We may be in the height of the dry season in Cape Town but you probably wouldn’t have guessed by looking at the dam…
FEAR 3 REVIEW (PC) – Good horror takes you on an exploration of your own fears and doubts. It takes you by the heart and drags you down to the dark places of your soul, forcing you to face your inner demons or end up broken and scarred for life. FEAR 3 took me to a dark place – a place where well-armed and well-organised soldiers, tough as they are, were merely of passing interest.
This dark place wasn’t inhabited by people, soldiers or otherwise, but with creeping, crawling, face-sucking demons that appear and disappear in puffs of ominous smoke. In my pit, I am the food, the target and the weakest link. Escaping this pit became my sole occupation for a good twenty hours.
When I finally emerge from this pit of horrifying hopelessness, I’m shaken, stirred by a deep evil that follows me even into the sunlight. FEAR 3 is fantastic. I haven’t been this properly scared by a video game since the first time I played Bioshock, alone in a big creaky house, a storm raging outside and my surround sound reverberating through the wooden floorboards. Then, the combination of a compelling story, excellent gaming experience and genuinely creepy environment literally scared me shitless.
FEAR 3 is a different beast altogether. It uses horror movie magic ably contributed by John Carpenter and Steve Niles (of 30 Days of Night fame), combined with excellent sound and effective graphics to create an environment that is as tense as tripwire.
There were moments in FEAR – quite a few, to be honest – where I jumped out of pure fright. I have to mention that I’m not a big fan of horror games and rarely play them when they come along, but the entire experience about FEAR, from where I first heard people talking about it, to the trailer and then the game itself, is top-class.
I have a confession to make up-front: before FEAR 3, I’ve never actually played any of the previous FEAR installments. I’m not such a huge fan of horror games, nor horror movies to be honest. But there was something about FEAR 3 that I had to check out. And what a rewarding experience it’s been.
It bears repeating – FEAR 3 is fantastic. Exhilarating gameplay drives an at-times terrifying storyline through some of the creepiest set-pieces I’ve played in a game in a while. Since I haven’t played any of the previous games, I am not familiar with the back story to FEAR – all I know is there are two brothers, Point Man and Fettel, one a kinda-good soldier type, one a people-eating piece of pure evil, and that Point Man kills his evil sibling at the end of FEAR 2.
That’s as much back story as I had when the game started, but it didn’t matter – FEAR 3 is an experience that really stands on its own. This time around the two brothers join forces to stop Alma, a highly-volatile and utterly evil force of manipulated science controlled by Armacham, the same organisation that sends squad upon squad of soldiers to halt your progress. Alma is immensely powerful, but to add to her volatility is the fact that in FEAR 3 she’s also pregnant. In one level her contractions cause freaking parts of the environment to sink into the freaking ground, leaving red-tinged sinkholes behind. Freaked me the f*%# out.
While the single-player campaign really worked well, this game comes into its own during multiplayer. There are only four modes, and play is limited to four players at a time, which helps to focus the gameplay and makes for a more exhilarating experience. My favourite was F*%#ing Run Mode, which involves you and your mates running away from an ever-encroaching cloud of smoke through ominous environments while masses of crazed cultists try to tear your face off. It is awesome.
Now, for the basics: FEAR 3’s graphics are good but not great. It looks like a great game from 2008 – smooth, well-lighted but not revolutionary in any respect. However, this doesn’t detract from the experience, so I can’t fault the developers in this regard.
Sound is where the game performs really well. The voice acting is a little over-the-top at times, but the overall ambience created by the sound and music really add to the experience and helps create that tense atmosphere I mentioned. Gunshots are resoundingly realistic, enemy shouts are authentic and the booming explosions of the suicide cultists in particular really add depth to the game.
Gameplay is great – again, nothing revolutionary, but as a first-person horror shooter game it does its job well. Players can earn points by completing tasks (think 25 headshots in a round, or 25 ammo pick-ups) which in turn gives your character more abilities. It is one of the most addictive aspects of the game, so well done to the developers for including it.
Overall, FEAR 3 is one of the most fun gaming experiences I’ve had this year. Were it not for a super-polished rally simulator I gushed all over last week, I’d give FEAR my game-of-the-year-thus-far award. As it stands, FEAR 3 is a must for any fan of survival horror or first-person shooters, and anyone up for a bloody good scare.
Who it’s for
- FPS fans, horror game fans, and anyone else who’s up for a bit of a fright.
What we like
- The atmosphere – tense, relentlessly dangerous and superbly supported by great sound effects.
What we don’t like
- Graphics look a little dated, and the storyline isn’t brilliant.
|Overall – 8
An awesome action-packed scare-fest that will pull you into its evil embrace and leave you shaken, especially when played during a Cape Town winter storm, alone, with the sound cranked way up.
Would have been a beautiful game three years ago. As it is, the graphics are just about good enough to carry the overall experience.
Standard FPS mechanics with the inclusion of one or two novel ‘special abilities’.
Aside from sometimes-grating voice-over effects, the sound is superb and helps to create an immersive game experience.
From the get-go this game grabs you by the short-and-curlies and takes you through a terrifically-tense game experience that really stays with you even after shutting the game down.