F.E.A.R. 3

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F.E.A.R. 3 marks the end of the trilogy, taking what was originally a somewhat interesting premise and burning it down to the ground!

ConsolePC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
DeveloperDay 1 Studios
PublisherWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
GenreFirst-person shooter, survival horror
Release Year2011
Purchase (PC)Purchase from Steam.
Purchase (PS3)Purchase from Amazon.
Purchase (Xbox 360)Purchase from Amazon.

As you play through a series, you may notice some… odd changes. Odd, unwelcome changes. Then you noticed that the game you just played was made by a different developer. Then hindsight kicks in and everything suddenly makes sense. The series decline had already made its nest and it’s too late to get rid of it. The infestation had begun and the series is long gone.

And that is F.E.A.R. 3 in a nutshell. Once it was released, there’s no going back. Everything up to this point culminates into a clusterfuck of bad decisions that signifies the end of a series that once had potential.

What the hell went wrong? Why did it end this way? Could things have gotten better?

Well, only one way to find out. Let’s examine F.E.A.R. 3 and how it failed to live up to its predecessors.

 

Ahhh…! That’s… Very Underwhelming…

So when I first installed F.E.A.R. 3 via Steam, I noticed something baffling. It only took up 4,248 megabytes of hard drive space. And why is it baffling, you ask?

Well, let’s see here…

And this is not counting expansions or DLC.

Seriously. What the fuck is this. You’re telling me a 2011 game—a sequel, no less—had less than a quarter of data than its predecessor released in 2005? Are you fucking kidding me here! How much actual effort went into this project? What the hell was the budget?

And unlike the first two F.E.A.R. games which were developed by Monolith Productions, F.E.A.R. 3 was developed by Day 1 Studios (today, they’re now Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore). Day 1 Studios was previously involved with creating the console ports of F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2.

I’m not completely sure what happened, but publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment decided to outsource to a different developer to work on the main portion of the game. Maybe Monolith ran out of steam and decided not to do another sequel. Or maybe F.E.A.R. 2 was a financial disappointment and Warner Bros. decided to try a different developer. While Monolith Productions did give some input to the project, Day 1 Studios was in charge of the whole thing.

And thus, F.3.A.R. was born, a corny little nickname given by the game’s PR. Cuz that was always so cool, right? It’s like ending a name with a -z instead of an -s, just to make it sound cool.

And to make things more bizarre, director John Carpenter (HalloweenThe Thing) and writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) were also on board with this project. Kinda makes you wonder where all the budget money went to…

But yeah, red flags everywhere. Expect disappointment.

 

Ahhh…! What’s… Going On…?

You remember the story of the F.E.A.R. series, right? If not, let me give a quick summary.

F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon gameplay

In the original F.E.A.R., you are an unnamed Point Man working with the First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R.), a covert ops organization that specializes in suppressing paranormal and supernatural activity. Your target was a psychic commander named Paxton Fettel, a deranged man who attempted to start a war on a worldwide scale. And to do this, he sent out the Replica Forces, an army of cloned super soldiers. Along the way, you had a series of encounters with a psychic apparition girl named Alma Wade, who leaves a trail of destruction and blood in her wake. Towards the end of the game, you discovered that Paxton was your younger brother and that Alma was your biological mother. You assassinated Paxton and supposedly killed off Alma, only for the game to end on a cliffhanger with Alma somehow surviving.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin gameplay

In F.E.A.R. 2, you are Sergeant Michael Becket, a soldier working with Delta Force, the allied army working alongside F.E.A.R. The events of this game took place during and after the first F.E.A.R, serving as a side story. Your mission is to capture Genevieve Aristide, the woman responsible for the terrible ongoings that led to the creation of Alma Wade and Paxton Fettel as tools of war. Becket displayed similar psychic abilities to the Point Man, which makes him a target by Alma Wade. Alma became enamored with Becket and was willing to destroy anything and kill anyone in her path to reach him. Through a series of trials and elaborate hallucinations, Becket lost most of his unit and Alma raped him, making her instantly pregnant with her third child.

