F.E.A.R. 3 Review (PC)

Gamers have a love/hate relationship with the F.E.A.R. series. They love the first one and hate the second. The first was a satisfying, intelligent and occasionally terrifying FPS, the second was… an FPS. The third attempts to get back to the first’s level of greatness, even going so far as to bring back the lovable duo of Point Man and Paxton Fettel.

"Why should I watch out for ArmA? It's a great game. Ohhh, 'Alma', right. Still, I don't see why- OMGWTFGETMEOUTOFHERE

However, the big shock is that it’s not series creator Monolith at hand, it’s Day 1 Studios, developer of the (frankly terrible) Fracture. As soon as I heard about this I immediately lost all hope for FEAR 3. However, while it clearly isn’t a pure FEAR sequel of the Monolith mould, it’s not the disaster I was expecting either.

That said, one thing that is most definitely a disaster is the story. Considering such luminaries such as Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) are attached to the project, behind the script and scares respectively, it’s very interesting to note that FEAR 3’s biggest weaknesses mostly involve… script and scares.

The story could potentially have been quite good if told with any degree of competency. Point Man is being held by Armacham (a company who’s obviously been taking business advice from the Umbrella Corporation) in some Mexican prison before being rescued by his undead brother Paxton Fettel, and together they head back to the devastated city of Fairport in search of Point Man’s former teammate Qin. Why is Point Man not called Something Fettel if Paxton’s his brother? Why is he in Mexico? How does he know where Qin is? All questions that are left unanswered, and that’s just the beginning of the game. There’ll be many more by the end.

The game skips between levels with little to no explanation apart from a rubbish cutscene (remember all the prerendered cutscenes in the last two games? No? That’s because there weren’t any). You’re searching for Alma and her father Harlan Wade (apparently), but there’s nothing solid holding the game’s pitiful story together. Don’t expect much of a recap of the previous games either, and Point Man’s muteness is made even more ridiculous by having him stare crossly at people in cutscenes. He doesn’t even say anything during a flashback to when he was a child.

The F.E.A.R. squad themselves were an interesting creation, like a heavily-armed version of the Ghostbusters, so it’s a shame they’ve been chasing Alma for no apparent reason since the first game. As for scares, FEAR 3 should win awards for how un-terrifying it is. There are a couple of tense moments, but the game utterly failed to make me jump or even slightly creep me out once. A game called “fear” really needs to be scarier, but Day 1 obviously cared most about the gunplay.

Which is lucky, since the shootouts are okay at worst and downright thrilling at best. Granted the second chapter feels like you’ve wondered on to the Modern Warfare set and the final chapter (and boss) is one of the most boring final levels in history, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the fights. This is partly down to the guns being a lot closer to FEAR 1 levels of satisfaction, rather than FEAR 2’s dull pop-guns. The nailgun (euphemistically named ‘The Penetrator’) is far cooler, as is the shotgun, even if it appears to have been pinched from GoldenEye.

FEAR’s two big selling points were kung-fu attacks and slow-motion, but Day 1 has decided to be original and do something new. Just kidding, they’re both back. Bullet Time’s exactly the same and just as fun, and while the melee moves have been relegated to a jump-kick and slide-kick I used them a lot more than in FEAR 2. Booting an Armacham soldier off a catwalk has never been so fun.
You could say he, *puts on glasses* got ahead of himself

While it’s possible to just go through the 6-7 hour campaign like the previous games (although with a more badly-told story), every time you finish a chapter you can replay it as Paxton Fettel. As he’s a ghost he plays radically different from Point Man, and players must rely on his ability to possess any enemy to get through the levels. It’s tough as he doesn’t have any weapons but certainly quite fun, plus it effectively doubles the playtime of the single-player side of the game.

It’s the multiplayer however that seems to have received the most love and attention, which surprised most of my gamer friends as they were expecting just a few unimaginative tacked-on modes. Well, F.E.A.R. not! Day 1 instead really put some care into this part, and it shows.

For starters you can play co-op as Point Man and Fettel through the entire campaign. While this neutralises the already-ineffective horror completely and makes a lot of the battles way too easy even on ‘Fearless’ difficulty, the completely different play-styles of the two characters compliment each other well. Co-op’s always great but particularly so here, although it would be nice if players were allowed to choose which character they wanted to play.

