Day 1 Studios Game Designer Leo Flores shouts it loud enough to clear house music, club chatter, and players' headphones. We're at a preview event at San Francisco's Harlot nightclub, and we're trying like hell to survive Fu**ing Run!, one of four multiplayer modes shipping with F.E.A.R. 3 this May. Flores watches and helps by giving us his best, most eloquent advice. He repeats it often.
Should I be worried about the evil smoke faces?
I'm always looking for a multiplayer that takes a different approach, and F.E.A.R. 3 definitely reaches past the standard-issue modes we see way too often. Keeping horror elements intact in a multiplayer setting pretty much subtracts normal free-for-alls, team deathmatches, capture the flags, and control-point fights — witness Dead Space 2's pedestrian online slugfests, which sacrifice the Dead Space vibe in favor of spray-n-pray monster mashes.
Day 1, finally sliding into the driver's seat after porting the last few F.E.A.R.s, wants to keep scaring the crap out of you once you jump into multiplayer. How? Easy…they put players in the worst situation imaginable, offer a moving target for an escape route, and see who cracks.
Put another way, you better fu**ing run.
Each mode (four players max, on three maps each) offers an interesting take on the terrors unleashed by Alma, the little girl/evil psychokinetic monster central to the series, but Fu**ing Run! is the clear standout.
Stripped down to basics, it's a race. Not between you and your fellow humans but against Alma's Wall of Death, an ash-cloud barrier that steadily destroys everything in its path. Your entire F.E.A.R. team must cross the finish line into the next safe zone, through four or five sections (similar to a Left 4 Dead campaign). If anyone's devoured by the wall, everybody loses. An army of heavily armed soldiers block your way. Simple, no?
No. Stop to fight the soldiers, and the wall will catch up. You can't avoid the opposition, so you've got to plow through them as fast as possible and keep moving. If anybody's downed, you have to go back for them. Leaving a man behind just isn't an option. The wall moves in one direction — forward — so if you're climbing ladders or moving laterally, you're automatically losing ground. That also makes weapon and ammo pick-ups (located in dead-end corners) one hell of a risk/reward proposal. If you're hauling through tight alleyways, you can't even look back to see how close to death you are. You just hear the howling get louder and the world starts shaking around you as it's ripped to pieces.
Guess what you do when that happens?
That's a funny-looking Geiger counter, mister.
Originally, Day 1 simply called the mode "Run," but that was too short. "As we kept playing the mode, you would hear people yelling randomly across the office, 'Oh my God, oh my God, FU**ING RUN!!!'" says Game Designer Ki Wolf-Smith, "followed by an assortment of screams and laughter." Nobody thought it would clear legal. A couple of asterisks later, it did.
Playing through Fu**ing Run!, everything's push-push-push. You're asking to die the moment you stop, so even when heavies behind riot shields pour out of a choke-point alley entrance, you can't even think about taking time to chip their health away. You throw your one precious grenade and rush the bastards, shotgun blazing. When — not "if" — somebody goes down, you get a real sinking feeling. Unlike Left 4 Dead, where you might shrug it off as an "oh well" moment, running back to revive a F.E.A.R. squadmate prompts an "oh s**t" from everybody. That's a major delay you can't afford. More delays are up ahead, guaranteed. Oh yeah, this game gets fu**ing intense.
It's also fu**ing hard. We ran on the urban Street Cleaning map where, according to Flores, nobody's made it past the third section. Map knowledge is crucial to avoid running around aimlessly, but we've got Flores to point us in the right directions. Also? No checkpoints. If the wall gets somebody 10 feet from the final safe zone, everybody goes all the way back to the beginning. On the bright side, players earn the team-banked XP for upgrades. It's not divided. Everybody gets the total amount.
C'mon, guys…I gotta Wall of Death here!
We've made it further than most, up onto the rooftops of Street Cleaning's third area. I'm shotgunning soldiers at point-blank while my squad catches up, climbing ladders and spraying baddies. We're making good time, only a few downs, wall not too close…and then I fall down a pit.
"Get to the ladder!" shouts Flores.
I hit the ladder and just peek over the top as the wall sucks me up. Everybody shouts and laughs. So close. So close! And definitely worth another try.