Nine months ago, Alma used Micheal Beckett to create another child. Now coming to term, Alma's labor pains are ravaging what is left of Fairport. Point Man, having been captured and interrogated by ATC forces, must now escape and find his way back to Fairport and deal with the ever-escalating danger of the paranormal events set into motion by Project Origin. He is haunted along his journey by the lingering psychic projection of his brother Paxton Fettel. It is uncertain if the two brothers are at odds or cooperating.
F.E.A.R. 3 puts the player back in the role of Point Man, now gone rogue and on his own mission to deal with the events surrounding Fairport. Players can also play in the role of his dead-but-not-gone brother Fettel, who brings a whole new set of options to the game. The normal cast of ATC guards and Alma-created apparitions are joined in this third installment by the surviving inhabitants of Fairport who have been driven crazy by the constant barrage of psychic phenomena brought on by Alma's labor pains. The slow-mo staple is still around, as are advanced melee and cover options, and ironsighting. The mech combat of F.E.A.R. 2 - along with Fettel's psychic abilities - adds plenty of variety to the gameplay.
While F.E.A.R. 3 is a solid shooter on its own in the solo campaign, the “divergent” co-op campaign is where the game really shines. One player still plays as Point Man, while the second player takes on the role of Fettel, whose psychic blasts are somewhat weak, but lends a crucial aid in his ability to psychically suspend enemies in the air and possess enemies, which is extremely effective in crowded situations. Possess a guard in the middle of the pack and suddenly you're in a great position to pick off the rest of the group. It also lets you die for free, taking out a bad guy in the process. I found the campaign overly-challenging when playing solo, but very well balanced in co-op. Playing as Point-Man was fairly straightforward and, while fun on its own, I had a lot more fun playing as Fettel, bringing the experience of a more standard shooter in small doses while possessing an enemy, along with a whole other set of mechanics and goals while assisting Point Man by suspending enemies and flinging stuff that blows up (like fuel drums and fire extinguishers).
The experience in the co-op campaign is some of the most first-person fun I have had in a very long time. The competitive nature of the co-op scoring makes for very challenging and entertaining gameplay. At the end of each mission, Alma chooses a “Favorite Son” between the two brothers, depending on who scored higher. This affects the ending of the game, which will make for an interesting F.E.A.R. 4. Points are awarded for certain objectives during each mission, such as spending certain amounts of time in cover, shooting a certain number of enemies while possessing a body and many others in the categories of Aggression, Tactics, Aptitude, and Psychic. Scoring is also recorded on online modes, giving replay incentive to the campaign. I recommend playing the campaign in co-op to get the brothers' whole story; you just don't get the whole experience playing the game solo. I agree with the box art: "Never face F.E.A.R. alone."
The online modes of F.E.A.R. 3 are where John Carpenter and Steve Niles' influences are most apparent, as the different modes are inspired by their work. Inspired by Prince of Darkness, F-ing Run! is exactly what it sounds like. The team must outrun Alma's wall of death; if any member is lost to the wall, its game over for everyone. The Fog brings us Contractions mode, which produces waves of enemies coming from a supernatural fog. Teams must cooperate to amass weapons and build barricades to survive all 20 waves. Coming from Niles' 30 Days of Night is Soul Survivor mode, which pits players against the rest of the team, due to being corrupted by Alma, and Soul King mode, which puts all players as specters competing to collect souls, which was fun, but not terribly original. The other three modes are all very interesting new takes on online modes which add quite a bit of replay value to the game.
F.E.A.R. 3 oscillates between being very creepy and isolated, at which times it succeeds quite well at inspiring nerve-wracking horror, and whole sections of gameplay that achieve little more than any other more standard FPS. The influence of horror masters John Carpenter and Steve Niles improves the atmosphere of the game only sporadically. The graphics are extremely clear, even if only partially horror-inspiring, and the character detail of Point Man and Fettel are very appropriate and effective, as is the voice acting. The environments are well designed if not terribly horrifying on the whole (although the high-tech hall of mirrors and a couple other key areas do quite well), and the sound design is particularly effective in spaces filled with Alma's ghosts.
I found the main campaign a bit on the short side at 6 to 8 hours, but there is reason to play F.E.A.R. 3 many times, especially with the co-op scoring system. Once you have finished a mission, Fettel becomes a solo playable character, allowing for more value in a second run through the game from his perspective. Although the original content left me wanting more, there is plenty of value to be had here, and new fans of the franchise and veteran players alike should get much enjoyment out of the new features F.E.A.R. 3 brings to the table.
Overall, F.E.A.R. 3 succeeds in what it set out to do - who doesn't like possessing your enemies? - and the simultaneously competitive and cooperative system of the two player campaign makes the game a lot of fun. If you want to get the living crap scared out of you then there are better games on the market (which is disappointing given the influence of two horror greats), but if you want to have a friend over to shoot up lots of guards and cannibals, F.E.A.R. 3 is your ticket to a good time.