“F.E.A.R. 3” aims higher than your typical shooter with cool combat features, paranormal story line, and a dramatic tension that goes missing at times.
The game (Day 1 Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive) continues the story of a family in conflict as two brothers work together in an effort to get to their psychically enhanced mother, Alma, who is about to give birth. However, their reasons for wanting to find dear Mom are totally opposite.
Co-op mode is the preferred mode of play so you can take advantage of each brothers’ skills during combat and strive toward the highest score on each level. You can play as Point Man, well versed in military training and technique, or as Paxton Fettel, slain during “F.E.A.R” and returning once again as a ghost with psychic energy powers.
Point Man, who can also be used in the single player mode, is able to utilize all the weapons found throughout the game. He also has an ability to slow down the action due to his hyper-reflexes and grant him an advantage to dodge and counterstrike.
Fettel, who is unlocked as a playable character after solo missions are complete, uses his psychic powers to attack or possess foes. If he possesses an enemy, he can use the abilities of that enemy to fire weapons or activate other powers.
The brothers must wade through wave after wave of soldiers, wacked out cultists, and creepy creatures created from Alma’s mind. The battlefields range from a looted out food warehouse to the science bunker where Alma is being held.
While the action is pretty linear, there are off-shoot areas to explore to discover hidden weapons and ammo, psychic link gathering locations, and the Alma doll, which scores big points when found. Points also translate into special abilities and a higher rank to help you with additional health, more ammo, and other perks.
First-person shooter combat benefits from the slow motion ability from Point Man as well as an excellent cover based system. Hiding behind walls or crates is simple and allows for easy pop-up moves to pick off targets under relative safety.
There are some enemies who are shielded and require some extra work to defeat. There is also one called a Phase Caster, who summons additional soldiers over and over again. Kill him first. Seriously.
While most of the action is person-to-person combat, there are a couple of areas that let you get inside a mech to blast away at helicopters, other mechs, and hidden snipers. Keep on the move when facing these opponents and your health won’t diminish to the point of shutdown.
It is easy to get immersed in the run and gun aspects of “F.E.A.R. 3,” but keep in mind that it is also supposed to be a horror game. Remember, Mom is a psychic time bomb allegedly waiting to erupt when she gives birth to … whatever.
To be sure, there are some very good horror moments in the game. The apparitions that briefly appear, scare, and disappear are disconcerting. And having a ghost brother along during solo mode is a constant reminder.
Legendary film director John Carpenter was tapped to help create cinematics that heighten the fear factor. Comic book horror writer Steve Niles co-wrote the storyline featuring the psychotic elements.
When they occur, the terror elements are jump-out-of-your-seat frightening. It is almost like watching a horror movie from the eyes of the lead actor.
The problem is those moments don’t seem to occur as often as you’d think or hope. There were plenty of times in the game where I forgot it was supposed to be a thriller and not just a shooter.
Sure, Alma as a little ghost girl appears and disappears in skin crawling fashion, but her appearances become less and less as the game progresses. Some levels features are so soldier combat heavy that there aren’t any paranormal experiences that can be remembered.
Even combating creatures I called devil dogs was less about the fright and more about tactics.
Early in the game, I was peeking around every corner, expecting to find some apparition or twisted scene only to shrug and move on. By the end of the game, I stopped looking for them and just treated everything as a combat scene.
The point system is pretty good to see how well you did on each level and it does impact what happens at the end of the game. I know the “good” and “bad” endings and both will leave you scratching your head about what just happened.
Four player multiplayer modes help the game’s replayability with team work scenarios as well as cutthroat opportunities. You can cooperate to survive waves of enemies coming from an advancing fog, or be possessed by Alma and try to take over your former teammates.
Losing the raw terror doesn’t take too much away from the game play. “F.E.A.R 3” is still an incredible first person shooter that will challenge players with intelligent enemies and powerful boss battles.
The combat tactics will challenge you and the environments will force you to think about your best way to advance. Sadly, the frights aren’t quite as jarring as they could have been.
Which, I’m sure, makes the ghosts very sad. Boo.
“F.E.A.R. 3” is playable on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. It is available now in North America and the UK, and will be available in Australia on June 29. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, and strong language. This review was done playing the Xbox 360 version.
