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FEAR 3 review

Surprisingly not scary, but a gory hoot when you bring friends along

Normally we’re wary of co-op in a horror setting, since not being alone can reduce the fright factor a lot, but FEAR 3 already isn’t scary when played alone, so going co-op means you’re not losing anything. The gain is significant, though (and we should note you can play online or split-screen). While the host player controls Point Man and plays the same as in single-player, the second player controls Fettel, Point Man’s ghostly brother. Fettel starts with no weaponry, but he can shoot ghostly beams from one hand and use the other hand to paralyze and levitate an enemy (and he can hilariously levitate a guy and proceed to snipe him at the same time). He can also create a temporary shield around Point Man. The most fun, though, comes from his possession ability. When his meter is full, a tap of a button sends Fettel screaming across nearly any distance to inhabit the body of an enemy (accompanied by an always satisfying evil cackle). You only have limited time inside the body before the screen starts to darken, and then the body explodes and you’re a ghost again. However, dead enemies leave souls behind, which are like “extended time” powerups, letting you stay in the body longer. The great part is that your weaponry changes depending on what you possess, and you can even possess a cultist for some zombie-like melee frenzies.

So if you have a friend, the co-op campaign is definitely worth a play – the decent core of the game becomes elevated to something quite good. After that, if you want to dabble in multiplayer, we highly recommend it. While FEAR 3 doesn’t offer the deep character progression or fierce competition of the “big” multiplayer shooters, what it does offer is some seriously creative and unique game modes. We should note that two of the game modes – F**king Run and Soul Survivor – are only available through an unlock code that’s free with a new copy or as a purchase, so it’s another “don’t buy the game used” incentive.

F**king Run is appropriately named, and incredibly tense. In this mode Alma has released the Wall of Death, which looks like a relentlessly creeping fog full of ghostly screaming faces. Four players must work together to get to each checkpoint ahead of the Wall, and if just one player falls victim to the fog, everyone loses, so you really have to stick together and make sure to revive teammates that go down. It’s not just a race, though: there is a shit-ton of enemies in your way and they spawn differently each time. It’s a frantic scramble of sprinting and briefly stopping to gun down foes. You don’t have time to keep an eye on the Wall, but you’ll know it’s there: as it gets close you’ll hear an ominous thumping sound like a heartbeat inside a womb, and when it’s really close your screen will turn gray, making the whole affair extremely nerve-shredding. For added insanity, turn up the difficulty and the Wall will move faster.

Contractions is a mostly typical survival mode, with a few added twists. Between waves of enemies you can repair doorways and also venture out to collect ammo boxes. After each wave a fog inches inward and thickens, making it harder to see and also more dangerous to explore. Finally, Alma herself shows up occasionally, and in an inspiration clearly taken from Left 4 Dead’s Witch, you have to avoid looking at her or she’ll temporarily daze you so you’re slow and partially blind.

Soul King is possibly our favorite mode – this time it’s competitive, but with a bizarre structure. Everyone starts out as a specter and has no ability to harm other players. AI enemies spawn in and your job is to kill them and accumulate souls to become the soul king. First you must possess an AI, and then you can attack other AI or enemy players – killing a player makes them drop half their souls, so they are juicy targets. A neat tactical addition is that you can jump from one body to the next whenever you want, but entering a body means you won’t get the souls for killing it, so you only want to do it if you’re in danger (or if you see an opportunity to jump behind an opponent). Soul King is fantastically frenetic, with last-second flips of who is the soul king.

Above: Well, you can't say it doesn't get gross

Finally there’s Soul Survivor, which is essentially an infection mode, but again has its own twists. Here, four players start out as soldiers, but before a round starts Alma appears and ominously points her finger at one player. That player is “corrupted,” meaning they’re whisked away and transformed into a specter. Now the other three players must survive an onslaught of AI for a set amount of time, while the corrupted player can possess AI. The fun is that the defending players can’t tell who the enemy player is amongst the AI, and the corrupted player’s job is to take down defending players and then approach the body to corrupt it. If successful, another player joins the ranks of the specters. Playing as a specter feels gleefully evil as you creep about and stalk the defenders, trying to separate them so they can’t stop you from corrupting the fallen.

So, FEAR 3 is a mixed package: a competent but bland single-player campaign, plus a considerably better co-op campaign, along with some creatively fantastic multiplayer modes. If you’re easily scared by horror movie clichés you might get scared by the attempts at creepiness, but we didn’t find it scary at all. Strangely, for a game called FEAR, it’s the non-horror elements that are the strongest, and it’s worth playing if those are the elements that will be the bigger draw for you.

Jun 21, 2011

More info

DescriptionFEAR 3 is a mixed package: a competent but bland single-player campaign, plus a considerably better co-op campaign, along with some creatively fantastic multiplayer modes.
Platform"PS3","PC","Xbox 360"
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"","",""
Alternative names"F.E.A.R. 3","F.3.A.R.","F3AR"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.