing in a corner facing the wall, or simply refusing to attack you. However, this is pretty rare, and generally only occurs during the final missions.
As I mentioned earlier, this game was designed around co-op play, and it's actually a lot more fun if you have a friend with you. The entire campaign can be played with two players, one as Point Man and the other as Fettel. Each brother has a different style of play. Point Man is more reliant on weapons, though he can use his psychic powers to slow time. Fettel's moves are geared toward psychic power, with abilities to lift people telepathically and possess their bodies. This leads to some interesting cooperative strategies. For example Fettel can lift an opponent while Point Man blasts him with a shotgun, and Point Man can slow time to allow Fettel to get behind a riot gear-toting soldier.