It’s been almost six years since the first F.E.A.R. title was released. You’ll be forgiven if you’ve managed to convince yourself it’s been much longer. In just over half a decade, the F.E.A.R. franchise has seen three numbered releases, the “Extraction Point” expansion, the stand-alone “Perseus Mandate” and F.E.A.R. Files–a combo pack that contains both Mandate and Extraction. While it’s certainly been a prolific ride, the franchise hasn’t exactly seen an upward climb in quality. Sadly, F.E.A.R. 3 does little to amend this situation.
It’s been roughly nine months since the happenings of F.E.A.R. and, its aptly named successor, F.E.A.R. 2. Point Man and Fettel return to serve as the focus for the game’s campaign. Players who finished the second F.E.A.R. will undoubtedly remember the fetus that’s taking up residence inside their mother Alma. That fetus forms the crux of F.E.A.R. 3’s story as Point Man and Fettel attempt to make their way to Alma–battling the near Earth shattering contractions of her labor. Of course, this is by no means a happy-go-lucky cooperative effort. Both Point Man and Fettel have their own agendas and are simply using one another until the other is disposable. If you haven’t exactly been keeping up with the fiction surrounding the franchise, I’d suggest a trip to Wikipedia to get all of the necessary back story. It’s by no means enthralling, but the few moments that truly shine require prior knowledge to get the full effect.
I wouldn’t look too much into the actual “horror” aspects of the previous games, as there’s little use for that knowledge here. What was once an atmospheric franchise capable of procuring a jump from the most manly of men, now feels like little more than a foggy playground with a few cups of blood thrown about for dramatic effect. F.E.A.R. 3 doesn’t attempt to break down the already feeble barriers of the horror genre; it feels perfectly content with sitting somewhere on the low end of the “freaky spectrum” twiddling its thumbs.
As you’ve probably guessed, F.E.A.R. 3’s campaign was designed as a cooperative experience. Players can team up and take control of either Point Man or Fettel. The Point Man experience handles like a typical first-person shooter–with the exception of Point Man’s heightened reflexes–while Fettel’s supernatural abilities allow him to pick up enemies, blast foes with concentrated energy and possess the bodies of nearby enemies. Fettel’s abilities are a welcomed change, but there’s no getting around the fact that they quickly become as monotonous as their FPS counterpart.
Day 1 Studios (the team replacing Monolith) does a nice job of simultaneously making the cooperative experience a competitive one by introducing Bulletstorm-esque objectives that earn you points. Aside from increasing a nearly arbitrary level, these points determine which player “wins” each interval. Of course, this “victory” is completely irrelevant for those who decide to truck it through the game alone. In fact, F.E.A.R. 3 doesn’t mind alienating the sector of players going at it solitarily. Despite being a co-op driven game, you’re never given an AI partner should you be incapable of finding a buddy. On top of that, you’re forced to play as Point Man your first time through the campaign– a fact that completely undermines the game’s multiple endings. If we’re using the game’s length as an indicator, then it should be no secret that Day 1 expects players to play through the story multiple times. The problem: you probably won’t want to.
F.E.A.R. fans looking towards the multiplayer mode for salvation need look elsewhere. Gone is the Team Deathmatch. Gone is the Capture the Flag. Gone is the fun.
F.E.A.R. 3 trades in the usual FPS multiplayer experience for something surprising, familiar and not very fun. The four game modes–Contractions, Soul Survivor, Soul King and Fucking Run–aren’t lacking conceptually, they simply exist within the mediocre confines of F.E.A.R. 3. At the end of the day, F.E.A.R.’s utter lack of interesting weapons makes the inclusion of a Team Deathmatch mode seem pointless. Who wants to shoot people with sucky guns?
If there’s one thing F.E.A.R. 3 has going for it, it’s that it’s never aggressively bad. Of course, at the same time, it’s never aggressively good. F.E.A.R. 3 exists as an innocuous shell of a once great franchise. If you’re determined to pick up F.E.A.R. 3, despite everything you’ve read, take solace in the fact that it's not quite as bad as the decision to replace the "E" in F.E.A.R. with a 3. Not quite.