…Pretty fucked up stuff so far, right?

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man and Paxton Fettel

In F.E.A.R. 3, you are the Point Man once again. For some reason, this character still doesn’t have a proper name. He was even referred as the Point Man in actual dialogue. Even Gordon Freeman from Half-Life has an actual name. This is just lazy at this point.

F.E.A.R. 3 Paxton Fettel

For some unexplained reason, Paxton Fettel returns from the dead and manifests as a phantom that only the Point Man can see… I think. In the story cutscenes, it seems like no one can actually see Fettel.

F.E.A.R. 3 Paxton Fettel and Jin Sun-Kwon

But during gameplay, enemy soldiers see him perfectly fine. What’s up with the Gameplay and Story Segregation? How does that make any fucking sense?

Through some vague bullshit, the brothers are psychically connected… which somehow gives Paxton life again. You can rationalize it with psychic powuhz all you want, but this doesn’t change the fact that Paxton’s revival was forced and made no sense. And the hell of it all is that Paxton Fettel decided to HELP the Point Man, and the Point Man did not object to it. Why? Why are they suddenly working together despite being enemies in the first game?

So with that strange premise set in place, let’s go over how this game actually plays and how it compares to that of its predecessors.

 

Prison Breaks and Gunfights in the Slums

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

So as with its predecessors, F.E.A.R. 3 is a first-person shooter with some horror elements. Your selection of weapons is the usual fare: pistols, SMGs, shotguns, blah blah blah. Not a single weapon is unique here, something that even the original F.E.A.R. accomplished. You’ve seen it all before. And I believe the game thinks so too, because it just throws you straight into the action about a minute in.

No suspense to build up anticipation to the action. Little character interaction to help you get a feel of your current situation or actually give a damn about what’s going on. The game just went, “Fuck it,” and you’re already killing some prison guards in a random South American prison.

Well, isn’t that a great start!

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

But for real. As soon as I started up a playthrough of F.E.A.R. 3, I was confused. It felt like I booted up a different game: a generic first-person shooter that tried to be a little scary, but it fell flat on its face. This prison break segment at the beginning felt like it came straight from a typical thriller movie. And what’s even weirder is that the prison felt so empty. Once you killed off the guards, you realized that there aren’t any visible prisoners.

So if you have played a F.E.A.R. game before, you would know that the Point Man possesses a Slow-Mo ability, due to his mother being Alma Wade. To put it simply, he’s a natural-born killer with powerful reflexes that grant him superior dodging and aiming ability. And while it’s still in F.E.A.R. 3, it’s definitely not as useful as in previous games. It doesn’t last as long and takes quite a bit of time to refill. It’s best saved for short bursts. One of the most unique gameplay mechanics in the F.E.A.R. series? Neutered.

F.E.A.R. 3 Paxton Fettel gameplay

But by far the most interesting aspect of F.E.A.R. 3 is that Paxton Fettel is a playable character. And to give credit where credit is due, the game is a lot more fun to play as him. Basically, he is unable to wield guns by himself, but he can attack people using telekinesis and psychic blasts. But easily his most useful ability is being able to possess people, which is the only way for him to wield guns and other weapons. While he can only possess a person for a short time, he technically can’t die in this state because he has his own HP and the possessed person’s HP.

Paxton can easily hop from person to person, as well as gain access to weapons that even the Point Man can’t use. Because of the body-hopping, Paxton doesn’t need to take moments to heal as often as the Point Man. With that being said, you’re better off playing the game as him and having psychic powuhz is fun!

Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the game’s narrative that much, unless you’re playing single player as Paxton, meaning you will get a different ending from completing the story.

