F.3.A.R. (PS3) Review
· Fun shooter
· Combat feels better
· New XP system makes exploring worth it
· New enemies and abilities
· Only a slight graphical increase
· Cover system is horrible
· Poor conclusion
· Story focuses on back-story rather than what is currently happening
· Playing again as Paxton yields no new story
· Very little to no horror
· Some obnoxious enemies/encounters
Previously, on F.3.A.R…
F.3.A.R. is the third and -hopefully-the last of the F.E.A.R. series. F.E.A.R., First Encounter Assault Recon, Is widely popular due to its fun shooter mechanics and pants wetting horror. In the first game, you play as Point Man, the silent hero who just joined the previously mentioned Recon group, whose job is to investigate violent paranormal happenings. In the first game, you are investigating the release of a psychic ghost girl named Alma. For reasons unbeknownst to you at the time, she escaped for unknown reasons, and her son, Paxton Fettel has used his psychic powers to take control of clone soldiers. Through the investigation you’ll encounter little Alma who attempts to scare the living hell out of you by suddenly appearing here and there and slaughtering those around you in the most violent ways you can possibly imagine. All of these scares are broken up by gunfights with the clone soldiers. In the end, you end, you find out that Paxton is your brother and Alma is your mother. You kill Paxton with a bullet to the head, and in an attempt to stop Alma, you cause a nuclear explosion. But guess what? It doesn’t do anything aside from creating a few new enemies and reducing the surrounding town to rubble.
In F.E.A.R. 2, you play as Michael Becket. The game starts about a half hour before the end of the first game, meaning you get to experience the blast at the end of the first game first-hand. Eventually you find out that Becket has the same powers as Point Man because he was an attempt at creating a test-tube version of Alma’s children. Obviously, this means that Alma has an attraction towards you, setting you up for another game of horrifying scares from the little girl dressed in red. Actually, Alma starts to age in this game. Every so often you see her in an adult form, most likely the form she grew into while being kept in an isolated chamber for so long. At the end up the game, you fight with Alma who, I kid you not, ends the fight by raping you, getting herself pregnant.
Back on Point
In F.3.A.R. (FEAR 3), you are placed back into the head of Point Man who is tied up and being interrogated by guards in a prison. Guess they didn’t get the memo that he talks even less than Link. Your brother, Paxton, shows up in ghostly form and aids you in escaping. Turns out he wants to help you find your mother, and the unborn baby for reasons he doesn’t yet reveal. This is where your mediocre adventure begins.
The first thing you’ll notice is that, while the cut scenes are pretty, the actual game’s graphics haven’t improved all that much. Sure, things are a little shinier, models are a bit smoother, and lighting is better, but it’s nothing close to the increase you’d expect considering the time between this and the previous game. Not a game breaker, and obviously you can still have a good game with mediocre graphics, but it’s a bit disappointing.
Combat is still basically the same, with the exception of a few improvements that make combat a bit more fluid. You still have your slow-mo ability and martial arts moves like kicking and sliding. The new additions to PM’s move-set are the ability to take cover and the ability to absorb certain dead bodies to gain XP. This brings us to our first big problem. The cover system in this game is HORRIBLE. The game is very finicky about what you can and can’t take cover behind, as well as how close you need to be. You essentially need to be pressed right up against the wall to be able to take cover, contrary to the magnet cover in games like Uncharted and Gears of War. Another issue is that it’s not always obvious what you can hide behind. Sometimes trying to take cover on a certain wall will just result in you running into it while you get shot at. This wouldn’t be a big deal if cover wasn’t pretty much required in normal to high difficulties. Half of the time you’ll get gunned down in the process of trying to move into the perfect position to hide behind some cover. Other times you’ll THINK you’ve taken cover, but all you did was crouch behind it.
The XP system was an interesting addition. Rather than having you picking up power-up syringes like the first two games, you instead gain XP from completing challenges. These challenges the kinds of things you see from other games like Call of Duty – Things like “Get X Environment Kills” or “Kill X Enemies from Cover”. Another large source of XP is the Alma Dolls and Psychic Links. Alma Dolls are just creepy looking dolls made to look like voodoo dolls of Alma. The Psychic Link is an ability you can use on glowing bodies to absorb them and gain XP. These bodies are scattered around here and there, and are never the enemies you killed yourself. They’re usually in odd locations such as bathroom stalls or laying upside-down inside a dark room. After getting a certain amount of XP, you will gain a level. Each level gain gets you a new ability or stat increase –Things like the sliding kick or Slow-mo/Health/max ammo increases. This new system adds a bit more playability to the game, meaning you’ll have more reason to play through the game again so that you can get more special abilities.
Another addition to the game is the ability to play as Paxton Fettel, whether it’s by yourself or via coop campaign. Fettel is physically weaker, but he has the ability to invade enemy bodies and take control of them, as well as other psychic abilities.
Unfortunately, there’s no change in the story when playing as Fettel. You still experience the same cut scenes, with the only difference being the ending. He seems to have been thrown into the game just to give a reason to add coop, or as a poor attempt to add replayability. This is very disappointing. It would have been great to be able to replay the game from Fettel’s perspective, with different cut scenes. Had this been handled better, it’d definitely have made the game somewhat better.
The controls themselves are strange. I don’t know who decided the control scheme, but it seems like their goal was to make them awkward. I had to re-map the controls since I just couldn’t get used to it at all. I recall exactly what they were, but it I believe it was something like L2 to aim and pop up from cover which made shooting really strange feeling.
The AI is basically the same as it always has. They take cover here and there, but for the most part, they have no problem standing in the open or running straight into you.
Let’s not forget that this IS a horror game. Though, sadly, that’s pretty easy to forget in this game. The first two games had some great scares. I can’t tell you how many times I almost fell off my chair jumping at something suddenly appearing in a window. Having Alma appear at the top of a ladder as I turned around to climb down it, only to have Fettel appear at the bottom as I turned around to get off of it was the highlight of the scares for me in the first game.
Unfortunately, the first game doesn’t have many scares, if any. There was the occasional jump when a strange creature materialized in my face and grabbed me, but that was about it. For a game whose story is centralized around the spirit of a little girl whose sole purpose is to scare the living hell out of you, I only saw her a small handful of times, and each time it was far away, or the appearance wasn’t even meant to be scary. This was the biggest let down of them all. After playing through a series that easily made my “Top Scariest Games” list, having the finale be so lack
luster was very disappointing.
Is This a Sequel or Prequel?
The story itself was expectedly mediocre with many things left unexplained, some confusion, and plenty of plot holes. It’s not surprising. The series’ story has never really been all that great. This one helps to fill in some gaps and gives you some good back story on the two brothers. Unfortunately, that’s basically what the whole game seems to be about. All they really talk about is the brothers’ childhood, meaning that the rest of the story is pretty much not even there. The ending of the game was a pretty big let-down, and seemed to be purposefully done so that they can keep the possibility of a fourth game open.
Worth the Wait?
All-in-all, the game is nowhere near being bad. In fact, it’s a really fun shooter. However, that’s the problem. The series is a shooter, sure, but it’s also a horror game. That’s what made the previous games so great and popular. It was unique in that it was a great horror game with fps gameplay. It seems like Monolith have forgotten that. The game is definitely worth a rent, but I wouldn’t recommend dropping $60 on it unless you feel the need to own the whole series. We can only hope that if they decide to make a fourth (F.E.4.R., anyone?), that they go back to their horror roots and give us the kind of game we already expected from this one.
To read the review from its source with proper formatting and images, please go here: [http://massivemoleculemedia.com/index.php/video-game-news-reviews/25-review/59-f3ar-review]