F.E.A.R. 3 for PC Review

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F.E.A.R. is an amazing title. It’s one of those shooters that I think every fan of the genre should play through at least once. It not only features great gunplay and incredible enemy AI but also showcases an amazing balance of action and horror that will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end. Then there’s F.E.A.R. 2 which has great gunplay but fails at everything else. It’s a solid game but also the definition of a disappointing sequel. Then comes the third game, F.E.A.R. 3, which takes things in a different direction by putting a focus on cooperative play. Developed by Day 1 Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, F.E.A.R. 3 was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in June, 2011. I’m going to tell you right now, F.E.A.R. 3 feels more in line with F.E.A.R. 2 than it does with the first game. But after my disappointment with F.E.A.R. 2, I went into this not expecting much so with that mindset, I figured it could only entertain me rather than disappoint, assuming it did not entirely suck.

Set after the events of F.E.A.R. 2, the Point Man has been captured by Armacham Soldiers and his brother Paxton Fettel, now a “spectre”, breaks him out of a prison in Brazil and the two form an alliance. In addition to being hunted by Armacham soldiers, they learn they’re also being hunted by a monster formed from the memories of Harlan Wade. Most of the attempts at scares come from all the paranormal activity from the duo’s mother, Alma Wade who is pregnant as a result of raping Michael Beckett at the end of F.E.A.R. 2. F.E.A.R. 3 is supposed to be an action horror title and I would say it features some awesome action but lacks scares, much like F.E.A.R. 2. Famous filmmaker John Carpenter directed the cinematics for F.E.A.R. 3 and I bring it up because apparently it’s supposed to mean something. I like John Carpenter and many of his films, but his direction doesn’t really save the writing from failing to do anything interesting with the characters or plot. The only thing I was really interested in was seeing how the story handles the third child. F.E.A.R. 3 does feature different endings and the one you see depends on which protagonist ends up with the highest score.

I went into F.E.A.R. 3 expecting a solid action game with lackluster scares and that’s what I got. The developers clearly tried to take the series in a different direction with this game and it’s obvious the story was written to accommodate the new cooperative gameplay style. F.E.A.R. 3 is an action-packed experience with scripted scares and some creepy moments but it feels more action than horror. I did play through the campaign solo twice. Completing intervals or missions as the Point Man unlocks them for Paxton so I played through it once as Point Man and the second time as Paxton.

Both protagonists can perform many of the same basic functions but there are differences between the two. Point Man can enter slow-mo which means time slows down and Paxton can possess bodies and that’s the only way he can pick up and use weapons and enter Power Armor. He can also burn out of bodies, killing them in the process. Slow-mo and possession both drain a meter that replenishes over time. However, Paxton can prolong possession by collecting Psychic Energy. He can also use his psychic abilities to pick up and throw enemies and objects and unleash blasts.

F.E.A.R. 3 can be a very fast-paced action game and I actually really enjoyed the gameplay and I preferred playing as Paxton. Health does regenerate and Paxton’s health automatically replenishes when he possesses a body or burns out of one so possessions also double as an additional layer of health which allowed me to experiment more. Plus, you can possess bodies from a decent range and as a result of some enemy placement, gain access to areas and vantage points typically inaccessible to Point Man. The possession ability lets Paxton get around the environments a lot quicker. Not just because he immediately jumps to where the body is but also because if the body is killed before you can burn out manually, you’ll revert back to spectral form with your health replenished so you can just keep going. As Point Man, you have to be a little more careful and use cover more frequently.

Unfortunately, with the exception of the Arc Beam and Penetrator, most of the arsenal in the campaign feels traditional. There’s not as many what I consider interesting weapons as there was in the previous games. But I am happy to say the weapons look cool and the gunplay feels great. You can blow off enemy body parts, blood will gush and splatter, and each weapon has great visual feedback. At certain points in the campaign, you can enter Power Armor and use it to stomp around, obliterate foes and take down enemy helicopters. Much like F.E.A.R. 2, these sequences are quite fun and memorable.

As you play, you can complete challenges by doing specific things and will be rewarded with points as a result. Points are also awarded to you by finding Alma Dolls and interacting with certain bodies that act as Psychic Links. You’re scored at the end of the each interval or mission based on your performance. The scoring system does add some replay value. You do receive bonus points for finishing missions within a certain time limit. This is an incentive to be quick and experiment and in that regard, I do think Paxton’s psychic abilities gives him an edge. After reaching a certain amount of points, you rank up and unlock bonuses like additional health, faster health regeneration, increased slow-mo and spirit, and other things along those lines. These bonuses can make things easier and I will say F.E.A.R. 3 can be a challenge if playing solo.