The game (Electronic Arts, Grasshopper Manufacture) is a collaboration between Goichi Suda, director of “No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle,” and Shinji Mikami, creator of the “Resident Evil” series. It plays out as a survival horror third-person shooter, and features a gritty, stylized art that tries to emphasize demented enemies and psychotic imagery.
The action starts in medias res as the hero, Garcia Hotspur, is in the process of dispatching a huge demon. Hotspur is portrayed as a no-nonsense demon hunter who discovers that all that demon slaying comes with a price – his girlfriend is kidnapped by the Lord of Demons and taken to his hellish realm.
Hotspur uses a minor demon, Johnson, to help him in combat. Johnson can transform himself into a torch, a pistol, an automatic rifle and a shotgun.
In addition to ammunition in the form of skulls, bones and teeth, Johnson also has a light shot that banishes the darkness in hell and can also be used to stun enemies. Each weapon has a more powerful form that can be found in the game and all guns can be upgraded with increased power, accuracy or ammo.
Minor demons are easily cut down and there are mini-bosses that can only be defeated by destroying a blood core located somewhere on their body. End bosses usually have more than one core that needs to be blasted and it is a long, frustrating process.
Many tough enemies will lose all their cores, only to regain them and the player is forced to start the process over again. Their movements are also so herky-jerky that you will likely use up a lot of your ammunition in attempting to defeat them.
I tried stunning them with light shots first, then opening fire with my weapons. However, they don’t stay stunned for long and the cores I am trying to blast are not very large. Frustrating.
Action takes place in a version of Hell that looks more like a medieval village than a plane of flame. The darkness comes alive here in some areas and actually damages Hotspur until he can find a light source to banish it.
It is also used as a puzzle solving mechanism as some locks are not revealed until the darkness descends. Players will need to ramp up their speed to get things done before taking too much hurt.
Oh, and demons get stronger in the darkness as well, using it like armor. Get rid of the darkness and hit the enemies with a light shot before finishing them off.
There are a couple of areas that change into 2-D platforming and Hotspur is forced to navigate through maze of trees, clouds and buildings. I’m not sure I understand why the developers used the 2-D levels and it was another element that detracted from the attempt at horror.
Paula, as a character, is a one-trick pony. She is the constant damsel in distress after getting kidnapped by Fleming, the Lord of the Demons.
The voice actor probably needed a lot of throat lozenges because Paula is constantly screaming. It doesn’t help that her character is also dying quite a bit in the game.
The comedy arrives early and often whenever Johnson gets involved in the action. His puns and jokes are chuckle worthy, while Hotspur tries to be so macho that he takes it to ridiculous. The dialog is definitely R rated and NSFW, but laughably funny and actually works against the attempts to make the game horrific.
There are, what I would call, demon storybooks that do nothing other than give the player a break from the action. Johnson usually narrates the book, making humorous or lecherous comments along the way, and adds zero to the story or combat.
I admit that the demons are gross, and they gush blood and lose limbs in a spray of red that is stomach turning. But after the first chapter, they seem to lose their terror factor and become less of a psychological influence.
I was taken aback by the musical score in “Shadows of the Damned” in a good way. Akira Yamaoka, the sound director of “Silent Hill,” put together some fantastic tunes that are sprinkled appropriately through the game. I really enjoyed just listening to the music and it didn’t distract from the action at all.
“Shadows of the Damned” is full of shooter combat, some puzzle solving, and boss battles that are likely to have you tossing your controller down in frustration. The enjoyment level diminishes a bit by the multiple attempts to try and kill the big enemy at the end of each chapter.
The scene is appropriately hellish and twisted, but the dialog and character interactions are funny and amusing, which takes away from the game’s attempt to project psychological terror. I enjoyed the comedy, however, is this what they were hoping for?
I won’t say I was disappointed by how the game turned out (I actually liked it), but I have to think that the development team containing key members of “Resident Evil” and “Silent Hill” probably was hoping for a different effect.
If taken for what it is, “Shadows of the Damned” will have you laughing as you mow down waves of demons and flinching at all the gore. That’s probably just twisted enough.
“Shadows of the Damned” will be available June 21 in North America and June 24 in Europe on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is rated M for Mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes, and strong language. This review was done with a retail copy playable on Xbox 360.