F.3.A.R. / F.E.A.R. 3 (henceforth known as Fear 3, because acronyms in titles anger me) is a bit of a conundrum. Yes, itâs a sequel to two solid scare-mongering action games. But itâs also a recipient of the Call of Duty effect, whereby every shooter of the last few years plays just likeâŚ well, you can guess. On paper, all the elements that made the Fear series stand out are still there. But in practice, they feel like theyâve mainly been overlaid on top of the Modern Shooter Template. The result isâŚ not generic, but not quite Fear, either.
Certainly not scary, anyway. In spite of (or maybe because of) the numerous oh-my-god-a-creepy-girl-just-flashed-onto-my-screen moments, there was a palpable lack of tension or nervousness. Maybe it was because I always felt perfectly safe whenever I wasnât in the middle of a gunfight, which is when I did feel nervous. I remember getting pretty freaked out playing the original Fear when it came out, but that feeling was completely lacking here. Perhaps itâs simply the same old scare tactics losing their novelty value, but whatever the reason, Fear 3 is very firmly an action game with a sprinkle of creepy.
But Iâm getting ahead of myself. Not familiar with the series? Itâs not hard to explain the latest entry: take Call of Duty, add a slightly greater emphasis on melee attacks, a dash of bullet time, refreshingly cunning AI, and some psychic powers, and youâve got Fear 3. If all you want is a shooter that 1) isnât set in a war, yet 2) still has gruff, deep-voiced protagonists, then you may have come to the right place.
Back to the lack of atmosphere: itâs a real shame, because horror done right can really elevate what would otherwise be an average game. Itâs indicative of the plot in general, which seems to largely exist to explain why youâre progressing from gunfight A to gunfight B. Alma, the wonderfully creepy girl seen throughout the series, is barely a distraction here, and anything you might have learned from the other games appears to have very little bearing on proceedings. Creepy children are normally such an effective horror staple, so to fail at even that is saying something.
Iâm a very story-focused gamer, so that kind of stuff is important to me. I need a good reason to walk down countless linear corridors, shooting bad guy after bad guy. If that gunplay is what youâre after, however, then you might not care so much about Fear 3âs shortcomings. Firefights are solid and satisfying, with enemies constantly attempting to flank you or draw you into the open. Itâs nice to see that level of AI shenanigans remain intact right from the original game.
More fun than playing on your own, however, is playing co-op. As Point Man, youâre a typical FPS character, with the usual assortment of weapons. However, you can also kick people and slow down time, which helps matters somewhat. Point Manâs brother, however, is more interesting. As Fettel (previously in a more antagonistic role), you can lob fireballs and possess enemies, which helps to vary the action up. Playing through with a friend certainly helped alleviate some feelings of repetition as the game progressed.
If I donât sound completely praiseworthy of the campaign in Fear 3, maybe itâs because so much attention has obviously been lavished on its multiplayer modes. The star for me was undoubtedly âF**king Runâ, a mode with a straightforward name and a frantic premise. Here, four players must rush through a gauntlet of enemies and other obstacles while a giant wall of death catches up behind them. If any player is caught by that wall, itâs game over for everyone, so thereâs a lot of incentive to help each other out. It reminded me of some of my more frantic moments in Left 4 Dead, which can only be a good thing.
The other modes didnât inspire me as much, but theyâre still pretty good. In Soul King, everyone starts as incorporeal ghouls, possessing enemies in order to harvest souls. The player with the most souls becomes the temporary King. I say temporary, because they then become visible to the other players, and (naturally) a very tempting target. Soul Survivor is like an infection: one player starts âcorruptedâ, and must effectively tag everyone else. And Contractions is the now-standard take on a Horde mode, charging you with surviving as long as possible against ever-increasing waves of enemies.
In the end, this is a game that will attract its share of fans for what it does do well â namely, transplant some Call of Duty elements into a more horror-like setting with some novel multiplayer modes. But that phrase, âhorror-likeâ, also works in another way: it has the appearance of being a worthy sequel to the atmospheric, creepy Fear games, but in the end itâs a mere shadow. The design decisions made look deliberate, even if the results are mixed; I just lament the loss of any actual fear in Fear. If youâre after another multiplayer-friendly shooter, give this one a whirl. But if you want some scares, whether alone or with a partner, you might want to look somewhere else.