Thursday, 16 February 2012

F.3.A.R. [PS3]

The third official title in the F.E.A.R. horror franchise is similar to earlier titles, only now you've got your dead psychic psycho brother with you at every step of the journey. 

Don't you just love getting the chance to bond with your evil, psychic little brother?

A Bit of Background.
If you hadn't worked it out yet, this is the third FEAR game, although you'd be excused as putting the number in the word is just stupid.

OK, I should start by saying that I'll be judging this title fairly critically as I'm a massive fan of the first 3 F.E.A.R. releases (the original F.E.A.R., Perseus Mandate and Extraction Point) but less so of F.E.A.R. 2. Really as they've got the high-definition consoles to test out, this should be an absolute roller-coaster. It *should* be.

These games generally involve you spending half your time shooting clever AI enemies and the other half walking down corridors where the walls start to bleed. Horror-Shooter. Get it? 

The themes are pretty dark here, the back story being so yucky that I'm not even going to go into it, sufficed to say that the freaky girl on all the cover art is totally justified in going all kill-rampage-y. If you're that perverse/curious then go play the first game. Then read the guide to the story. Grossed out sufficiently? Good. I shall continue.

Why The City Blew Up.
The story this time round is that you have now got to team up with your dead, psychic brother to go and save/kill your mother. She's about to give birth to another evil, psychic baby (who will probably cause Armageddon at some point) so the best thing to do would be to go and kill her. Pretty sure this was exactly what we've been up to the past 5 games... but whatever.

Your brother is actually trying to save your mother 'cause he loves the whole psychic murderer vibe. In the end, either you will kill your mother, your brother and the evil sprog, or alternatively your brother will kill you and save her and the baby. Win-win, right?

This is the cloud gathering as Alma prepares to blow up the city.....again.

It's Bullet Time.
The actual action is the same as in the older games (and now pretty much every FPS in existence) - you find cover, shoot a bit, run, duck, shoot, blow something up, run etc. etc. etc.

The "unique" selling points are the bullet time - wow a game where you can slow time down(!) - and the scary sections (which I'll come on to in a little while). 

The bullet time is now pretty redundant as most enemies move so slowly that you almost want the option to speed them up! Adding to the problem is that now enemies are now thick as pig shit, standing like squishy targets for you to carefully line up your aim and making minimal effort to hunt you down or flush you out of cover.

The environments have all been seen before too - ooh a subway, ooh an office, ooh a street - and so this gets pretty repetitive and dull very quickly, as well as being thoroughly dull and repetitive.

They swarm around you menacingly, and then wait to be killed like lemmings.

Horror? Don't Worry, You Have Nothing To F.3.A.R.
Tickets please.... no?.... then I will be forced to eat your head.

As you may have guessed from the pun in the heading, the horror sections aren't even scary any more. In previous games, these sections appeared out of nowhere and featured some unsettling psychological trickery - in one level you open a door that disappears in front of you, then a door appears in the floor, then your vision blurs as a little girl walks across the ceiling. It played upon your human side, confusing you and having things in the corner of the screen make you doubt you saw anything at all. It was frikkin' freaky - trust me.

In F.3.A.R., they use advanced horror techniques that may be a bit difficult to explain - things jump out at you. Er... OK that was pretty simple to explain, and about as scary as a chocolate eclair. They don't even make any effort to add some suspense into proceedings - move from the bright sunshine indoors to a grimy apartment block and surprise surprise a monster appears.

Two Sides To Every Story.
Hold the phone though! 

There's another part to the gameplay that I haven't touched upon yet - playing as your brother (who is evil and psychic, did I mention that already?).

This basically involves sending out evil psychic mind-talons to grab enemies and suspend them in mid-air. You can then blow them up with your brain, or allow your brother to take them out for you. And that's it. 

Wow. A real game-changer there. 

The depressing thing is that as you play through as the shooty brother, you are unlocking the levels so that you can go back and play them through again as the psychic brother. Why on Earth anyone would want to subject themselves to that, I do not know.

Even worse is that the game is marketed as a "co-op" title, implying that you should bring a friend along to star in the role of useless brother. A friend who you are trying to hint at to go home and never call again, perhaps.

The awesome might of your brother's air guitar impression has caused this guy's leg to fall off.
God mode to Pwnd mode.
These guys spawn out of walls. Clever AI isn't needed when you can just appear out of thin air.

Although the enemies all stand around like plonkers, the game still manages to be ridiculously difficult in places. Not throughout - so that you might consider turning the difficulty setting to "easy" - but instead just for one or two fights in the whole game.

You can run and gun through the entire level, only to be killed repeatedly by one awkward enemy who hides on a rooftop with a sniper rifle. Because of the way the checkpoint and ammo works, you can often find yourself with thousands of rounds of pistol ammo but with nothing useful like a simple rocket launcher. Not much to ask, surely?

Then to top it off, there's the buggers in the picture above - teleporty spawny armoured gits. Whenever you start to get a few hits in they run off and portal through a wall, appearing directly behind you. When there are TWO OF THEM jumping out of walls right behind you and blowing you up, only to run away through the wall again when you manage to turn round to face them, you can imagine that these sections go on for a while.

So basically, the developers thought that a few obnoxiously annoying sections would suffice to balance the difficult level out. They were so, so wrong. What is left is an unbalanced mess, where I played the majority of the game at the hardest difficulty and only turned it down for the rare levels where the teleport twins would appear.

The Climax
With all the destruction in the build-up, you would expect something pretty spectacular for the ending, wouldn't you? 

So what do you find when you finally confront dear mother? Is it:

  • A giant, final boss fight?
  • A freaky horror section so gruesome that run away screaming?
  • A nuclear detonation levelling half of America?
No. A walkthrough section where you see a few cutscenes and then it ends. It totals up who has been the most evil brother to decide the winner and therefore the ending, and if you have been playing in single-player then this section is totally redundant as you will always be the winner.

So the child lives or dies, as does the mother, as does your brother.... urgh. I'm getting bored of this now. If you are too, DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME. It's pretty much just 10 hours of this crap.

What am I doing? I'm dying. Great.
And if you hadn't had enough in the main story, there's an online multiplayer section too. It plays out something like a barricade defence game, boarding up windows of your building to prevent hordes of baddies from getting in and eating you. 

Now either I didn't get the point, or I was playing with some players who have recently undergone a lobotomy, but basically after 10 minutes it was impossible to hold off the waves of nasties on my own. So... Dead. Bored. Switch off.

There's games that deserve praise for what they bring to gaming in general. There are other games that are carried by the sentimentality that you feel towards their predecessors. 

F.3.A.R. is neither - it is a bland shooter that defiles the brilliance that was the earlier F.E.A.R. titles both shamelessly and carelessly.

I am having real difficulty thinking of anyone I could recommend this to - OK - if you like all 400 Jason  films, you might like this game. 
Though, let's face it - that's pretty unlikely.

I do not own the copyright to the images in this review. They are all copyright of WB Games and can be found here -

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