The F.E.A.R. series has long held a cult following since its initial release. The third installment promised to provide some closure to the twisted story of Alma and her two sons, Point Man and Fettel. But does this latest installment provide more of the heralded psychological horror or has it devolved into yet another generic FPS?
F.E.A.R. 3 picks up with Point Man being interrogated in an Armacham controlled prison. The now deceased Paxton Fettel interrupts the intense session and soon the brothers forge an uneasy alliance and escape. Along the way to the Project Origin facility, the brothers discover that Alma is pregnant following her rape of Sergeant Michael Becket. She is going into labor and the paranormal activity has driven the local residents insane. The brothers must fight their way past Armacham soldiers, paranormal monstrosities, and their own tortured memories to their mother.
After overcoming all of the challenges before them, the brothers must decide what to do with their mother and new sibling. There are unique endings for each brother. When playing co-op, whomever had the most points from the campaign will be the favorite son and their ending will play. It’s an interesting dynamic that encourages a healthy amount of competition.
The endings, much like the story itself, are lackluster. The entire experience rings hollow and there’s no depth apparent for any part of the short journey. This is also true of the supposed horror theme. The game itself isn’t terribly scary. The environments are dark and brooding with plenty of gore. But whenever there are automatic weapons and giant robots involved, the fear a game can generates goes down exponentially.
Thankfully, each brother plays vastly different from one another, so replaying the game as the other sibling is like an entirely new journey. Point Man plays as one would expect any protagonist in a FPS to. He can pick up and instantly use any weapon found like a veteran. He also has the ability to slow down time which is infinitely useful in its own right.
While his brother is severely stunted in his originality, Fettel is the real threat. Fettel can fire paranormal orbs that deal moderate damage, hurl objects across a room, and even provide a shield for Point Man. But his greatest ability is to lock enemies in a form of stasis, keeping them hovering a foot off the ground. From there, he can make them explode into a cloud of gore or possess them entirely. Each possessed enemy has their own health bar and can then behave like Point Man, sans the slow time ability. And when the enemy is no long useful, Fettel can make them explode with his own paranormal abilities. However, it’s far more destructive to save a grenade and run the poor solider into a group of his allies before dropping it. This ability to hop from body to body with what is essentially an infinite supply of life makes Fettel an extremely adaptive and fierce combatant. Where Point Man must be more reserved in his attacks, playing as Fettel is like controlling chaos itself.
And when it comes to controlling each of the brothers, they handle exceptionally well. There are no instances of floaty aiming or buggy cover mechanics. Be it Point Man or Fettel, pressing a button will elicit a precise response.
The AI provides enough challenge to keep players from recklessly charging into each fight. Squads will communicate with one another and try to flank the brothers. Mini-boss characters require a more concentrated effort to defeat. This is where Fettel’s ability to shield his brother comes to play with great effect.
From a visual standpoint, F.E.A.R. 3 is a decent looking game. It runs along the middle of the road and is far from terrible looking, but won’t win any awards either. Pre-rendered cinematics play between each of the eight missions and are rather bland. The blank, Neanderthal face of Point Man is just as unexciting as his concept. His lack of reaction to any situation is a large contributing factor to the lack of any engagement for the player.
There’s a bit of a draw to the visuals with most levels being on the smaller side and the bigger maps being shrouded in a dense fog. Maps are fairly linear with clearly defined start and end points.
There’s a robust offering of multiplayer modes, but due to my obtaining the game later on, there are no active lobbies any longer. This coupled with the short campaign provides little replay value at this point. With a competent co-op partner, the game can be plowed through in roughly five hours.
F.E.A.R. 3 is just different enough to make it entertaining for a couple of play-throughs. After that, there’s little in the way of story, upgrades, or multiplayer to keep players coming back. The lack of promised terror also hurts if you’re looking for a scary game. For those that have played through the first two games, there’s enough merit to warrant completing it. For everyone else, it’s fun if you’re looking for something a little different in the FPS genre.