Horror games have come a long way and the original F.E.A.R. game (which I will be referring to as simply FEAR from now on) was one of the prime examples of excellent claustrophobic design coupled with actual scares. However, since then a series that was synonymous with atmosphere and scares has now become another run-of-the-mill first person shooter with more emphasis on gunplay and explosions than actual fear. Sadly, although FEAR 3 emerges as a pretty good shooter, it does nothing in the scares department.
At the end of the single-player campaign's 8+ hours length, I felt like I had just finished playing a particularly gory version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
What's it About
The original FEAR was clearly a standard corridor shooter influenced heavily by Japanese horror. It had what looked like a straightforward story at first, which got more and more convoluted as it went on. In spite of getting Hollywood horror merchant John Carpenter to help with the story, FEAR 3's story is a mess. There is an underlying story of how Alma, the psychically endowed primary antagonist is now pregnant and how her contractions are ripping apart the "fabric of reality" but most of it sounds like pretentious claptrap. While a game like Silent Hill 2 managed to tell a complicated horror story well mainly due to deliberate pacing; FEAR 3's plot gets completely lost amidst the huge explosions and loud gunfire.
At the end of the single-player campaign's 8+ hours length, I felt like I had just finished playing a particularly gory version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Now, that might be a plus point for some, but for me it spoilt what could have instead been a tense horror game.
How it Plays
FEAR 3 may not offer any modicum of scary gameplay but its gameplay is nonetheless frantic and bloody. Like in the original FEAR, you can slow down time but this time around it's even more of an inherent component of tactical gameplay. The A.I. is also superbly scripted and the enemy soldiers I faced in FEAR 3 are one of the toughest I've faced in a game not because they've massive amounts of HP but due to the wide variety of tactics they use.
While you can play as "Point Man," a regular gun-toting protagonist, you can also play as his twin brother Paxton Fettel, (SPOILER ALERT) a character you killed back in the original FEAR. In FEAR 3, Fettel returns as a paranormal being that can possess enemies and use telekinesis to move things around. The single-player campaign unlocks Fettel every time you complete a level as Point Man letting you try a completely different method of gameplay. This immediately ensures that unless the game turned you off during your first run, you will want to play the game at least once more.
The game is still very scripted and linear though, meaning a particular door will open only after you've killed "x" number of enemies or reached a certain point. While this works in some instances, it certainly doesn't when the game is attempting to scare you. Almost always I heard screeching music kick in that marked the beginning of some scripted sequence that was supposed to scare me only to find myself staring everywhere else apart from the place where the game expected me to be staring.
How it Looks & Sounds
Speaking of graphics, FEAR 3 looks sharp although owing to its horror setting, things look predictably dark or bathed in red. The best thing is that even on a mid-range gaming machine the game ran very well at 1920x1080 with most settings on high. The one problem that I had with the graphics is that the characters' faces in the game look cartoon-ish while the rest of the graphics have a real-world look about them.
The sound design is probably the best thing about FEAR 3. The guns sound ultra-realistic and loud with real heft. The creepy, unsettling music also tries its best to scare you. Paxton Fettel's voice acting is also suitably maniacal.
Multiplayer is one of the most important components in FEAR 3. The entire concept of two different playable protagonists is based around co-op gameplay so that you can play as the Point Man while your friend can play as Fettel during the story campaign. The pure multiplayer suite is also very well fleshed out with four different modes that allow for different kinds of gameplay.
While FEAR 3 checks all the right boxes as a present day AAA FPS title, I felt it lacked the same spark that made the original FEAR so unique. If you are just looking for your shooter fix, then the game will satisfy you. However, if you are looking for a game to suck you in with atmosphere and scares in the same vein as Silent Hill 2 or Amnesia: The Dark Descent, then FEAR 3 ends up lacking.
FEAR 3 has been launched in India by Express Interactive for Rs. 999.