(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 4 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 3.5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 4 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 4.5 Stars
- Street Date:
- June 21st, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Adam Dodd
- Review Date:1
- October 7th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Day 1 Studios
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
The third installment in the popular action/horror series F.E.A.R. has brought with it some exciting new features to the relatively new franchise. There’s the innovative 360-degree cover system, but the biggest addition is the option to play the game cooperatively with a friend. Add to that cinematics overseen by legendary film director John Carpenter (Halloween) and Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), as well as a massively overhauled multiplayer and F.3.A.R. has the potential to be one of the best and scariest games in the series so far.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
After playing the game there’s a very good chance you’ll find that one of those ended up true. With such an original multiplayer, co-op, a dynamic cover system, and more polish across the board, this is arguably the best F.E.A.R. game yet. Unfortunately, it’s also the least scary. There’s a lot to love about the game but one of the most surprising things about it is the lack of scares, and the fact that there isn’t a single terrifying enemy in the game, with the possible exception of one particularly creepy enemy that stalks you throughout the game. Alma also makes a few appearances but once you’ve seen her jump out at you a few times the surprise is dulled.
One of my major complaints with this game is the lack of variety in the enemies, and just their overall look. In the previous games you were pitted against ghost-like apparitions that blinked in and out and creatures that could possess and control corpses, reanimating them to do their bidding until you vanquished the puppeteer. Encounters with these enemies were memorable and frightening, and this time several different types of soldiers, homeless folks, and fiery dog-like creatures have replaced them.
For the most part, the soldiers are straightforward, taking cover, yelling out things that have to do with the situation, and doing anything in their power to take you out. Later on you’ll come across bigger guys that can phase through walls and take tons of damage, as well as blue soldiers who just keep spawning new enemies until you slay them.
The fiery creatures are a little more interesting since they tend to come at you in packs, pouncing at you before causing tons of damage up close, but they’re still not very interesting and require no real thinking to take out. In the end it’s the homeless people that end up being the most interesting, since they too come in different forms like ranged, dagger-tossing guys to Kamikaze ones with bombs strapped to their chests. As Fettel it’s fun taking control of them since it changes up the dynamic a bit, giving you he chance to temporarily use melee weapons.
The environments are almost as eerie and unsettling as past games. Over the course of the story you’ll be exploring a decent selection of hair-raising locales, ranging from dilapidated apartment complexes and abandoned shopping warehouses. There are also a few exceptional moments in some of these parts of the game, like the frozen meat locker in the shopping warehouse that ended up being the most memorable and intense 1-2 minutes of the entire game.
The campaign is pretty short, taking anywhere between 4-6 hours to complete depending on how long you like to spend looking over every little detail in the environments. Once you’re finished with that however, there’s an equally (if not a little more) entertaining multiplayer component. For those of you who have played previous F.E.A.R. multiplayers, this isn’t anything like you’ve experienced in this series before. For one, the painfully boring Deathmatch/Capture the Flag modes have been replaced by more original modes that have been integrated into the F.E.A.R. fiction.
There are four modes in total, and they’re all pretty good with two that really stand out. The first is Contractions, and it’ll be familiar to fans of Halo’s Firefight, Left 4 Dead’s Survival, or Call of Duty’s Zombie modes. Basically, you and a few friends have to hole up in a base while fighting off progressively more intimidating waves of enemies. From the beginning you’ll notice a thick fog covering the ground, and as you progress through the contractions the fog gets higher and higher, making it easier to get lost. This mode is incredibly addicting, with my only real complaint being how little time you have to fortify barricades, the fact that you can only do so between waves, and how useless the barricades end up being.
Another fantastic mode is F**king Run, where you have to run from a wall of death and destruction that follows you throughout the level. To slow you down there are tons of enemies standing between you and the safe spot. Just like Contractions, this mode forces you to work together because if even one man gets left behind it’s game over for everyone.
The last two modes are pretty similar, playing out as twisted versions of King of the Hill where you control a malevolent spirit called a Spectre, who’s sole purpose is to accumulate as many souls as possible. In Soul Survivor you possess enemies and use them to kill the other players, and in Soul King you have to collect the souls from your fallen competitors.
F.3.A.R. takes some serious risks, straying from the tried and true path of the previous games so it could try something new. For the most part this was successful, since the multiplayer here is easily the best of the series and the co-op works very well. He only downside is horror fans have lost another prominent horror series to the growing trend of games that choose action over horror so they can appeal to a wider audience (Resident Evil being another example of this). If you want a game that’s good gory fun or if you’re just looking for a new multiplayer to spend some time with, F.3.A.R. won’t disappoint.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The F.E.A.R. series is known for the sensation of dread and fear that follows you everywhere you go. Previous games have been more horror than anything else, and while F.3.A.R. has taken a decidedly different approach in having more action then scares, it still has some incredible level design and some of the creepiest environments I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. The textures, character models, and animations are all top notch. Everything is detailed and realistic, and the special effects like the explosions, special enemies, and weapon fire are all nice to look at.
John Carpenter and Steve Niles oversaw the cut-scenes, and it shows here. Both names should be instantly recognizable to horror fans, since Carpenter directed classic films like Halloween and The Thing, and Stiles is best known for his work on the insanely twisted 30 Days of Night series of graphic novels. Their contributions help to make the game look more cinematic and polished, with the cut-scenes playing out as short, incredibly cool movies.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
This game has a lot of guns, and it should since you’ll be spending a majority of your time using them to obliterate walls, furniture, soldiers, fiery hell dogs, and anything else that’s unfortunate enough to get in your way. Developer Day 1 Studios spent a lot of time making sure each and every weapon in the game sounded satisfying and real, and they did that by recording actual gunfire. When you’re firing your weapons in the game, that’s taken from real world weapons.
The music is also one of the game’s best features, it carries the action and intensity very well. When you’re walking in an apartment complex hollowed out by explosions from the war surrounding it, not sure what’s waiting for you around the next corner, the music is there to quietly add to the intensity. When you’re running into the war, guns blazing, the soundtrack picks up, providing the perfect backdrop to all Rambo wannabes. The voice work is solid, with Paxton Fettel sounding as disturbed as he always has, and the soldiers react to your presence more realistically, which is a nice touch.
There’s quite a bit of content in F.3.A.R. to keep it in your steady rotation of games. There’s the campaign, which can be played alone or with a friend. If you don’t love playing as Point Man I suggest giving his evil broth Paxton Fettel a go since playing as him completely changes the way you experience the game. If that’s just not enough then there’s always the multiplayer, which for the first time in the series has actually been given the time and creativity to make this stand apart, and in many ways above, some of the better multiplayer games out there. The modes are addicting, unique, and they make sense in the F.E.A.R. universe.
Some modes, like Contractions, is a lot like Halo’s Firefight or Call of Duty’s Zombie modes, but it’s been given a substantial makeover so it blends in with the game’s story and characters. You can also level up as you gain experience, which accumulates every time you play F.3.A.R., whether you’re playing alone or online. Unfortunately, the max level is 21, and that can be reached rather quickly, but even when you’re maxed out the multiplayer is still fun enough to make it worthy of your time.
F.3.A.R. is a stellar game because it marks a departure from many of the things that have been holding the series back. It’s no longer about trying to find your way through a labyrinthine maze of dark hallways, mowing down soldiers as you go, this time there’s more variety and the atmosphere is stronger then ever. The new multiplayer offering is also rather fun and different enough from other games to make it an ideal game if you’re looking for something a little different from the same old Capture the Flag or Team Deathmatch modes.
- Dolby Digital 5.1
- Online Co-op
- Online Versus
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