F.E.A.R. 3 returns to the story of Point Man as he continues to survive the fallout from the events of the previous games. The city of Fairport was put to the torch in order to destroy Alma and her psychotic son (also Point Man’s brother), Paxton Fettel; however, Alma survived... and she’s about to give birth to a child. Her birth contractions are sweeping over Fairport, bringing forth unspeakable horrors. Haunted by the brother he killed, Point Man is driven towards the city and Alma where he must confront his own horrific past. His agenda is unknown.
The game offers two different types of co-op play: 2-player co-op campaign and up to 4-player co-op multiplayer. Let’s take a look at the campaign first. The co-op campaign is the same as the single-player campaign as far as stories, events, and maps, etc. are concerned, so I won’t be touching upon the single-player campaign at all. The co-op campaign can be played online or locally via splitscreen on the PS3 or 360 and splits vertically with offset. Sadly, players can not play split screen with online play in the extra co-op modes. In the campaign, the host of the game plays Point Man with his or her partner playing Fettel (note: in the single-player Fettel only seems to show up during cutscenes and story bits, and not as an AI-controlled combatant).
The two brothers play completely differently, so don’t dismiss Fettel as just being a copy of Point Man with a different face. Point Man’s more of the “standard” FPS combatant, able to pick up different guns, grenades, etc. He also gets a special ability to trigger bullet time (or slow-mo) which is measured by a gauge next to your cross-hair. The gauge shows you how long you can be in bullet time and slowly refills once you’ve left it. Fettel, on the other hand, has two different types of modes: soul mode and body mode. In his normal soul mode, Fettel’s quite a bit weaker than Point Man. He can shoot red energy blasts from his hands to hurt enemies, but he can’t carry around any weapons at all. In this mode he can also shield Point Man by firing his beams at him or fire a beam at an enemy, levitating them helpless in the air. Fettel’s true strength, though, is his ability to switch to body mode.
Fettel can possess any hostile humans you come across (though this is usually Armacham soldiers, there are a few places where you can possess cultists or zombies as well). In body mode he can carry around and use weapons just like Point Man as well as having the bonus perk of getting an extra buffer to his health. If Fettel’s body gets shot at and gets to the damage point of incapacitation, the body will simply die and Fettel will rematerialize in soul form. There is a drawback, however. Bodies can only stand possession for so long before they explode in a bloody mess and Fettel’s possession ability has a cooldown (measured the same way as Point Man’s bullet time). Fettel can extend the life of a body by picking up souls from dead enemies, but in order the keep the same body, players will have to continue to kill enemies in order to supply him with souls. These two very different skill sets can lead to a lot of great co-op play in the campaign, such as having Fettel levitate enemies so Point Man can shoot them, or having Point Man go to one side of a group of enemies and Fettel possessing someone on the other side to flank a group.
Just hold him there, okay?
The campaign in F.E.A.R. 3 is divided into eight chapters total with the “target time” of each usually being somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes. Each chapter is sandwiched between two cinematics which are sometimes about events going on currently and sometimes reveal some details about the brothers’ pasts. These cinematics do a decent job of tying the chapters together into a story, but the chapters themselves are usually more about the action and less about the story, which was fine by me. I myself haven’t played any of the other F.E.A.R games and while I’m sure I missed some nuances in the story or nods to plots of previous games, I never felt completely lost as to what was going on. The chapters do a good job of covering a diverse array of area types (from a warehouse to the highway to a residential area) and keeping the action going. Chapters often supply something akin to a boss or a miniboss fight where the players must take down a mech or a souped-up Armacham soldier. Sometimes you can even shoot down helicopters with rocket launchers! These boss fights are usually pretty fun, but sometimes just what you’re supposed to do may be unclear and you may have to reload a few times when you both get incapped from some mech beams to the face. The checkpoints are frequent, though, so this isn’t usually an issue.
