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When it was announced that F.E.A.R. 3 would be developed by Day 1 Studios, and not its creators Monolith, people were understandably worried -- especially when you remember that horrible Xbox 360 port of both F.E.A.R. expansions Day 1 had created. Monolith knew how to do things right. They knew how to keep F.E.A.R. fans happy when developing F.E.A.R. 2. It was just something about how they were able to keep the games full of action, but at the same time had you on your toes for when Alma decided she wanted to screw around with your head.
Day 1 Studios has done something that no F.E.A.R. fan saw coming. They tried to turn F.E.A.R. 3 into a co-op focused game. But has it worked?
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Being a F.E.A.R. fan, I knew exactly what was transpiring at the beginning. Although Day 1 has included a flashback of sorts explaining what has happened so far, it will be extremely confusing to anyone who hasn't played previous titles in the franchise, or even if you've played but have forgotten the story.
F.E.A.R. 3 sees Point Man (the main character from the first F.E.A.R. games) being interrogated by Armacham soldiers 9 months after the F.E.A.R. team was first sent in to take down Fettel and Alma in what seems to be an abandoned prison. As Point Man is being punched over and over again, Paxton Fettel makes an appearance and saves you from them. His intentions for helping the person who put a bullet through his head are unknown, but all you that you know right now is that Fettel is back from the dead.
The blast that Point Man triggered in Fairport killed all of his squadmates , but right at the beginning you find out that one is still alive. While Paxton wishes to reunite with Alma, who is about to give birth to a third child, Point Man tries to track down the surviving teammate before going in search of Alma. He wants to stop her from giving birth, and Paxton seems to want the same thing. He offers to help you get to Alma, but his true intentions are not known at the start.
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F.E.A.R. was a graphical marvel for its time with its slick textures and incredibly well-done environments that had many on the edge of their seats, scouting their surroundings to make sure Alma wasn't watching them. F.E.A.R. 2 was also very pretty in the graphics department, with the Heads Up Display receiving a major upgrade and character models being much smoother; not to mention that the weapons also had much more detail to them.
You'd think that seeing as how each F.E.A.R. title has seen graphical improvements, F.E.A.R. 3 is bound to look fantastic. This is not the case. I was shocked to see that the character models had received a downgrade of sorts. Getting up close to an enemy would reveal blurry textures, heck, sometimes I was able to spot it while standing quite far away. What makes the whole situation a bit confusing is the fact that the surrounding details, whether it's the background or the walls, are actually quite nice to look at, so you basically have sub-par models surrounded by gorgeousness.
And, of course, what would F.E.A.R. be without spectacularly eerie lighting. Day 1 have done an incredible job on ensuring that the lighting helps with both the general feel of the game and also helps escalate the intensity of encountering supernatural elements.
It's not that F.E.A.R. 3's graphics are bad, it's just that the series had been giving fans a better view with each game that was released, only to seemingly downgrade itself with F.E.A.R. 3.
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F.E.A.R. 3 has gone the co-op route, with the majority of the game being centred around the idea that when someone plays the game's campaign mode that it'll be with someone else. This is evident due to the amount of multiple flanking positions throughout the game that look like they were made specifically for two players to take advantage of, as well as a scoring system which encourages players to try and earn more points by completing challenges in order to become Alma's "favourite son," though said system is more-or-less flawed as whoever players Paxton Fettel is bound to win due to his abilities that allow him to basically run through the level taking over the bodies of every enemy and suspending them in the air.
Aside from the inclusion of co-op and the fact that you can take cover behind objects now thanks to a cover system, not much has changed on the gameplay side of things. You still use slow-motion to take down groups of enemies (if you're playing as Point Man, that is) and there are several different variations of unarmed attacks that you can use.
Things get really interesting, but at the same time disappointing, when it comes down to the multiplayer aspects of the game. There is no Team Deathmatch or Capture the Flag or anything of that nature, instead you have unique game modes such as Soul Survivor, which sees all 4 players on the same team until Alma appears and causes one of said players to turn into a phantom that must now kill the other three, or F**king Run where a team of 4 must survive the Wall of Death while blasting their way through enemies as they desperately try to push forward, and a more standard game mode called Contractions which is basically survival mode with a couple of F.E.A.R. twists added to the mix with Alma making appearances and punishing anyone who looks into her eyes.
The gameplay is definitly nice, however the fewer number of scary moments most certainly left me disappointed. The short campaign didn't help with this either.
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A game like F.E.A.R. 3 needs to have superb sound, and thankfully it does. The noises produced by the weapons are incredibly realistic due to the fact that said noises have all been recorded after some of the development team actually used real weapons to capture the sounds.
Also, the eerie music that helps create a frightened atmosphere is just spectacular. Sometimes an-almost-like small sound bite would play, indicating that you're about to be scared, but sometimes it's just after you've opened a door and nothing takes place, but you won't know this so you're kept on your toes until you give yourself the all-clear.
Much like in previous F.E.A.R. games, whenever your character bumps into something, whenever a can is kicked, whenever a door is slammed, Day 1 Studios have made sure that these sounds all help create an atmosphere that sucks you into the city of Fairport.
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F.E.A.R. 3 has basically tried to separate itself from the rest of the series to deliver some sort of co-op spectacular, and while the co-op aspects can be fun with the challenges to complete, and a competitive nature embedded within the seemingly innocent mode, Day 1 Studios has spent less time actually making F.E.A.R. 3 scary. This is disappointing, to say the least. The rather short campaign was, if anything, a slap in the face, and the story is very "out there" in so many different ways. It almost seems like F.E.A.R. 3 is mocking the story surrounding the series at times.
The route that Day 1 has taken with the multiplayer is unique, however there are just so many issues surrounding it, preventing it from actually being fun sometimes.
F.E.A.R. 3 will be most enjoyed by hardcore fans of the series, however if you're someone who thought F.E.A.R. was pretty cool, but didn't invest much of your time bothering with the story surrounding it, there's a chance that you'll be disappointed.
- All information and screenshots from F.E.A.R 3