F.E.A.R. 3 - Review

While the FEAR series still keeps it's reputation as a solid shooter franchise, since the last installment FEAR 2, the series, whose original was often quoted as being one of the scariest games out there, more and more turned into an action game, leaving the trademark horror aspects out.
Now in June 2011, Day 1 Studios released the third installment in the FEAR franchise. With every installment, there always also has been a change of the developing studio (first there was Sierra, than Monolith, and now Day 1). Maybe Day 1 Studios managed to bring FEAR back to its frightening roots.


Fear 3 continues the story of Fear 2. With Alma now being pregnant, there is a new offspring about to throw the world into chaos. You play as Point-Man (the protagonist of the first FEAR game), who (nine months after FEAR 2) is being held hostage by Armacham Security. During an interrogation, Paxton Fettel, his dead maniac brother who now appears as a ghost, frees Point-Man and tells him about the upcoming birth of Alma's next child. While the relationship between the brothers still is a dangerous mystery to Point-Man (he killed Fettel in FEAR 1), he knows that he has to take the chance to stop the birth of the third Alma-child.

FEAR 3's story is by far the weakest of the series. It holds very little to no twists or turns in any way, except maybe the ending. While the main story again focuses on Point-Man as the main protagonist, it's kind of a letdown that he is given almost zero personality, meaning that he doesn't speak a single word throughout the entire game.
FEAR 3 completely relies on the player's knowledge about the previous games. There is no real exposition given about the previous storyline or  the characters. I really suggest first-time-players of the series playing the previous games before, so that you can follow the story.
The main story is spread out over 8 chapters, with each representing a new setting. The storyline basically just focuses on Fettel and Point-Man getting from the Prison to the birth place of Alma's child. There is almost no real story in between those chapters, except the backstory of the brothers Point-Man and Fettel.
The backstory about the brothers' childhood is probably the biggest strength of the enitre experience. It's just sad that this backstory of them being held prisoners in a laboratory is given not as much depth as it could have, due to lack of Point-Man's voice/personality.
FEAR 3 is by any means no masterpiece in storytelling but it features two endings (a bad and a good one), whose good ending rounds up the FEAR trilogy very well in my opinion.


FEAR 3 basically plays just like any other FEAR game and/or any other shooter. It has almost the same button scheme like call of duty, with the only exception that it features the trademark bullet time with Point-Man, and a Posession ability when playing as Fettel. However, for a game that is literally called "FEAR", this third installment just like the second of the franchise, isn't all that scary. FEAR 3 is more like a by the numbers shooter with tacked on scary segments. The scary scenes in the game are okay but admittedly pretty rare. They are far from the quality of the scary iconic moments of the first FEAR game. Many of the horror segments in feel very tacked on, mostly because just when the player is about to get into the creepy horror mood, the game throws another gunfight at him. FEAR 3 clearly steps right into the footsteps of FEAR 2 rather than FEAR 1, focusing more on the action aspects and the gunfights rather than the creepy mood.
As i already mentioned, the main campaign a bit short, but considering the difficulty, it has segments that suddenly became so radically difficult that it almost drove me nuts. At times the learning curve of the game can be very unforgiving but at least it's challenging.
A new feature in FEAR 3 is a single-player-campaign-ranking-system. It's a ranking system that rewards experience points, that improve abilities and give you a specific highscore at the end. Experience points can be earned by getting enough headshots or by performing other specific tasks, giving the campaign a certain arcade style. Also there are some collectibles in every chapter, that grant you additional points. Your total score of xp points affects the ending of the game in the way, that Alma chooses a favorite son (it's more or less like a good or bad ending like in Infamous only without being triggered by karma but by xp).

But what makes FEAR 3 standout among the other installments is the ability to play not only as Point-Man but also as Fettel, who is by far more fun to play as. Being a ghost, not only does he have the ability to elevate enemies into the air and crush them, but he also has the ability to possess enemies and then actually play AS them. You can basically possess any kind of enemy that you encounter.
Fettel can be played after you completed the game with Point-Man.

FEAR 3 is advertised heavily on featuring co-op (Point-Man and Fettel), and while this is of course featured in the game by the ability to play the game cooperatively with a friend both on AND offline (awesome!), during the single-player campaign you never get the feel of Fettel supporting you. He never helps you during the chapters or interferes in any way, except during cut-scenes, which is very sad considering the potential of team work with an AI Fettel-partner during the campaign.

Aspects about the game that really annoyed me were especially the at times unresponsive controls: often i encountered moments, in which the reload button was unresponsive, forcing me to push the button multiple times so that my character actually reloaded. This occured not as often as it sounds now but during hectic gunfights this can be a true pain in the ass. At first i even thought my controler was broken, until i later read on various websites that this is just bad programming. But again it sounds way more dramatic now as it actually is.
Another aspect that i just couldn't get used to were the grenade-throwing-mechanics. I never could get a good feel for the throwing of my character, meaning that i almost never hit the sport with my grenade that i intended. But as far as i remember this issue also occured in the previous FEAR games, so that this is maybe more like a personal thing i guess.


Graphically, FEAR 3 won't WOW anybody. The graphics are very generic and standard. During some scary parts, the lighting-engine is taken good adventage of but not enough to make the game stick out among the big-ego-shooter-business (like FEAR 1 did during its release). As you could guess, the game's settings are extremely focused on insights of buildings or crumbled cities, which oddly often feature some pretty muddy textures. FEAR 3 is not an ugly game, but it's almost too generic to even today's standards. The spooky paranormal effects are still there but unfortunately none of them are anything new that we haven't already seen in FEAR 1 or 2.


The Sound design in FEAR 3 is pretty impressive. Scary sounds set the mood and atmosphere of the creepy segments well, while the sounds during gunfights are pretty ok but nothing special. Yet still, FEAR 3 is a game that makes good use of one's surround sound system.


Among the commonly known multplayer modes, FEAR 3 has some very interesting modes like "Soulking" which focuses on the possessing ability of the players and the cool "F***ING RUN!" mode, in which you have to run away from a giant wall of death with your team while still fighting through parts of the map. The modes are pretty fun to play but have to prove if they can remain popular over time in the online community.

The Verdict

For me, FEAR 3 should have been much better. I admit that FEAR 3 features some nice ideas, like the good backstory of the characters, the co-op, the multplayer modes but it all just can't compensate the very thinly written story, the "soulless" characters, the just decent graphics and especially the lack of new ideas to scare us. For a game that was delayed several times, i would have expected a bit more innovation and creativity for this once-so-great franchise. Like with movies, the third installment almost always is the weakest in any trilogy, and FEAR 3 is no exception.
I still had fun with the game and it sure is a solid shooter but not a good horror game. It ultimately all boils down to FEAR 3 being an almost too-generic game that is a far better rental than it is an instant-buy.

Final Verdict: 6 out of 10

Status: Disappointing!


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