F.E.A.R. 3 Powered Armor gameplay

The ability to pilot a Powered Armor returns in F.E.A.R. 3, a concept that was first introduced in F.E.A.R. 2. Unfortunately, the mechs this time don’t have infrared vision, which originally allowed you to see enemies through walls. Still, operating an armored walker with a barrier and a shit ton of machine gun ammo and missiles? I’m always game for that.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

The enemy AI of F.E.A.R. 3 relies more on cover from gunfire than previous games. It turns into a waiting game where you have to wait for someone to peek at you before he’s about to shoot you. This makes nearly every enemy encounter very predictable because most of the enemies don’t change spots. They just wait behind a crate or a door until they’re ready to open fire. Compare to enemies from previous games, who are generally more aggressive and often approach you in a group in order to overwhelm you quickly.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

And here’s a change that I don’t particularly care for. Unlike previous F.E.A.R. games, the HUD does not show your hitpoints, which confused me. In fact, there are no health kits in F.E.A.R. 3 at all. And here’s why.

The developer changed it to have a regenerating health system. As you take damage, your vision turns red to the point of seeing your blood vessels. Take too damage and you die. But if you don’t take any kind of damage for a while, your health will automatically regenerate.

The reason I don’t like this change is because it slows the action down. If you enter a gunfight and you take too much damage, you’d have to wait for a while behind cover until your health regenerates. This especially applies to playing as the Point Man. I’d rather just use a health kit and get back to the fight. Ironically in an effort to make the game less tedious, it ended up being more tedious anyway.

And you know what’s another change that I don’t particularly care for? A two-weapon limit. And the crappiest part about it? It resets every chapter (or “interval,” as the game calls it). Like, what the hell is this. The original F.E.A.R. allowed you to carry three weapons. So did the sequel. Both games allowed weapons to carry over to the next interval. And those games came out six years and two years, respectively, before this one. Why are we taking a step back? That is just dumb.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

Even the game progression of F.E.A.R. 3 is different, and it’s one of the biggest immersion-breaking things I’ve seen in a “horror” game. This game decided to implement its own in-game achievements system, called challenges. And when you complete certain challenges, you earn “points” which total out and eventually grant you better stats and abilities.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay Psychic Link

Additionally, you can find glowing corpses that made contact with Alma Wade, where you can perform a “Psychic Link” with them. What are Psychic Links for? More points.

F.E.A.R. 3 Alma Doll

Oh, and there are collectible Alma dolls too, which… do the same thing…

It should be noted that your score determines which ending you get (there are two) if you’re playing this game on co-op (which you might call “competitive” too). But if you’re playing single player with a certain character, you already determined which ending you’ll get, so the points system doesn’t matter as much.

What the hell is this? A poor man’s version of Call of Duty?

This is what people are referring to when a video game becomes too “gamey.” Instead of establishing its own unique identity or trying to implement new things, it just follows the typical conventions of other popular games around the time of release. In this case, you might refer to F.E.A.R. 3 as an “actionized sequel,” which is ironic considering all of the games thus far are full of action.

F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon gameplay

Remember when the original F.E.A.R. had Health Boosters and Reflex Boosters, those little pickups that you can come across from diligent exploration? Those were fine. The boosters by themselves only help slightly, but you find so many of them that you’ll be seeing smooth progression across the board. And you immediately receive their benefits as well. You don’t have to wait for some dumb high score screen to total up your points that will later tell you, “Here, you’re a badass now.”

 

Cultist Terrorism and Sorta-Kinda-Monsters

F.E.A.R. 3 the Creep

So as you can probably tell, F.E.A.R. 3 managed to undermine its own horror elements by being more of an action-packed gunfight simulator with an arcade scoring system. But even if you ignore those aspects of the game… this game is just not that scary…

While the graphics are certainly better than the previous games, they’re distinctly lacking in style or art direction. The previous games looked a lot grittier, which is very fitting. Whenever I think of the F.E.A.R. series, I usually think of dark office buildings, dark factories, a war going on in an urban city. Additionally, this makes the visual hallucinations much creepier.

