Oh no, the FOV has changed!!! Aaaaiiiiiiiiiii!
F3AR isn’t a very scary game.
FEAR has always been about blurring the line betwixt horror and action, being both a competent shooter with smart AI, and full of delicious horror atmosphere. As well as having some interesting characterisations and characters. Those characters kind of make a come-back in F3AR. By kind of, I mean they have a character called Point Man, who has never really been seen before, and who has a beard? Who knew? And Paxton Fettal, making sure to have his current incarnation look and sound almost, but not quite, completely unlike Paxton Fettal. Jin Sun-Kwon, whom is also voiced by someone different also looks almost nothing like the character from the first game.
The screen has gone very slightly grey and there’s a static noise! Waaahhh!
Other things the first two FEAR games did quite well was having quite believable enemy dialogue, now it’s like most other modern shooter games with soldiers seemingly trained to use as ridiculous phraseology as possible so long as it is not real English. Yes, games-makers, the military consultants are just making that stuff up. Another pointless concession to modern shooters is the regenerating health, limit of two weapons only, and the cover system which just doesn’t gel with the game I’m playing. To be fair, I’m somewhat biased in that I always thought an attach-to-cover button always worked best with a controller anyhow. I could always try it with a pad, but for the difficulty bloat.
This is another point where F3AR puts action and horror in opposition. We’re faced with a monster-mash of too many enemies, worse, re-spawning enemies. An endless parade of enemies doesn’t make good horror. To put the difficulty bloat into perspective, I play the original FEAR on Extreme Difficulty (highest of four) and have a nice challenge, but it isn’t difficult to the point of ridiculous. F3AR? Well, I can just about manage in Commando (middle difficulty of three) and that’s quite frustrating with the number of deaths suffered. Of course, completing F3AR opens up a new difficulty mode.
Wait, no, there’s nothing there. Or maybe there was, but I wasn’t looking at it. It happened too quick.
F3AR is all too eager to toss aside the horror setting and give you instead the dusty backstreet of genericness, but still occasionally drops you into a sewer filled with corpses just for fun. It will insist on removing any weapons you’ve picked up after every chapter which is more than a little irritating.
This much blood is a bit silly rather than scary, isn’t it?
The game has another annoying habit of making little sense. In the two earlier games, you have a good reason for being there, so does the FEAR universe’s equivalent of Weyland-Yutani, Armacham. In this game, well … not so much. They’re trying to cover up … what, exactly, the hole that used to be a city? To cover up any evidence of Armacham’s involvement … wait, big hole in ground, all the soldiers. Perhaps to remove any evidence of their experiments on … city gone. City no longer there. Just leave. Let Point Man and Fettal do their jobs and sort it out. I just can’t see a reason for Armacham to be there, nor a reason for Armacham to want to stop our characters, who, on the onset at least, want the same thing (to stop the abstracted puppet-master-like baddy, Alma).
A hole! Terror intrinsic!
F3AR’s scares fail for a variety of reasons, but I think most prevalent is that the game is confused, like I say, earlier games blurred the action / horror line, but F3AR has these elements in opposition. For example, you can’t really have a collection of bonus’ for killin’ and lootin’ and maintain a horror atmosphere since seeing that you’ve cheerily levelled due to killing people with the shotgun (Ultimate Butcher Award!) kinda ruins the atmosphere a little. As well as just plain missing the mark. The developers for F3AR (not the same as the FEAR and FEAR 2 development team) aren’t so good at getting us to look where they want. So I was keeping myself more aware of things like screen effects rather than having that awareness receptive to the atmosphere. At times it seems the developers were aware of the problem and tried to separate out the horror and action sequences, but then realised that in a way, that exacerbates the problem. Similar problems to the horror elements in Dead Space 2, in fact the ending of F3AR is pretty much the same deal as Dead Space 2.
Veins have appeared at the edges of the screen. The Horror. The Bunting! … I’m looking the wrong way again, aren’t I? Couldn’t it wait for me to turn? No? Aww.
The big shame is that the game is so very good looking, surprisingly so. I was impressed with FEAR 2 and F3AR surpasses it, and surpasses it whilst still being able to run on similar hardware (as the console variations prove). Then they use that graphical prowess to make … the same game a bunch of others already have, throwing out quite a bit of what made FEAR, FEAR. Tailoring it to be more generic.
In conclusion, F3AR is a pretty good shooter, but that’s all it is, whilst it sometimes has the veneer of a horror atmosphere it doesn’t do that part particularly successfully. Unfortunately, if you, like me, play FEAR mostly because it’s a playable shooter and has some horror in there, you’ll be sorely disappointed, if that isn’t so important, you’ll have less to dislike.