Fear 3 Multiplayer Hands-On
Fear 3 is a game that’s really trying to set itself apart from the mass of first-person shooters madly trying to crawl their way into your sphere of interest. The fact that it wants us to believe that the single-player is more horror than shooter, the stupid way in which it writes its title ‘F.3.A.R.’ (something I refuse to proliferate by writing in such a way here) and its complete refusal to play by the standard multiplayer FPS playbook, point to a game that acknowledges the fact that the genre is becoming tried, over-saturated and predictable.
It was those multiplayer modes that were the focus on our recent trip to Warner Brothers’ secret HQ. Totalling just four, the multiplayer modes of Fear 3 are going to be unrecognisable to anyone used to a diet of Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Headquarters-esque setups. Multiplayer games of Fear 3 are more about co-operation, backstabbing and speed than they are about mano-et-mano combat or holding specific positions/objects.
No shooter is complete without a Horde mode of its own these days, right? Fear 3 clearly believes that to be the case. Combining a little of that aforementioned Gears of War game type and a little of Black Ops’ zombie mode, Contractions is all about surviving as many waves as possible before your team meet their inevitable demise.
There are a few new elements thrown in to try and spice things up a little bit. Between rounds you’re encouraged to scout the map in search for crates that award you with new weapons and ammo which will then be available for the rest of the game within the map’s various safe houses. Seeing as these safe houses can be breached by enemies they’re not exactly 100-percent ‘safe’ but, thanks to the ability to barricade doorways (a la zombie mode), they provide a bit of respite from your foes.
The map we played housed its own mech suit which could be commandeered to make short work of the standard foot soldiers that the game throws at you. As the rounds progress, and the enemies become tougher, you’re soon squaring off against other mechs and things go from easy to pretty damn difficult. Like Left 4 Dead, you’re knocked down before you eventually bleed out and die which gives you a chance to defend yourself with your pistol while you wait for a teammate to get you back to your feet.
Seeing as how all the talk surrounding Fear 3’s multiplayer has been concerned with how different it is from what’s already available, starting us with something very close to what we’ve already seen many times before seemed like an odd choice…
Unfortunately, Soul King is not based around the exploits of James Brown. The only mode based entirely on player versus player play, Soul King begins with everyone as a bedraggled, floating spectre suffering from what looks like a nasty all-encompassing skin rash. As a spectre you move extremely quickly but you’re not able to inflict much in the way of damage.
What you can do is possess the A.I. soldiers that join you on the map – giving you access to their weapons and increased health. Your job is to then kill as many people as you can (be it A.I. or player controlled) and collect the souls that the dead drop. It’s imperative to stay alive for as long as possible because if you die the souls you’ve collected are dropped and can be acquired by whichever player is first to run over them. The winner is the player with most souls come the final whistle.
Thanks to the speed of the spectres and the mad rush to collect souls, Soul King is easily the most frantic of Fear 3’s multiplayer modes. It’s also the most tense as, no matter how well you’re performing, you can go from first to last in a matter of moments. It’s tempting to sit back and hide once you’ve achieved a decent haul of souls but, given the density of enemies the game constantly spawns into the map, there’s always a good chance that you’ll be overtaken before time runs out.
Soul Survivors begins as a co-op mode with all players playing as soldiers but quickly devolves into a competitive mode as players are possessed by spectres, thus turning them into one of the ‘bad guys’. Once a player has been possessed it’s their job to work with the A.I. bots and possess the rest of the players as quickly as possible.
In truth, Soul Survivors was the least interesting of the modes we played and, probably due to its lack of a definitive focus, was also the one that felt the most ‘messy’. However, the map we played it on (You’re Done Here) was the best; featuring a pleasing, sandy, desert-set shanty town that makes a point of forcing you to make use of the building’s upper and lower floors, their interior and exterior sections and the various walkways that link them.
Each mode has their own unique maps which have supposedly allowed the team to design them with a specific focus in mind. This seems to ring true with Soul Survivors in that, once you’re the last one left, You’re Done Here’s various rooms and chokepoints provides opportunities to bunker in, funnel your enemies through high-visibility pathways and prevent yourself being ambushed by a sneak attack.
Still, from what we played, it was impossible to take advantage of such tactics because all of us tended to get swarmed early on by the sheer number of enemies that quickly populated the map. Like Contractions, the all-important tactic is to work together and remain as a complete team for as long as possible because things get out of hand as soon as anyone falls by the wayside.
Yes, that’s really what it’s called. Easily the most interesting and entertaining portion of Fear 3’s multiplayer, F’ing Run is essentially a race against time that sees you hightailing it from an ever-encroaching wall of doom. Said wall takes the form of an ominous black cloud that supposedly represents Alma (although we never actually saw her) and if it touches any one of your four-man team it’s game over for the lot of you.
To make things more difficult/interesting than a mere race against an angry cloud, your route is littered with bad guys that need taking out if you’re going to avoid becoming a human bullet cushion. The trick is in highlighting and taking out the priority targets and leaving the rest alone – you simply don’t have time to deal with everyone and the best shot you’ve got at survival is to simply concentrate your fire on the enemies that deal the most damage.
Every few minutes you’ll come across a safe-house where you’re free to take a breather, change weapons and stock up on ammo before facing the terrors of the wall again. It’s hardly as innovative or outlandish as its shock-factor moniker would have you believe but, from the short time we’ve spent with it thus far, it does a good job of offering something fresh enough to make it worth playing.
As with the other modes, F’ing run is predominantly about working as a team against the A.I. which means it’s likely you’re going to have to find ‘real’ friends to play it with because (as we all surely know by now) the chance of finding dependable, grown-up partners over Xbox Live, PSN, Steam et al is slim. Very slim.
One more thing before I leave you. If we could just share a moment of magic together and perform a joint rendition of the world’s finest catchphrase it would make me extremely happy and proud. Anton Du Beke smiles at the ready, and… ‘Bring on the wall!’