As for audio, it’s very generic. The musical score is absolutely forgettable and most of the voiceover performances aren’t that good. I will at least say that it’s nice to hear Peter Lurie again as Paxton Fettel, who delivers a wonderfully hammy performance as the series’ Hannibal Lecter. Aside from images of Alma Wade, I wouldn’t have guessed that this is a F.E.A.R. game had it not been for Paxton Fettel’s character and distinct voice.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

F.E.A.R. 3 started you off with a prison break, then you’re in the slums of a South American town. There’s no real reason to be at this location either. You’re just there. The game makes few attempts in isolating you into dark, creepy places or putting you through nightmarish scenarios.

F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon gameplay
Not even close to enough of these types of scenes.

At this point, you might be already sick of me making comparisons to the game’s predecessors, but this bears repeating anyway. There are no distorted hallways, rivers of blood or fiery pits in F.E.A.R. 3. There is hardly anything resembling those events. Just throw in some lazy jumpscares and some random fleshy monster. As for the horror events that are actually there, um…

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay cultists

So when you get to the city of Fairport, you will come across some cultists who worship Alma Wade. They were once human beings before being driven insane by Alma’s psychic abilities. They established altars everywhere and drew on various walls with their own blood. And… that’s about it. That’s as scary as these guys ever get.

They’ll try to outnumber you. They snarl and growl a lot. The most threatening they’ll get is when a whole group of suicide bombers come after you. Apparently, the half-naked pale-skinned ones are cannibals, but.. .yeah. That’s all you need to know about them.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

Then there’s this creepy meat locker with the hanging pig corpses and human bodies. Well, it certainly looked like something that would come straight out of an Outlast game.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay scavenger

Then there are some monsters called scavengers that only appeared for two chapters. I guess they’re a bit creepy with their human-like face, but are certainly no nightmares or scarecrows. Next…

Hell, the Replica Forces from previous games are still creepier.

F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon Replica Forces without helmet
I mean, look at this. Eugh.

And they’re all pretty much cloned super soldiers designed to take orders from a psychic commander. Hell, the moment that Paxton Fettel dies in the first game, every single one of them ceased to function properly. They all just stood around with no thought or consciousness. It’s one of the most subtly creepy moments in the game.

The Replica Soldiers are kinda in F.E.A.R. 3, but they’re merged with ATC soldiers to form the Armacham Forces. And honestly, I haven’t been really paying attention on who is who. I remember when the two forces used to be pretty distinct, but now they’re just kinda… the same? And because of the crappy enemy variety, you won’t be encountering the creepier variety of soldiers like heavy armors or assassins.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay Creep

Well, okay. So this THING called the Creep is actually a bit… creepy. It’s a weird humanoid flesh monster with no eyes and a distended jaw. It’s certainly grotesque compared to everything else you encounter in this game, almost like it could’ve come from the original F.E.A.R. So at least it has that going for it.

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Now you might be wondering if Alma Wade, the main star of the series, is scary here. Nnnnnneee… not really…? I mean, sometimes she pops up out of nowhere through a poorly constructed jump scare. But she doesn’t really do much. She doesn’t go on massive murder sprees or stalk you in a creepy manner because she’s attracted to you. Instead, she acts more like a frightened little girl than anything, which doesn’t fit her character. In fact, she’s not really antagonizing you in this game. It’s more like she’s closely watching you, which is not as unnerving as it should be.

So, yep. F.E.A.R. 3 is not scary. I would hardly even call it creepy.

 

Pregnancy Apocalypse

Did I get your attention with that header? Well, it should. Because even though F.E.A.R. 3 managed to fail in its scares, it still managed to be fucking weird.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay

So if you paid attention to my recap of F.E.A.R. 2, Alma Wade is pregnant with her third child. And for some reason, this is enough for her to bring about the apocalypse, even though she had two kids before and the apocalypse didn’t happen. I guess Armacham kept her psychic abilities suppressed during those periods or some shit… I don’t know. The game doesn’t even bother attempting to explain its continuity errors.

