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Monday, October 3, 2011

Video Game Review: F.E.A.R. 3; A Solid Finale for the Trilogy

As a longtime fan of the F.E.A.R. series ever since its debut in 2005, I’ve been looking forward to playing through the third and final entry after having enjoyed my time with both the original F.E.A.R. as well as the sequel Project Origin.  The first two games were often praised for their well-blended mix of horror and action and while the story was a little wonky at times, the thrilling gameplay and gripping atmosphere more then made up for any sorts of weaknesses the plot contained.  And while the story hasn’t gotten any less crazy, I’m happy to report I genuinely enjoyed my time with the epic conclusion to the F.E.A.R. legacy.

For those who need a quick refresher course on what’s been going on up to this point in the series, Armacham is now trying desperately to clean up the mess leftover from the events of F.E.A.R. 1 and 2.  Alma Wade, the psychic, rage-filled, and now pregnant antagonist from the first two games, has sent out a telepathic signal to her other two children, calling them back for a little family reunion.  Despite one being dead and the other locked up, they both intend to answer the call.
Players assume the role of the protagonist from the first game, known simply as “Point Man”, as he is interrogated by a pair of Armacham guards.  A quick intervention from the psychic spirit of his brother Paxton Fettel (who players will remember Point Man killed in the first game) sets him free and the two brothers begrudgingly agree to put aside their differences and work together to take down Armacham and stop their mother from ripping the fabric of reality apart.  Since Point Man is the only one who can see him, Fettel acts as a sort of guiding spirit for his older brother, often giving him advice on how to proceed and providing narration for some of the game’s cutscenes and cinematics.
    Longtime fans of the series will be happy to discover that the overall controls and U.I. setup haven’t changed much and have even gotten a few new features like a cover system that allows the player to duck behind crates, pillars, and other cover-friendly surfaces as well as a new scoring progression system that allows the player to unlock enhanced abilities and skills by completing a variety of optional challenges.  Point Man still has his signature slow-mo combat reflexes, and he has also taken to using a knife for melee attacks, allowing for both devastating slashes and one-hit-kill backstabs.
The game’s story campaign can be played either co-op or solo, co-op play lets one player trek through as Point Man while the other gets to wreak havoc as Fettel and once a mission has been beaten, it can be replayed as either Point Man or his sadistic spiritual brother in solo play.  In contrast to Point Man’s reliance on guns, explosives, and slow-mo, Fettel utilizes his own bag of tricks including a ranged psychic blast, telekinetic suspension, and even the ability to possess enemy soldiers and turn them against their comrades.
Like its two predecessors, F.E.A.R. 3’s gameplay transitions between tense firefights against squads of Armacham soldiers and other baddies and gripping paranormal segments as the veil between reality and Alma’s twisted nightmare becomes thinner and thinner.  Occasional flashbacks reveal the two brother’s haunting and brutal past, lending to the already creepy tone set by Alma’s constant presence.  While admittedly most of the game’s “horror” relies on cheap jump-out-scares, there are still enough atmospheric set-pieces in the environment that the immersion never feels lost.
 One last interesting element of the game’s story campaign is the emphasis on competition between the two brothers.  At several point throughout the story Fettel makes it quite clear to Point Man that even though they are working together, he hasn’t forgotten the fact that the bullet-hole in his forehead was put there by the very same brother he is now helping and that despite having to first deal with their psychotic mother, they still have a score to settle.  This score is taken quite literally at the end of the co-op story, with one of two possible endings that depend on which player attained the overall highest score throughout the campaign and thus earned the title of “Favorite Son.”
Some of F.E.A.R. 3’s biggest strengths however lie in its multiplayer modes.  There are four modes in total, two cooperative and two competitive, each offering their own unique combinations of action and horror as well as a refreshing change of pace from the usual Deathmatch/CTF/Team DM modes.  Another interesting aspect to note is that the player’s scoring progression and the unlockable bonuses that come with it are tracked across both the single-player campaign as well as multiplayer, meaning it definitely pays off to have played through a few levels of the campaign before diving into the multiplayer scene.
With a well-paced and fun story campaign that can be enjoyed either solo or with a friend, a unique yet satisfying multiplayer experience, and high replay value thanks to its new progression system, F.E.A.R. 3 does an excellent job in providing a suitable conclusion to the F.E.A.R. story while also giving gamers a few more reasons to dive back into Alma’s twisted world one last time.

General Gameplay Tips:
  • If you’re struggling against tough odds, remember that smart use of slow-mo can quickly turn the tide in your favor.
  • It pays to be prepared; try to always have at least one long range weapon like an assault rifle or sniper rifle paired with a close-range option like the shotgun or pistol.
  • Remember to keep an eye out for corpses that you can establish a psychic link with.  These faintly glowing bodies provide a nice boost to your score that can add up if you find multiple links in a single level.

Useful Links:
Official Website: http://www.fear3.co.uk/
IGN; Guides, Walkthroughs, etc: http://xbox360.ign.com/objects/045/045906.html

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