Fight Your Fears… F.3.A.R Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
The latest title in the First Encounter Assault Recon series, F.3.A.R., has arrived. With a return of the original game’s protagonist, in a script written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and with John Carpenter (Halloween) onboard as a creative consultant, F.3.A.R. is set to be scary as all heck, but can it deliver?
The game picks up nine months after the events of both F.E.A.R. one and two, and follows Point Man and his psychic/ghost brother, Paxton Fettel, as they look to find Alma, now pregnant, for reasons unclear. The story is fairly short and basic, and the plot is stretched right to its limit with gameplay and objectives acting like fillers. Unlike other F.E.A.R. games where all the chapters feel connected, this one feels more like separate missions rather than one large operation. It’s only a few hours long and I was able to finish it in just two sittings.
As a shooter, the game plays very well; there are no real flaws or glitches to it. Depending upon what campaign mode you’re in, be it co-op or solo, you can either play as Point Man or Fettel. Each character has unique aspects. Point Man has “super reflexes” meaning he can slow time around him; while Fettel is, well, a psychic badass, able to possess or lift enemies or just throw psychic fireballs at people. The cover system impressed me with how fluid it was. The game always seemed to know if I wanted to move around the cover or stay in it and peek over or around it. I was also impressed with how well the A.I. was programmed. I found myself being flanked and ambushed quite often, so you need to keep your wits about you.
However, I did have some complaints about the game. For one, the horror elements in this game were completely lacking. Only about a quarter of the game was actually frightening, which took a while to actually arrive and after a good few scares it disappeared again. Though I will throw my manliness away and say the small amount of horror present truly frightened me, far more than in the previous titles. It’s a shame that it didn’t continue. It would have made the game that much better from a fright perspective. The gore engine also has some hiccups; it’s awesome in some places, but in others, like where a small combat knife detached an entire arm in a single swing, it’s just inappropriate or overdone.
There is also an in-game challenge system where you complete special tasks, such as killing from cover or possessing an enemy for longer than a minute, to earn points for levelling up. Each level adds an ammo pouch, reflex time and stamina, or melee moves. I’m glad to have this earning system replace the collectible items that were used in past F.E.A.R. games.
Though the solo campaign has some bumps, multiplayer and co-op are where the game truly shines. The co-op mode sees you and a friend playing through the campaign together as individual characters, either working together to survive or fighting to be the one with the most points. Since there are two characters, you and your friend can switch between rounds. This makes the game more re-playable than solo mode. Regardless of how you treat your teammate, it’s a wonderful experience and is really how the game should be played.
Multiplayer steps outside the typical shooter mould. There are four game types: Fucking Run, Soul King, Contractions, and Sour Survivor. Fucking Run sees you running from a death wall while fighting to kill the most enemies. Soul Survivor is a death-match with a twist: One player starts as a ghost who possesses NPCs and attempts to kill other players to make them ghosts. Soul King is like Soul Survivor, except every player is a ghost who must possess, then kill, NPCs for points. Whoever has the most points is “king” and drops all their points upon death, making them a large target. Contractions is a survival mode similar to Call of Duty’s zombie mode, where you fight wave after wave of enemies while collecting weapons and building barricades. All are great modes and can keep you busy for much longer than the solo campaign.
Though the game plays great, it just doesn’t feel like F.E.A.R. Truth be told, it feels more like a game just featuring characters from the F.E.A.R. universe than it does the third instalment of the franchise. The movement and feel seem different, the controls feel different, the lack of an intelligence screen and the fact that missions feel separate from each other all contribute to why F.3.A.R. doesn’t play like the first two F.E.A.R. games. This could be due to the fact that it was developed by a different studio – Day 1 Interactive instead of Monolith Studios. I believe the game would have benefited more as a standalone title, since it just feels so out of place.
F.3.A.R. looks good from a graphic stand point, with no ugly textures or load errors. Cutscenes are also animated superbly. The levels are all well designed and in no way feel reused or overworked, each having a very unique setting. Characters are all well-constructed and authentic to the series, with no one looking out of place or silly. Similarly, the game’s audio is on par with the graphics, with all voices and sound effects in the right place. The voice acting is excellent and all returning characters have their original voice actors which I was very glad to see – hear! My only complaint for audio is that Point Man is still the “strong silent type”, never speaking a word, or even issuing a grunt when he’s been shot for that matter. I would have liked to hear at least a reaction from him.
Whether you’re a long time F.E.A.R. fan looking for closure, or someone searching for another shooter to play while waiting for Battlefield 3, F.3.A.R. is worth the effort to pick up and play. Though F.3.A.R. has a silly title, is a bit lacking in the horror department, and feels so different from earlier F.E.A.R. titles, it’s still an entertaining game, and the co-op and multiplayer will keep you coming back for more. Should Warner Brothers decide to continue making games in the series, I’d recommend giving the game back to Monolith and sticking to its horror roots, but keep the co-op, and multiplayer, perhaps as separate modes. Just please don’t name it “F.E.4.R.”; I’m just not a fan of leet!
Final score: 3.75 / 5
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