As a longtime fan of the F.E.A.R. series, I've been looking forward to the third game for some time now. It looked like more of everything I love about the series - the tight gunplay, creepy locales and equally as creepy atmosphere - but this time it had a few major horror icons behind it as well, namely John Carpenter and Steve Niles. For the unfamiliar, Steve Niles is the mind behind the fantastic 30 Days of Night graphic novels and though I'm sure many of you know who John Carpenter is, he's the genius behind classic films like Halloween and The Thing.
With names like that working on it, it's tough for a horror film freak not to get excited about this game. But before I hype it up too much there's something you should know. F.E.A.R. 3 is surprisingly void of any real scares. Sure, most of the horror is taken away when you're playing through it with a friend, but even going it alone, like I did my first time through, I still never found myself low on ammo or on the edge of my seat. It's a bit of a disappointment in that regard; F.E.A.R. 3 is definitely the least scary of the bunch.
With that said, F.E.A.R. 3 is still a fantastic game. The co-op, which is definitely the game's biggest selling point, has been integrated seamlessly into the game's story as you take control of either Point Man or his brother Paxton Fettel. If you've played a F.E.A.R. game before then you should be familiar with Point Man, as he plays much as he has in the previous games. You can use any of the weapons or mechs you come across and you also have the miraculous ability to slow down time. Point Man's able to do this because of his incredible reaction speed, but when you're playing through it with a friend, the one who's playing as Paxton also gets to make use of the bullet time.
The biggest change to how the game plays is the addition of the fantastic 360 degree cover system that works much like Gears of War only now you can move all the way around objects while staying in cover. It's a simple addition but it makes a world of difference, especially when you're defending against moving targets. But watch out, because cover does degrade as it takes damage so you might have to find a new spot to hide once your cover's blown (up).
Paxton is without a doubt my favorite addition to the game. After playing through it the second time with everyone's favorite cannibalistic psychopath I didn't really want to return to Point Man. You see, because Paxton's technically dead, his contributions to the battlefield include his basic attack that's essentially a ball of psychic energy he can hurl from his hands, picking up enemies and exploding them, or picking them up and possessing them. Paxton can only use weapons if he's renting out some unfortunate soul's body, though you can still lift any explosive objects (including grenades) and telekinetically hurl them at unsuspecting foes.
The last game, Project Origin, had some very scary moments that were almost always caused by some of the enemies you came across. Fighting ghosts that blink in and out of existence as you try to make your way through an abandoned school or defending against Revenants who could reanimate the corpses to fight against you made for some really intense fights in the second game. This time around you'll be fighting several variations of soldiers, including one that shoots lightning bolts all over the battlefield that somehow spawns new enemies (I never understood that one), a couple mechs, some homeless people, and fiery dog things.
There are a few instances when the fights can get hairy and maybe a little intense, but for the most part you're just plowing through wave after wave of bad guys with a friend. For an action game this wouldn't be a problem but for a horror game this is an issue. It's obvious that a lot of time and effort was put into making the environments you explore as atmospheric and disturbing as possible, but the enemies you fight in them are a letdown. Gone are the ghosts and zombie-like puppets from the second game, replaced by enemies that feel like they're ripped from an action game.
Some of the more difficult and fun sections of the game are the mech sections, where you're either fighting a robot or mowing down baddies inside one. I loved the mechs from Project Origin and I'm happy to say they've only improved here. The weapons too have evolved and I'm a little surprised to say it but my favorite gun in the game is the pistol. Not since the original Halo has a pistol felt so good and satisfying to use, though if that really isn't you bag there's a plethora of other weapons to use that are almost as thrilling.
The multiplayer in F.E.A.R. 3 has also seen a major evolution over the previous games. It's not just about capturing flags or playing through the same old Deathmatch formula. This time the multiplayer has been integrated into the story and world of F.E.A.R. so you and three friends can work together to survive in a handful of different modes. There's Contractions, where you have to defend against waves of progressively more difficult enemies, building barricades and collecting supplies. There's also the aptly named F**king Run, where you have to run from an incoming wall of destruction while vanquishing everything that gets in your way. The last two are Soul King and Soul Survivor, where you're now the bad guy who's tasked with collecting souls and possessing enemies to stay on top.
In the end, F.E.A.R. 3 is a great game. It's basically an action game with a little bit of horror thrown in, and when you're in the scarier parts of the game, like the painfully brief frozen meat locker that I won't soon forget, it'll be easy to recognize contributions from horror legends like John Carpenter and Steve Niles. There aren't enough scares to satiate horror enthusiasts but it's still a great game, and playing with a friend only multiplies the fun to be had. If you're looking for a game to keep you busy over the summer drought than F.E.A.R. 3 won't disappoint.