So what about the multiplayer, you ask? F.E.A.R. 3 provides a total of four multiplayer modes, two of them competitive (Soul King and Soul Survivor) and two of them co-operative (Contractions and F**king Run!). Each multiplayer mode has three maps available for play with no overlapping of maps between modes, which is pretty nice. You can also set the number of players anywhere between 2 and 4 (or even play a solo practice round if you’d like). Soul King plays as a kind of a competitive collection game where all players play as Spectres who are trying to kill humans and collect the largest number of souls to win. Soul Survivor plays like a Vampire game where one player at the beginning of the round is chosen to be the Spectre with the rest of the players play F.E.A.R squad members. The Spectre’s goal is to utilize the AI enemies on the map to take out the other players and turn them over to the Spectre side. The F.E.A.R squad members goal is to survive as long as possible, with the last surviving member given the chance to escape and win.
Why yes, yes this is mech co-op
The two co-op modes cast players as F.E.A.R. squad members. In Contractions players work together to fight off waves of enemies who are besieging them in a central area. It plays pretty similar to Killing Floor or COD’s Zombies mode with players being able to board up their fortress inbetween rounds just so those jerks of Armacham soldiers can break them down again. There are some interesting twists, however. Sometimes Alma will show up in the middle of a wave to make your life even harder, shooting or even looking at her can cause your screen to go black or be randomly warped to another area in the level. Also, weapon crates and ammo caches are outside your fortress area and will have to be brought inside inbetween waves if you want to utilize them.
F**king Run on the other hand plays completely different than Contractions. As opposed to camping out the place, F**king Run has players constantly moving forward, fleeing Alma’s Wall of Death behind them while they try to gun down the enemies in front of them. Incapped players will have to be revived because if the Wall of Death touches any player, its game over for everyone. Once you complete a stage of a map, you’ll be given a little safe area to restock on supplies before you start the next mad dash to safety.
All racers to the starting line!
As far as persistance/progression goes, there is a point/level system present in the game. Players can garner points throughout campaign chapters or multiplayer maps basically via an achievement system. For example, if you complete the “Et tu, Brute?” challenge for a chapter or map (stab 3 enemies in the back) you’ll get 1,000 points. A certain number of points are required to level up with a total of 21 ranks. Ranking up gives you bonuses such as increased health, ammo capacity, and possession/slo-mo time.
All in all, F.E.A.R. 3 is a good game. The co-op campaign borders upon a the truly great, but if you did the math when I mentioned the target time for each chapter, you’ll have noticed its biggest shortcoming: it’s a very short game. It took me about 6 hours to beat and that’s including reloads when we screwed up. To be fair, there’s certainly a good replayability factor for at least one more run through the campaign (I wouldn’t mind going back and playing as Fettel), and there are a total of 4 difficulties (which I assume correspond to Casual/Newbie, Normal, Hard, and Masochist levels of difficulty) you can challenge yourself with. There’s also the leveling system to consider if you truly want to buff up your character and try the hardest difficulties.
This kid needs to get outdoors and play more....
Contractions and F**king Run certainly add more bang for your buck, but I personally wonder how often I’ll play these modes a month or so after release (of course, your mileage may vary). They can certainly be fun, but I feel like they’re variations on tried and true favorites, ones that most of us have already played any number of times. It seems like a shame that the more original ones were confined to competitive modes. Also, on the nit-picking side of things, I had a small complaint about the interface in the multiplayer: when a map is failed, there’s no way to immediately restart the map. You have to return to the lobby and launch it again which can get extremely tiring if, for example, you’re playing F**king Run with only two people and you keep getting incapped pretty early in. Since these matches can only last minute, you end up staring at a loading screen longer than you are playing. Other editors had issues with the controls on the console version, unable to tweak them just the way they like.
If you’re an FPS and or Survival Horror fan and want a great co-op campaign game, I’d say there’s no way you can pass up playing this game. If you want to go for the persistent ranks or higher difficulties or if you think you’ll play a good amount of Contractions and/or F**king Run, definitely buy the game; however, if you think you’re more likely the one-playthrough type, it may be better to wait for a price drop or to rent it.