From the "is that really its name?" department
F.E.A.R.'s compelling "first person survival horror shooter" gameplay spiced up the scary genre when it released in 2005. It achieved a remarkably high metacritic (an aggregate of game review sites) score of 88 and attracted comments like "beautiful aesthetic presentation" and "incredible enemy A.I.". We didn't review it but I did play it and I can tell you it scared (and impressed) the pants off me.
The followup, 2009's Project Origin, was great but marginally less successful in reviews - in part, perhaps, because the originality of the first title couldn't be replicated by any kind of sequel, no matter how impressive.
So It's fair to say that we have some considerable interest as to how a second sequel will turn out. In our efforts to find out, we took maximum advantage of a recent opportunity to get an eyes-on preview of the entire first level of the game and an extensive hands-on multiplayer session immediately thereafter.
NZGamer.com were privileged to be part of the very first media group in the world to see F.3.A.R. Presented by Jason Frederick from developer Day 1 Studios, the singleplayer level we were shown was actually played through in co-operative multiplayer, a first for the series. One player takes control of Point Man (your traditional "shoot guns at things" type) while a second controls Paxton Fettel (a ghostly apparition with supernatural abilities). For fans of the series, the interplay between the two is a complex (and family) affair - something which the plot of the game tightly hinges upon.
From a gameplay perspective Point Man is your classic action archetype, fond of guns and long walks on the beach that involve shooting at things with guns. You get the idea. He's able to take maximum advantage of the new cover system, which features the now-standard ability to glue yourself to objects and peek around them, etc, ensuring as many of the incoming projectiles are harmlessly deflected by the environment as possible.
Fettel, however, is a whole new thing. One of his main abilities lets him possess and take control of an enemy soldier, at which point he plays quite similarly to Point Man (albeit without Point Man's ability to slow down time). Where this particular ability impacts gameplay most significantly is that on entering a room full of enemies, Fettel can near-instantly take control of someone on the far side of the room. This means he can begin laying waste to the enemy forces from behind or in a pinch maneuver with Point Man. He can also do stuff like control someone through an otherwise impassable barrier (prison bars, for example), using his new host body to press a button to let Point Man through. That's not the end of his abilities either, with numerous other party tricks (such as immobilizing enemy units for Point Man to then punch holes in) to keep things interesting.
It's a neat new tool in the game's utility belt of abilities and ensures that there is a definite reason and reward for working together in a co-op situation. You can play Fettel in singleplayer, too, but only after you've completed the level as Point Man.
After the presentation (during which a model dressed up as an extremely realistic and therefore scary Alma sat behind Jason staring at me - it was kinda hot in a don't-tell-anyone-whoops-I-just-did way), we got to go hands-on with the multiplayer component of the game. Day 1 Studios aren't looking to go head-on with existing online shooters to compete in the deathmatch / team deathmatch arena, so they've created a bunch of modes which are completely unique to F.E.A.R. 3 - something which, having played them, we can only applaud. Let me explain...
The first mode we tried was the self explanatory and enigmatically named "F$%KING RUN" (no jokes - that's what it's called). The gist of which is simple - there's an ever advancing wall of death behind you, if you or any of your comrades are killed, you all fail. Sounds easy, right? It's not - the environment you're running through is full of stuff, behind which loads of enemies with guns and angry dispositions await your arrival. Despite numerous attempts, the rag-tag crew of game media, retailers and models from other parts of the Warner Brothers show were unable to defeat any of the F$%KING RUN levels we played. What we were able to do, however, was have a lot of fun trying - it's a fresh take on the co-operative multiplayer genre and should be a blast online.
We played some other modes too, including one where your goal is to enter the environment and find weapons, etc, and bring them back to your base, and another where you're attacked by waves of enemies (during which we managed to wear a big mech suit, with massive guns attached to the front of it). Each felt like it deserved its place in the game and, despite having similarities to levels in StarCraft II or Aliens vs. Predator, they managed to feel fresh and unique in their own right.
Releasing at the end of June, the build we played (which was already a couple of months old) still felt like it could use some work (particularly in the graphics area, in which it's a bit bland), however there's no reason to imagine the talented crew at Day 1 don't already have this in hand.
F.E.A.R. 3 / F.3.A.R. / "fuh thray ahh" / however you want to say it is shaping up to be a valid and scary entrant into the compelling series - something we'll be paying particular attention to when we review it in June. Look out for it on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on June 24th.