Speaking of which, you might be interested to know that F.E.A.R. 3 tries to follow the continuity of the original F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2Extraction PointPerseus Mandate and Reborn were not considered to be part of the continuity, which is why Paxton Fettel appeared the way he did in F.E.A.R. 3.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man, Paxton Fettel and Harlan Wade flashbacks

So, let me go over the game’s story. Paxton Fettel came back from the dead as some bizarre psychic phantom entity. But instead of trying to kill the Point Man like before, they ended up working together instead. I think what’s going on is that Paxton wanted to reconcile with his brother, in his own twisted way, by reuniting with Alma and become a “family” again. It doesn’t make any sense, but just roll with it.

For whatever reason, it’s unknown what happened to the F.E.A.R. organization or Delta Force. Seemingly, the only operative left is Jin Sun-Kwon. We don’t know what happened to Rowdy Betters or Douglas Holiday. Jin is the only other F.E.A.R. operative to appear in this game.

So at the end of every chapter (interval), Paxton explains the backstory for both him and the Point Man. Apparently, they were once close brothers who lived in a jail cell. But their grandfather Harlan Wade was an abusive father figure to them for the sole purpose of turning them into cold, cruel psychic commanders for Armacham. Harlan succeeded with Paxton, but the Point Man somehow ended up being a failed experiment (even though he’s probably F.E.A.R.’s most terrifying soldier).

Let’s stop there.

The original F.E.A.R. never hides the fact that Harlan Wade isn’t a good person. After all, he was directly responsible for Alma’s pain and suffering. He turned in his own daughter for government science experiments, something that he did regret later on. And he acknowledged that he created a monster. But he also knew that Alma’s power was too dangerous to try to control and that her miserable existence had to end, for the good of the world.

“It is the way of men to make monsters, and it is the nature of monsters to destroy their makers.”

F.E.A.R. 3 just ends up flanderizing his abusive father trait and outright makes him into a villain. And not just A VILLAIN. He’s THE VILLAIN of the whole series, according to this game. And we’re going to see why this is incredibly stupid.

Unlike the previous games, F.E.A.R. 3 heavily relies on cutscenes to tell the story. The previous games often give you background information in the middle of gameplay, usually as intel from your teammates or documents/phone messages that you encounter. And these tend to occur during the more quiet moments of the games, allowing you to let the dark atmosphere sink in. You could only gather some of the intel if you were diligent with exploration, which can feel rewarding on its own right.

F.E.A.R. 3 doesn’t do any of that. It’s just gunfight after gunfight for most of the way, rarely giving you enough time to let the moments sink in and observe your surroundings. Then you sit through some cutscenes that sometimes don’t add anything to the story. And whatever “intel” you receive is from Paxton Fettel or Jin Sun-Kwon, but it’s mostly basic info (or cryptic shit) to just get the story moving along. Anything related to Alma Wade or Paxton Fettel can be summed up with, “Harlan Wade abused them.” You don’t learn anything new about Armacham or any of its questionable government projects. This game really doesn’t understand why fans of the F.E.A.R. series found the original storyline so interesting.

If you want to read more into where I think F.E.A.R. 3’s story fell apart, click the spoiler.

Spoiler

F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon Paxton Fettel

Now, I’m going to throw this out there. I never considered the storyline of the F.E.A.R. series to be amazing or anything like that. But at the very least, it did have intrigue and some interesting tidbits that made the setting and the lore engaging. Most of the fans loved the original F.E.A.R. campaign. Some either loved or hated F.E.A.R. 2’s campaign.