In the beginning of the game, enemies can drain through your health pretty quickly and they’re pretty good shots so cover is very important in the early goings. I imagine things are easier if you have another person to play with. That said, solo play does make for a pretty good time, although some encounters can border on frustration. There’s one mission that indicates jumping into Power Armor is optional but if playing solo and you don’t or ditch or lose it before reaching a battle against two helicopters, you’ll have to engage them on-foot which can be a real pain in the ass. There’s an area later on where you can easily get overwhelmed and swarmed by enemies called Scavengers. They swarm and maul you to death. That’s their whole thing and this encounter in particular is just a tedious case of trial and error if playing solo.

I would say most of the time, encounters feel fair. You’re always outnumbered and because of their numbers and accuracy, enemies can be dangerous but their intelligence is average. They do basic shit like shoot at you, throw grenades, run around and take cover but their AI is nothing like we saw in the first F.E.A.R. They will attempt to flush you out of cover with grenades and sometimes it’s best to keep moving. You’ll engage several different enemy types like soldiers, cultists, and armored units. Stand out enemies include Phase Casters and Phase Commanders. Both are basically damage sponges with unique gimmicks. Phase Casters can spawn additional enemies and Phase Commanders can pass through walls at any time and re-enter the environment at a different spot, usually near wherever you are.

Since Paxton can possess almost every enemy in the game, he has access to additional weapons. For example, if he possesses Cultists and Cannibals, he gains access to melee weapons and throwable knives. Some Cultists have bombs strapped to their chests which can be used to your advantage if you’re in possession of one. Unfortunately, possessing Phase Casters and Phase Commanders does not allow you to spawn foes to fight for you or enable you to pass through walls. That would have been pretty cool.

The campaign only consists of eight intervals or missions and it shouldn’t take you very long to complete, at least on Commando which I equate to the Normal difficulty. I did get through it quicker playing as Paxton. The environments are linear with a mix of narrow paths and more open areas for bigger battles. Sometimes there are multiple ways to reach a destination but the game primarily funnels you where you need to go and there are often rooms and areas off to the sides that contain Psychic Links, Alma Dolls, and pickups like weapons and ammo. You’ll shoot your way through a prison, slums, airport, and on the streets among other locations. Most of the campaign has you running and gunning with brief periods of downtime for what feels like forced attempts at scares.

I can’t say there’s anything exceptional about the presentation but I do like the weapon and enemy models and visual effects. Each interval takes you to a different location so the environments are visually diverse and the Bridge mission features the best backdrop in the game complete with a decimated city and dark clouds looming overhead. The texture work is solid and it’s easily the most colorful game in trilogy. The soundtrack is certainly nothing special mainly because I can’t remember a single tune but the sound effects are pretty good. Weapons sound powerful and enemies will often shout shit during combat. On the technical side, I did not encounter any issues.

After beating F.E.A.R. 2, I went into F.E.A.R. 3 expecting more of the same and that’s basically what I got. Although, I do think its better than F.E.A.R. 2. I like the gunplay more and encounters are more exciting. But much like F.E.A.R. 2, F.E.A.R. 3 contains next to nothing of what made the first game so amazing. But that’s not to say it’s a bad game. I can’t even say it’s a disappointing sequel because F.E.A.R. 2 was about average and I think this is slightly better. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy F.E.A.R. 3. It’s not the greatest shooter of all time but it is fun and action-packed. It’s a good sequel to 2 but disappointing when compared to the first game. This feels so far gone from F.E.A.R. that I felt no point in trying to analyze how it fails at what made the first game so special. It was made by a different developer and they clearly took this in a different direction and just rolled with it and I, personally, enjoyed the gameplay. What really stands out about it are the gunplay and character abilities. Specifically Paxton. Slow-Mo is nothing new at this point but being able to possess bodies adds an interesting dynamic to the encounters. I really enjoyed it. I think the final mission is probably my biggest complaint with the game because from a gameplay perspective it’s not as fun as any of the missions that came before it.

Ultimately, I would recommend F.E.A.R. 3 because the gameplay is fun. If you’re hoping this is more along the lines of the first game, you’re going to be disappointed. But it is a solid shooter and action game that’s probably best enjoyed with another player. There’s plenty of enemies to shoot and blow up, the gunplay is satisfying, and it’s got some replay value. If you’re fan of shooters, F.E.A.R. 3 is the kind of game I would say is definitely worth playing if you can get a copy on sale. There are better shooters out there but this should keep you entertained for at least a weekend.

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