What could be better than some co-op mech action? What about co-op mech action in a survival horror first person shooter? Say wha buckwheat? Oh yes, fans of F.E.A.R. 2 will remember the mech sections quite well, but fans of the original are getting some love to as the main character, Point Man, has returned as one of the playable characters.
While most were surprised how well the mech combat worked in a horror game, people have been equally surprised to hear the series is now getting co-op play as well. Most have doubts about just how scary co-op can be, but with horror great John Carpenter on board to help with cinematics and story, there's a lot of hope to be had in F.E.A.R. 3.
Previews are starting to hit the net detailing just how the game is going to work in its online co-op mode. Players can take the traditional shooter style of play as Point Man, complete with his ability to slow time and such. Or if players prefer they can take the role of Paxton Fettel who is actually a ghost capable of kinetic powers and the ability to possess enemy soldiers.
Mechs are back. That's probably a no-brainer in all honesty; these bipedal war machines have been all the rage since F.E.A.R. 2, but they've been slightly retooled and improved for F.E.A.R. 3. Again tied to the co-operative play, only Point Man can use the mech – of which there are two varieties revealed so far. Given that Point Man is flesh and blood, this makes some sense. However, if you're playing as Fettel, you can inhabit an enemy soldier and his his body to pilot the mech.
It's good to see the developers taking this kind of route, where each character is a different play style. This yields strategic bonuses in co-op action, and keeps players communicating to accomplish goals. But the good news is if you don't want to play as some ghost with telekinesis powers, you don't have to. There are ways to experience the game from a more traditional shooter style perspective when playing as Fettel.
The actual gameplay demonstration shows off some interesting co-op gameplay. If you really want the "two guys, two guns" experience, the Paxton player can simply possess an enemy soldier and get gunning. Or, there can be a bit more interplay with the two characters' abilities, such as having Paxton pull off a stun blast on a bunch of scavenger (creepy melee critters), and then Point Man follows up with an immediate "super melee attack combo" with slow-motion activated. When the pair encounter a new enemy type, a "phasecaster" who can phase in reinforcements, there's a pretty crazy mix of stunning, shooting, and possessing as the phasecaster keeps supplying new enemies. And it concludes with a simple moment of co-op mech action, where both players hop into mechanized suits and wreak havoc (I'm still not sure how an angry ghost drives a mech, but it still looks cool).
One feature that might not make players happy, especially co-op players, is that both Fettel and Point Man are linked together (they're actually brothers) - so if one dies they both die. There's no revive mechanic, so this is really going to force players to work together to survive - otherwise both their lives are on the line. But that's not to say the developers aren't putting a bit of competitive co-op in the game - it's there in the form of a scoring system.
Spoiler alert: Point Man shot Fettel in the head in the original "FEAR," so they're not exactly best buds. This ties in to the scoring system in "FEAR 3," which was only hinted at by the developers in a recent demo. The gist, though, is that you'll be scored based on your performance in a mission, and those points can be used to upgrade your character. For example, you can increase Point Man's slow-down meter.
This makes the co-op a bit of an uneasy truce between the two brothers, and it often encourages players to think for themselves rather than the group. Unfortunately, if one brother dies, so does the other (they're psychically linked or some such ridiculousness), so you can't be a total jackass to your partner. Just a partial jackass.
It looks like F.E.A.R. 3 is shaping up to be quite the interesting cooperative experience. Whether it works out and is entertaining is yet to be seen, but at least the developer is trying something new. We're excited to get some hands on time with the game at E3 2010 this year, which is only a few short weeks away. We'll be bringing you our impressions then.