F.E.A.R. 3 barely makes any attempt at a cohesive narrative that ties to the other games. It’s a mess from beginning to end, ripe with continuity errors, poor pacing, wasted opportunities and failure to address unanswered questions.

So to begin with, I already pointed out the stupidity of Paxton Fettel’s revival. I know F.E.A.R. 2’s DLC campaign called Reborn technically brought him back earlier, though it was set up like a twist ending with a cliffhanger, implying his revival would get an explanation in the sequel. But looking at how F.E.A.R. 3 tried to explain it, it just feels stupid now.

Even though the Point Man and Paxton are brothers, they’re not exactly friends. In fact, there were constantly trying to kill each other in the first F.E.A.R., so their de facto alliance in F.E.A.R. 3 is just utter nonsense. Neither have any real reason to be working together.

One of the main problems with F.E.A.R. 3’s campaign was that the whole story was like a series of cutscenes strung together with redundant plot points and bare bones presentation. It just goes scene after scene with hardly any new information presented to us. What I got out of it was:

  1. The Point Man is a failed prototype of a psychic commander and must die for that one reason.
  2. Harlan Wade is an evil parental figure who abused his youngest daughter and two grandsons. Also, he appears as some humanoid abomination called the Creep, which looks like a Silent Hill monster.
  3. Alma Wade is not so evil after all. Apparently, her actions were just a conduit of her father’s evil.
  4. For an unexplained reason, Armacham Forces managed to bring Replica soldiers into their fold, despite being enemies in the last two games.
  5. For whatever half-assed reason, Alma giving birth to her third child is somehow a catastrophe waiting to happen.

To really highlight the story’s problems, look back at the first F.E.A.R. That game did a fantastic job with its worldbuilding and setting. It emphasized the importance of Project Origin and other related projects, and how the fruits of their labor could potentially bring about the apocalypse to the world. It showed just how much of a massive threat both Paxton Fettel and Alma Wade are, if they’re allowed to wander about. And Harlan Wade himself was a major source of this worldbuilding, giving us nuggets of info like these:

“Mike, it’s Harlan Wade. Chuck Habegger seems to think your people are blowing smoke up his ass on this Perseus situation. I don’t know which of you shitheels over there is calling the shots, but you’d better stop dicking around fast, because the readings are getting worse by the minute. It’s really a simple choice. You can either listen to the expert advice you’re being given or you can brace yourself for the assfuck of the century. ‘Cause it’s coming. You can mark my words on that.”

But when you strip away the worldbuilding, you end up with an underdeveloped story with flat characters and hardly anything of interest. And if you’re wondering if F.E.A.R. 3 brought in any expansions or DLC campaigns to fill in the gaps….

NAH!

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F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man gameplay apocalypse

So what is remotely interesting about the story is Alma actually having her new kid. Her psychic emanations from the event are so powerful that they’re causing shockwaves across the world and turning the sky comically red as if you tuned in to an episode of SWAT Kats. This aspect of the game’s story is so bizarre that I couldn’t help but wonder how it would turn out.

F.E.A.R. 3 Sergeant Michael Beckett

And look, even Sgt. Michael Beckett from F.E.A.R. 2 is a character in this game! Though you don’t get to play as him. Or interact with him in a meaningful enough way. Oh no, what F.E.A.R. 3 did with him is even worse.

F.E.A.R. 3 Sergeant Michael Beckett

The strange thing about the story is that this third baby is pretty much the main plot point of the whole game. Supposedly, Alma giving birth to this child would be the end of the world or some shit like that. Both Jin Sun-Kwon and Michael Beckett asked you to stop Alma and even kill the child. We have absolutely no idea what the hell kind of implications to expect, because the story does such a shit job telling us.

So after Michael Beckett repeats information that we already know, Paxton Fettel possesses him and tells the Point Man some intel about Beckett that we would already know from playing F.E.A.R. 2. Then Paxton just kills him for no real reason.

