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F.E.A.R. 3 (Video Game Review)

By : Cindy Lennox on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | 4:30 PM

When you change any given element in a process, there’s always going to be someone that thinks it’s a change for the worse. Case in point – when Retro Studios took over the Metroid franchise for Nintendo. Many folks thought that shifting the legendary series to a first-person perspective was a sign of the apocalypse. But surprise, Metroid Prime turned into one of the most memorable trilogies in gaming history, leaving its mark on a storied franchise and leaving fans begging for more. Now we have F.3.A.R. (or F.E.A.R. 3, whatever you want to call it), the latest in Monolith’s first-person shooting series. The problem is, the long-time developer, who worked on the first two games, has shifted gears towards a new project, the upcoming Gotham City Impostors for Xbox Live. In its place are Day 1 Studios, the same team behind the sci-fi shooter Fracture, among other games. This change in developer may have long-time fans crying foul, but despite a genuine lack of scares and some dingy visuals, it gets the job done when it comes to sick shooting skills and some wildly fun multiplayer opportunities. Don’t sell this one off just yet.

In the game, Alma is back, impregnated by the lead character from F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin – but not by his choice. An apocalyptic scenario is about to set in should her kid be born, and it’s up to the hero from the original game, the supercharged soldier Point Man, to stop it from happening. He can’t handle everything by himself though, so he calls upon his supernatural brother, Paxton Fettel, to help. The problem is, he shot him in the head long ago, a fact Fettel isn’t quite ready to shake off. Still, they form a shaky partnership as they attempt to stop Alma, before the world pays the price. Granted, there’s all sorts of enemies getting in your way, including those pesky Armacham soldiers, who’d rather see you dead than as a savior. As we said before, F.3.A.R.’s visuals aren’t amazing. The environmental level design isn’t bad, with lots of room to roam around both upstairs and down, and some of the lighting effects, particularly with your flashlight, are pretty cool. But compared to the first two games, they seem a little more plain this time around, particularly when it comes to creating an atmosphere on the same level as Alma’s madness.

We’ve seen these sort of environments in games before – the prison, the shopping mall – and there’s nothing that really stands out often enough. It’s still pretty good, but hardly any epic places to stand your ground. At least the sound fares better. Both Point Man and Fettel are quite convincing characters, and the other dialogue, mainly from gutsy Armacham soldiers, is great to listen to as well. It’s funny to hear a soldier call you out right before he caves your head in. The weapon noises are quite effective, and hearing a bigger menace head your way – particularly a mech – may send chills up your spine. Still, it’s the gameplay that really matters here, and Day 1 Studios has this dialed in just about perfectly. Point Man is a great character to control, with a useful cover system (hard to do in a first-person perspective) and plenty of weapons to get his hands on. Perhaps his best ability is being able to slow down time, enabling him to get an enemy in his sights much quicker and turn them into an exploding pile of blood with the perfect shot. This ability worked well in the first two games, and it does so equally here.

What’s nifty, though, is after you beat a level with Point Man, you can return as Fettel, with his ghostly abilities intact. Rather than use firearms, he can levitate enemies in the air and kill them with energy blasts, a helpful ability – particularly with far away baddies. Being able to possess soldiers temporarily is cool too, as you can get a jump on squads this way. Granted, this does suck up spectral power, but dead soldiers leave it behind quite often, so you’ll never really run out. Along with a good single player campaign for both characters, F.3.A.R. also provides the option to play cooperatively with a friend. Teaming up Point Man with Fettel is an ingenious decision, as using their powers together is excellent when it comes to combat. Between Point Man’s slo-mo and Fettel’s levitation, there isn’t an army that won’t succumb to your powers. Furthermore, get you guys in power suits and nothing – not even heavily armed helicopters – will stand in your way. We’re glad to see these are back. If that isn’t enough, F.3.A.R. also has a complementary multiplayer package, consisting of four modes.

Soul King features an interesting take on folks possessing soldiers and collecting souls from fallen enemies. Soul Survivor has you playing a corrupted ghost, setting out to corrupt the others over the course of the match. Contractions is a Horde-like mode where enemies keep coming at you, getting stronger and stronger and providing plenty of ammunition as you kill them. But our favorite is one called F***ing Run, in which you must keep moving through soldier packs while a large, unstoppable wall threatens to crush you and your buddies. It’s innovative and somewhat scary – probably the scariest thing about the game. F.3.A.R. reminds us that just because someone else is stirring the pot doesn’t necessarily mean dinner is going to suck. While the game lacks the pure scares of the first two F.E.A.R. games and lacks innovative graphics, it’s still enticingly fun to play, whether you’re going at it alone or with friends. Being able to take down enemies with Fattel is worth the price of admission alone, as you don’t often see a supernatural deity do his dirty work. Put the F.E.A.R. behind you and check this sequel out.

Game Information:
Developer: Monolith
Publisher: Warner Brothers.
Platform: Reviewed for PlayStation 3
Release Date: June 21, 2011

Score: 8.5 out of 10
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