The First Person Shooter market is over-saturated and rules by a few big names, but it’s also become one of the most boring gaming experiences as nobody seems to have the guts or ability to think outside the square.  The two main players in the genre are content to keep recycling their brand of modern warfare just because they know it’s a safe bet.

F.E.A.R.3 is the first FPS that I’ve played in a while that has the balls to do things a little differently.  Sure, at it’s core it’s still a stock standard FPS, with shooting and cover mechanics that genre fans will be comfortable with.

But its the atmosphere, setting and depth of re-playability that makes F.E.A.R.3 stand out from the cookie cutter mentality of other FPS’s

F.E.A.R.3 mixes up the FPS genre with a healthy dose of survival horror, saturating the entire game with a definite chilling feeling.  The fact that you start out in a run-down mental institution and have to try and escape whilst a determined military force tries to stop you with extreme prejudice, tells you something about the direction of the game.  The fact that for this first level there are no supernatural monsters out to get you might be a little disappointing for horror fans, but the ambient atmosphere keeps your skin crawling as sounds, flickering lights and even rouge shadows keep you on edge.

Once you escape the mental institution, things get even weirder as you enter into the normal settings of suburbia.  Normal of course is a relative term, especially when some serious stuff has gone down and turned the local populous into flesh craving zombies.  And not the slow shuffling kind either, the fast, crowbar wielding kind.

If you haven’t gotten the feeling that this is a military experiment gone wrong, you will when you suddenly star seeing zombies suicide bombers running towards you!

The back story to F.E.A.R.3 – which will be familiar if you’ve played the previous installments – revolve around you and your brother having been unscrupulously tested on as children, turning your brother mental so that at some stage previous to this game, you had to shoot him in the head.  In F.E.A.R.3 you’re having to racing against time in an effort to stop Alma – some evil psychic force that is corrupting everything around you – from giving birth.  You are aided in part by your brother – or at least his evil spirit, seeing as you shot him in the head and killed him!

As a horror slash gorefest, F.E.A.R.3’s environments are pretty linear but do reward the odd bit of exploration.  It’s not easy to get lost however as you are pushed along a pre-determined path for much of the game.  You will come upon parts of the level where you have a choice of doors to go through – they all lead to the same room or whatever, but give you tactical options, as does your door opening options.  You can approach any open-able door and either silently open it, or kick the freaking door in.

I’m no Sam Fischer so I went for the kick em oepn and spray the room with bullets approach.

The art direction is one of F.E.A.R.3’s strong points.  The graphics are crisp and really set the mood – you’ll be wanting to use your weapon mounted torch quite frequently.

Disturbing isn’t a word normally associate with FPS’s, but F.E.A.R.3 brings new meaning to the word, with most levels having some degree of blood-soaking and frequent findings of dismembered corpses.  However one room in particular will forever be etched in my brain, cooler room full of hanging carcasses – presumably cows – you have to make your way through the room, whilst the audio makes you think there are enemies hiding behind ever carcass only to find the only non-bovine in the room is a family of three strung upside-down and soaked in blood just as you reach the far side.

The pacing of F.E.A.R.3 is another feather in it’s cap.  Rather than being on constant shooting gallery, there are moments of exploring where you’re creeping around dreading what awaits you around the next corner, only to find you’re alone.  Then you’ll come to one of the choke points where you’ll have to fight off an increasing number of military guys or zombies.  It’s fast and furious gun-fighting verses freak-me-out moments of sheer terror at what you think is about to happen.

F.E.A.R.3’s addictive nature is only tempered by it’s ability to freak out out so much that you mentally need a break, keeping you from playing to the wee small hours.  Not that this is a bad thing, because the addictive quality will have you back again the very next night.

There is more than one way to play through the single player campaign, though I’ve heard that it’s best to play through solo the first time.  Having played through any chapter, you unlock the ability to play through as Fettel, your dead, buy very psychic-albe brother.  I haven’t had the time to experience this yet, but I understand that rather than being a gun-toting badass, your psychic abilities allow you to posses enemy soldiers and cause no end of havoc.  It’s certainly something I’ll be looking into once I’ve complete my first play through.  The other way is co-op, either split-screen or online, where one of you gets to play the sane brother and the other gets to play the dead psycho brother.

Then of course there is the online multiplayer.  At the stage of writing this review I’ve only played one mode – a game not un-similar to Call of Duty’s zombie mode, where four of your have to hold a fixed position against increasingly insane swarms of the undead and other things.  A couple of other game modes mix things up a bit, but they are all four player, meaning that you’re unlikely to suffer any game breaking Brink style lag.  The only downside to this, is that the online component – at least when playing with strangers – leaves you at the mercy of players who drop out, or players who deliberately go out of their way to ruin the game.

F.E.A.R.3 is one of those unique games that takes some risks, succeeds in what it sets out to do, and gives you plenty of playing options as to give itself much longevity and thus be great value as well as being down right addictive.

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