Really, what the hell. Why even bother revealing Beckett’s background to the Point Man when it does absolutely nothing to advance the story? And what is the point of inserting Becket into F.E.A.R. 3 if you’re just going to kill him off without giving him a major role? That’s both a waste of his character and a waste of our time.

 

Harlan Wade is Such a Creep

F.E.A.R. 3 Paxton Fettel

After that stupid “revelation,” we’re treated to even more stupidity. The Point Man and Paxton Fettel return to their childhood home (with no real transition to the game’s final act of the story). And there, they confront the Creep, that Silent Hill-esque monster stalking you the whole game. It turns out that the Creep is some monster form of abusive daddy Harlan Wade. And the reason why the family was so fucked up was because of him.

F.E.A.R. 3 Alma Wade

So despite all the shit that went down in the previous games, F.E.A.R. 3 is now trying to tell us: Alma Wade did NOTHING wrong.

Fuck. You.

She was a demonic being who nearly brought about the end of the world. Not just because of her abilities, but because she chose to use them in a destructive manner. Furthermore, she pursued a soldier and raped him, leaving the man traumatized until his abrupt death. Pretty much everyone and everything she touched experience horrors beyond their wildest imaginations. Fuck you for trying to humanize this ticking time bomb at the last minute. You wasted a perfectly good villain from this dumb bullshit.

F.E.A.R. 3 Point Man and Paxton Fettel

In the case of Paxton Fettel, well… the game sort of establishes him as an anti-hero and tries to make him into yet another sympathetic victim of Harlan Wade. But at the same time, this cartoonishly evil character doesn’t possess a moral code and slaughters people without thought. Did I mention that he’s supposed to be a cannibal? So really… I don’t know why the game bothers to try to humanize him either.

F.E.A.R. 3 Harlan Wade

Then we have the not-so-subtle demonizing of Harlan Wade. I don’t know if it’s John Carpenter or Steve Niles that decided on this, but someone in the development team decided that this character would be pretty much responsible for all the shit that happened in the F.E.A.R. series. Yes, it was established that he was a major part behind Alma’s instability, but Genevieve Aristide and the rest of Armacham are just as responsible, if not worse.

So in F.E.A.R. 3, Harlan is an over-the-top egotistical entity (ghost or hallucination?) obsessed with godhood. And he seems infatuated with the idea that the Point Man and Paxton Fettel become gods using their speciai abilities. He doesn’t care about what happens to his daughter Alma, just as long as his “legacy” lives on. Christ, this is fucking stupid…

So even though Alma did kill her father in the original F.E.A.R., this apparently didn’t stop her from being terrorized by her memory of him. And this memory took a physical form known as the Creep, who managed to claim victims of its own.

F.E.A.R. 3 final boss Creep

So in the final interval of F.E.A.R. 3, you’d have to destroy the research facility where the Point Man and Paxton grew up at… for some odd reason. Then you’d have to destroy the Creep during an annoying final boss battle. Then Alma finally gives birth to her third child, which ends up killing her—even though she’s already supposed to be dead, so I guess she’s “deader?”

F.E.A.R. 3 Paxton Fettel ending

Then we get a bizarre ending. If you played the story as single player, the ending you get depends on your chosen playable character. If you played co-op, the ending will reflect whoever got the highest score (aka “being Alma’s favorite son”). So basically, whoever will survive depends on which son Alma favors the most. And one of them wanted to consume her flesh to gain her power. I can’t wrap my head around this…

In the Point Man’s ending, the Point Man killed Paxton (again) and attempted to kill the third child. But at the last second, he changed his mind and decided to care for his new sibling as his own, as Alma peacefully faded from existence. And somehow, the world ended up being in a more peaceful state.

Yeah, I’m calling bullshit. Armacham and the remaining victims of Alma would still be around, so there’s still potential that the world will remain in a horrible state.

