When we first heard that the next entry in the F.E.A.R. series of games would feature co-op, and a form of co-op that the game's developer, Day 1 Studios, calls "divergent co-op," we were left with quite a few questions. Early previews of the game helped clear up some of these, but we still were curious about how the game looked for ourselves. Fortunately, Day 1 Studios and publisher Warner Bros. Interactive had a demonstration of the game's co-op in action at E3 and what we saw left us feeling a bit divergent already. Specifically, how will we decide who gets to play as Fettel?
No expense seemed to have been spared to help set the atmosphere for the demo. The room it was being demoed in looked like is was pulled straight from a movie set. The walls were covered with symbols that looked like they were painted in blood; a burned couch sat to one side on which people could sit; and a follower of Alma sat quietly on another couch, looking as if he were getting ready to strike out at any moment. All of this helped increase the tense feeling when the developers started playing. We were first shown an opening CG-rendered movie that showed a haggard looking Point Man sitting in a room all by himself. Soon a group of soldiers storm in and hold him at gun point. Before they can restrain him, Point Man disarms one of the soldiers and proceeds to kill all of them. He seems unaware, though, of the fourth soldier that's sneaking up on him - at least, he's unaware of him until Fettel shows up behind him and causes him to die horribly. Fettel talks to Point Man about being brothers, and a brief flashback shows Point Man and Fettel in some kind of institution before cutting back to the modern day version of the two brothers and the real demo began.
The action got started almost right away in a dilapidated and rundown apartment building. While the developer playing Point Man ran ahead to take the enemies on head-first, the developer playing as Fettel hung back a bit and used his supernatural powers to damage or incapacitate their foes. It is these powers that make the co-op in F.E.A.R. 3 seem particularly interesting. While Point Man has an array of guns at his disposal, as well as the ability to slow down time, Fettel truly puts his brother to shame, in some ways. Rather than using a gun, Fettel has the ability to fire a kind of psychic bolt at the enemies that does some damage, and can deploy an area of effect attack that leaves surrounding enemies stunned for a brief few seconds. In the world of shooters, though, this little bit of delay is all your partner needs to finish them off, especially when it's paired with Point Man's bullet time ability. Perhaps Fettel's most interesting ability, though, is the ability to possess enemy soldiers.
If you choose to play the game solo, then Fettel just becomes a voice in Point Man's head instead of an AI partner
At one point in the demonstration, Point Man and Fettel find themselves outside in the middle of an apartment complex's playground when we suddenly hear a lot of radio chatter talking about an impending attack. The developer controlling Fettel looks up into one of the apartments and spots a soldier. A long red (ectoplasmic?) stream extends from Fettel's hand and lifts the soldier off his feet, and presents Fettel with the option of possessing him by pressing the X button. The view quickly blurs as Fettel takes possessesion of the hapless foe and we're suddenly looking out at the world from his eyes. The soldier's comrades are still focused on Point Man and, thus, are caught completely unaware by the hailstorm of bullets from their former friend. With that particular group of enemies eliminated, the soldier being possessed explodes in a red-screen of gore and the developer is back in control of Fettel himself. Shortly thereafter, Fettel takes possession of another soldier, and both he and Point Man enter into two armored mechs and proceed to wreak utter havoc. Watching it happen, Nick and I both had the eager look of "I want to do that" in our eyes.
As far as the "divergent co-op" goes, though, we didn't see too many instances where the developer playing Fettel worked against Point Man in some way or another. There were, however, a couple of doors that only Fettel could see, indicated by a red glow around them, and open by blasting them with his psychic blast. Behind many of these doors there were only been more enemies, though this, by no means, was a poor choice on Fettel's part. As discussed in those early previews, Point Man and Fettel receive experience at the end of each level based on their overall performance in that level. This experience can then be used to increase the power and effectiveness of each character's skills/abilities, which may lead to players looking out for number one from time to time instead of the welfare of the group. If the number of enemies killed somehow plays into determining the amount of experience received, then there undoubtedly there will be a little more competition to see who can get the most kills than one typically sees in a co-op shooter.
With so many co-op titles these days that just place players into the shoes of two or more heroes that are practically identical, F.E.A.R. 3's "divergent co-op" with two characters that play nothing like the other certainly seems like a breath of fresh air and we can't wait to see more of this co-op in action.