The four main multiplayer modes have a maximum of four players and are also mostly co-operative in nature. ‘Soul King’ is the only competitive mode, with players taking on the role of Fettel-like spirits possessing and collecting the souls of enemies to become the titular King. It’s fun enough but is my least favourite mode, since it’s too easy to steal other player’s points and win right at the end of the match.

‘Contractions’ is probably the most fun as it’s basically Call of Duty’s zombie game with a few tweaks, such as the lower floors becoming uninhabitable and Alma wandering around cursing players. ‘Soul Survivor’ has three players holding out against waves of enemies, with the fourth player randomly chosen to be the spirit who has to take the good guys down and turn them into spirits too. It’s very difficult for the F.E.A.R. team to win, although it’s a lot of fun trying.

The final mode caught my attention just based on its name – ‘F**king Run’. Imagine Left 4 Dead with enemies in front of you, a giant shadowy wall of death at your heels, and all four players have to survive. Then you f**king run. It starts off easy but quickly gets tough, especially if you don’t notice when one of your teammates goes down in time.

Since I’m concentrating on the PC version of the game I have to mention a few irritating technical problems. For starters, don’t bother complaining about dedicated servers, since there aren’t any servers at all. Multiplayer is totally reliant on the internet connection of the host, so I probably won’t be playing often thanks to my spotty wireless router. Several people including myself have also noticed multiplayer modes disappearing from the options menu, which then only reappear on a restart. If a friend invites you to a game of one of those missing modes you won’t be able to, since FEAR 3 thinks you don’t have them. Annoying.

Finally as I was writing this review I discovered yet another problem, bigger this time. I had to uninstall and redownload FEAR 3 (for various reasons not related to the game), and upon starting the game I noticed that my save files had been wiped out and my character reset to Level 1. The game claims to have Steam Cloud support, but other than digital air I’m not sure what it’s actually bloody saving. Certainly not my f**king progress, for sure.
One of the best scenes in the game

FEAR 3 would just be considered an okay shooter with a terrible story and poor attempts at horror, if it wasn’t for the wealth of unique side-options it brings to the FPS table. Replaying as Paxton Fettel is fun enough, but co-op and the lovingly created multiplayer modes push it into the realm of a must-have shooter. The single-player may just be a fun diversion, but the multiplayer will keep drawing you back for more.  Next time though guys, don’t bother hiring Steve Niles and John Carpenter. How about Monolith instead? They’re not doing anything important right now.

Top Game Moment: Discovering that Alma is actually a threat in the ‘Contractions’ mode. In one fell swoop she actually becomes terrifying again.

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By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Jul 01, 2011
Sadly - this didn't sound like a must have to me. Good review - but a few comments felt a bit off compared to the score - mostly because it probably came down to how I may evaluate things differently!

I hope that there will be patches to correct the stuf you mentioned and also that either a demo or a STEAM sale will happen soon ;) The gun-play and MP modes do sound nice - but not for current price IMO.
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Jul 01, 2011
There was actually a patch yesterday that claims to have corrected some of that stuff. Will check it out today.

7.5's a very good score and if you've got at least one friend to play co-op, Contractions and F***ing Run with - or preferably three for the rest of the modes - you'll have a load of fun. But yeah, when I say "must-have" I don't necessarily mean "for full-price"! :)
By JonahFalcon (SI Elite) on Jul 01, 2011
Fucking RUN is excellent.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jul 01, 2011
I didn't find myself looking forward to this as "FEAR 2" was just frankly a waste of my time (having played the original through several times). Fear Factor: 3/10.
It appears that there are two camps, generally divided by generation. Those that love "FEAR" tend to hate on "FEAR 2" and those that loved the latter loathe "FEAR 3". Curious.
Great review Chris, and I may just pick it up on sale to complete the saga.
On a side note, reviewers who have never played a "FEAR" game (or any gamer for that matter) are at a distinct disadvantage as nothing makes any sense.
By Scar11969 (SI Core) on Jul 02, 2011
The game is realy cool! i played once and loved it!
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Jul 06, 2011
Anyone knows of a PC demo? Otherwise I guess I have to settle for a PS3 or Xbox demo...
By Caedes (SI Veteran Newbie) on Aug 25, 2011
I enyojed FEAR 2, but I think I'll pass for this one.