And then there was one...
Soul Survivor again bends a familiar idea, that of working as a group to reach an exit, but complicates things by having Alma corrupt one member of the four-man team who are then made to turn the rest once they've been gunned down (either by your hand or the hordes of soldiers that are pouring into the level). If you can survive and make it to the exit, you win, and there's a slight bonus to the last man standing in that the exit is explicitly called out on the HUD when it's just, well, you.
Because nobody knows who will be the first to basically "turn," it creates an interesting dynamic in trying to work together, yet you're never fully able to trust anyone. The Corrupted can possess any of the storming soldiers that constantly join the level - often far out of the view of the untainted players, but it's often far safer to just play along and gun down enemies, creating a level of trust that can then be compromised slowly by picking off the straggler on the way to the exit.
As mentioned earlier, the influence of Steve Niles is rather evident here (at least once it's explained) as Soul Survivor is meant to evoke the same feelings of slowly-whittling support amid a sea of baddies - including former friends - that was present in 30 Days of Night, which is a neat touch. Personally? We're still getting a pretty strong The Thing vibe here, but then we suppose everything can't be credited to Carpenter, the literarily fecund jerk.
No, Seriously, RUN
The Wall is coming. Alma's power is growing and it's manifesting in the form of a wall of fog (conveniently sporting the odd gaping, distorted face complete with gaping maw) that slowly marches toward the four poor saps trying to make it out. F**king Run! (we're not censoring here - that's the actual title of the mode) was easily the most gripping (and difficult) of the four modes we played, but it also introduced an entirely different feel and pace to things. For one, it's a cooperative experience (again, for four players - seeing a pattern here, are we?), one that pits the group against a swarm of enemies on the way to the end of the level, but the constant, moving wall (apparently inspired by the awesome cover of John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness) is coming and there's no stopping it.
Well, that's not totally true. See, if you and your buddies can make it to a safe point stocked with new weapons and ammo to help gear back up, then you're okay. Hell, you can even hit the access point and open the blast doors of the next wave and gun away freely at enemies from the relative safety of your little safe zone. Of course, once you cross the yellow hashed line, The Wall progresses.
Interestingly (and painfully), this isn't just a simple run from point A to point B. The level we experienced (and failed to finish) was a densely-packed series of back alleys and meandering streets. Venturing off the main path could offer some serious spoils like better weapons to take down the hordes of grunts trying to blow your face off, but it would also mean more time spent when Alma's Wall was closing. The name of the mode is seriously apt, too, as sprinting (which is unlimited) is utterly, completely crucial to outrunning the wall. To make things worse, the third section we tried to get through (and we emphasize tried) was filled with ladders. Ladders. As in moving up rather than forward. Needless to say, this is not a mode made for lone gunners.
Fog. FOG! FOOOOOOOOOOOOG!!!
No, really, it's The Fog: The Mode. While Contractions certainly does ape the while idea of very, very bad stuff happening out in the milky doom (in this case, there are apparitions that travel under the ground and will happily wreck living idiots that venture out into the fog), Contractions is more than just that. Played Nazi Zombies? Cool, you have the basic idea. But not the whole idea. Alma is preggers, and as her contractions increase, the fog surrounding your last stand is slowly starting to... (wait for iiiiiittttt...) contract. More fog, more enemies, more pain, so the idea is to survive - yes, complete with repairing the barriers in your safe area - 20 rounds of increasingly more powerful enemies.
Here's where things stop being quite as familiar. If you get gunned down (or near-gutted, battered or slashed), you're not actually dead, oh no. You can crawl your way back to your buddies and have them revive you. Now why would you be ripped asunder so far from your three pals? Simple: there are new weapons and more ammo waiting out there, somewhere, sitting in crates in the fog. At the start, they're fairly easy (and fog-free) to find, but weak, and as the waves increase, the weapons get more powerful and of course the fog more deadly. Since ammo is at a premium, one must balance repairing the save zone entrance routes or go out and find new, better stuff or the means to use the stuff one has. The blowy-up kinda stuff.
Different is Good
No, seriously, this stuff is different. Certainly inspired by other outings, but somehow in the context of Alma, utterly fitting and feeling rather new. So many games are happy to just include CTF/TDM/CAH copy/paste ideas (and if you don't know that shorthand, that's a good thing) that seeing something that feels decidedly different and original is, dare we say, enticing?
Obviously the real test will come in seeing how the public enjoys these modes. Will a random assortment of players be able to work together instead of shooting everything and dying constantly (short answer: no, don't play F**king Run! with idiots, play with friends that know what's going on)? Will Alma consume everyone in a fog-filled birth? Will people glom onto just shooting people constantly in an effort to stay at the top? We... don't care. We're going to have a blast doing all that and corrupting our buddies.
In short? FEAR 3 shows serious promise. The litmus test, of course, will be seeing how things wash out when there are tens or hundreds of thousands of people playing at once, but we're okay with suggesting that perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands should play what we did when it hits in May.
Apr 14, 2011