In Paxton’s ending, Paxton overpowered his brother and ended up possessing his body. Paxton decided to care for the third child as his own, but quickly cannibalized his own mother (it’s funny because this game forgot to acknowledge that Paxton was a cannibal in the original F.E.A.R.) Though Paxton kept rambling on about the importance of “family” through the whole game, it didn’t take much for him to kill his brother and his mother. Also, this ending makes no sense, since both Paxton and Alma are supposedly ghosts at this point. So when the hell did Alma have flesh and blood? How does a ghost give birth to a child of flesh and blood?

And if you’re wondering what the significance of the third child to the whole plot is… well, guess what? The game never explains it. It felt like it was trying to imitate the good ending of the original Silent Hill, which had a symbolic resonance to it. It was implied that the third child’s birth would destroy the world somehow, but this obviously never happened. It was never explained if the third child would have world-ending powers similar to Alma’s. It was just a MacGuffin to keep the shitty plot moving forward.

Wow. Who thought this inane pile of shit would make for a passable story? Even if we’re going to ignore the canon of the previous games, the story is so unfocused on what it wanted to accomplish. Unless you want to see some bizarre shit, there is nothing of substance here.

So that was F.E.A.R. 3, which could have easily taken out the ghost girl out of the equation and be its own universe. Why? Because this game is just transparent window dressing. It’s a generic first-person shooter with toothless horror moments.

To summarize, F.E.A.R. 3 is not a terrible game in itself. It’s just a terrible F.E.A.R. game. The story makes no real effort to connect previous events together and expand the setting. The whole experience is so average that it’s not really worth talking about. At least the F.E.A.R. series previously had an identity before. But I think this game killed it.

Without a doubt, F.E.A.R. 3 is the worst of the trilogy. But would you believe me that there was a F.E.A.R. game that’s even worse out there?

Keyword being “was,” because it’s no longer a supported game. So fortunately for me and unfortunately for those out there wanting me to suffer, I can’t play or talk about it from experience. That game is known as F.E.A.R. Online, a free-to-play online multiplayer FPS that came out in 2014. However, it was only active for several months and the game shut down its servers on May 13, 2015.

While I never played F.E.A.R. Online, it supposedly had nothing to do with the F.E.A.R. series. All it did with its licensing is to occasionally flash a static JPEG of Alma Wade during gameplay and recycle maps with a “horror” paint job. Otherwise, the graphics weren’t good for the time, the character model animations were choppy and there are glitches galore in a game that relies on microtransactions to continue running.

So yeah, there you go. I’m done with the F.E.A.R. series. And this might be unpopular opinion, but I’m hoping it stays dead. If Warner Bros. ever wants to revive the series, it should be a reboot. After the tragedy that is F.E.A.R. 3, this storyline is unsalvageable. Might as well make a fresh start and come up with something mindblowing.

Either figuratively or literally. Both options are better than this game.

F.E.A.R. 3

$19.99
5.6

GAMEPLAY

7.0/10

STORY

3.0/10

GRAPHICS

7.5/10

SOUNDTRACK

5.0/10

Pros

  • The gunplay is acceptable but is lacking innovation. Even the Slow-Mo ability doesn't save the Point Man's gameplay from being stale.
  • Paxton Fettel is surprisingly a lot more fun to play as than the Point Man in this game.
  • It's still fun blowing shit up with the Powered Armor mechs.
  • Peter Lurie as Paxton Fettel is still fun to listen to.

Cons

  • As a horror game, it's poorly paced and the cinematics don't do much to heighten the suspense.
  • The gameplay tries to be more streamlined for casual players by adding in regenerating health and a progression system (similar to achievements), but it only makes the game come across as a generic FPS.
  • Whatever scares or even creepiness the game tries to pull are incredibly weak.
  • The story and lore add very little to the series, basically culminating into a half-assed "Alma did nothing wrong" message.
  • The story in general is just awful, culminating into either one of two nonsensical endings.
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