It’s time for another Sequel that Missed the Point!
F.E.A.R. The very mention of this game makes me happy. It’s so good. The first one still holds up very well today. Maybe the graphics are dated but the AI and gameplay is still as good or better than many modern shooters. F.E.A.R. 2 is still my all-time favorite FPS and the reason I got back into them.
F.E.A.R. 3 came out and I was first in line. Pre-ordered and all. I played it and thought it looked great. The new gameplay mechanics were decent and I liked the point system for earning upgrades. I was having fun with it. However I got to a point where I stopped and realized that Warner Brothers had just taken a piss all over Monolith’s brilliant series. This was not a F.E.A.R. game. While it had the right characters and the famous slow-mo mechanic it was just masquerading at best. Let me explain. Better yet let me strongly urge you to stop reading this and go play the first two games if you haven’t yet. You really should anyway.
Back yet? Good. How awesome were those games?! Now we can continue.
Here is my problem with F.E.A.R. 3. The first two games were solo experiences that centered around either the nameless point-man in the first or Becket in the second. In each game you are sent in to investigate paranormal activities that turn into a great adventure surrounding Alma Wade. I could go on for a long time about the story but it’s of little importance at the moment. WB did an ok job with the story itself and it actually made sense in the context of the universe. It was in the execution of the story that made the game fall flat.
Back to the first games. They are designed as solo experiences and play as corridor shooters for the most part. This allows for the developers to script specific scares, hit certain beats and craft this grand experience for the player. Monolith nailed this in the first two. Great pacing, a few jump scares but the best part was the feeling of being alone. The sound design, lighting, enemy placement and set pieces were all designed very specifically for that solo experience and it was incredible.
F.E.A.R. 3 committed the sin of taking a game that is not only known for, but is built around a solo experience and adding co-op. Now I’ve ranted about this before in games but let me tie this into F.E.A.R. 3 specifically because in addition to co-op they also got the bright idea to try and add replay value with a very cheap mechanic that hurts the atmosphere more than it helps.
WB decided that the game would lose it’s replay value if it had the same old scripted scares. They didn’t want the player to know what to expect the second time. I get that and would be ok with that in a different game. The scares in the F.E.A.R. series are not just for the fear factor, no pun intended, but they all also move the story along and add atmosphere in a specific way in specific times. F.E.A.R. 3 mixes this up by randomizing what “scares” will occur and when. There are times when they seem so random and not in the way intended. They all feel like a gimmick and tacked on instead of having the natural organic feel to them within the story.
I blame that on the series making the move to co-op. When you introduce a second player that adds a huge variable to the action. You can’t really predict human behavior very well. You can try but there will always be variables. With a game that is known for atmosphere and scares you can’t really naturally make sure both players will get to experience the same event at the same time without over using invisible walls and multiple cinematics that would break up the action. So the solution seemed to be cheap jump scares that, if one player missed it, who cares.
You can’t look past that the addition of that second player completely removes the mechanic that works so well in the first two games, the feeling of being on your own. It breaks any kind of tension or terror.
You’ll notice I’m not actually talking bad about the game itself. As a shooter, on it’s own merits, F.E.A.R. 3 is actually a good game in my opinion. Like I stated earlier it had me completely entertained from a gameplay perspective. It’s a good shooter, but a poor F.E.A.R. game. It takes the game backwards in my opinion, but it does set the franchise up for a comeback on new hardware. I’d love to see a new F.E.A.R. done in the style of the second entry as a single player only experience.
So, good game but they just missed the point of the series with this one.
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