“F.E.A.R. 3” has a lot of military-style, first-person shooting action, so it must be another Call of Duty clone, right? No, not exactly. It's also got frightening scenes with ghost girls and fiery demons, so it has to be a survival horror game, doesn’t it? Kind of, but not really. Doesn’t scoring points and leveling up based on skill shots make it close to “Bulletstorm?” You’re getting colder. Am I crazy or does the four player cooperative multiplayer mean it’s another “Left 4 Dead?” It’s not crazy, it’s just wrong.
Most games fit fairly easily into the neat and tidy genre classifications the media has conveniently invented for them, but with “F.E.A.R. 3,” it feels a bit like developer Day 1 Studios decided to take a borrow elements from several different types of games and crafted something that feels at least partially brand new. But be warned, it’s a much better game when played with a friend.
When playing solo, you control Point Man, a typical gun-toting badass who uses assault rifles and submachine guns along with a special slo-mo skill, which can make taking down bad guys a snap. Alone, “F.E.A.R. 3” feels a lot more like a conventional action-shooter with some horror stuff tossed in. But play the story with a friend (online or offline split-screen) and it’s like a whole different ballgame.
Player two plays as Paxton Fettel, Point Man’s once dead, now sort-of resurrected brother who has paranormal psychic powers like the ability to shoot mystical bolts, levitate enemies to leave them as sitting ducks for his bro, or temporarily possess the bodies of enemy soldiers and use their own weapons against them.
Fettel won’t fight as an ally if you’re rolling solo, so the gunplay in single player is typical stop-and-pop behind cover. But in a co-op game, the battlefield is a wonderfully frantic place where almost anything can happen.
Wait, What Just Happened?
The story is also a bit frantic, but that’s not necessarily a great thing. The idea of two brothers working together but with an undercurrent of conflict and competitiveness between them is compelling, but not having played the first two in the F.E.A.R. games, I had trouble catching up to the story. Who exactly was this pretty girl I was trying to save? And can someone tell me why my spooky mom is pregnant?
“F.E.A.R. 3” also does a good job at feeling appropriately creepy and atmospheric, but it rarely actually scares like a “Silent Hill” type of game. But then again, it’s hard to be frightened when you’re a genetically-enhanced soldier or a fire-tossing super-spook.
Don't Walk, F*Cking Run
But the gameplay of "F.E.A.R. 3," especially in co-op mode, more than makes up for the shaky story and lack of leap-out-of-your seat moments as does the four different multiplayer modes. In Soul King, you busy yourself with possessing soldiers and murdering their squadmates for points and Contractions is a Horde-mode game type full of plenty of waves of enemies to wade through.
My favorites are Soul Survivor -- an elimination match where one person must possess three other human combatants and the appropriately named F*cking Run, where your squad of four must outrun a wall of evil smoke that slowly creeps towards your location while simultaneously engaging in countless firefights with baddies.
Sure, the story feels a little undercooked, but "F.E.A.R. 3" uses lots of familiar gaming ingredients, tosses in a few extra spices, and ends up being an unexpectedly tasty stew of a video game.
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