F.E.A.R. Exclusive Hands-On Preview - Multiplayer and Hitting the Wall

We run like the wind through a new panic-inducing multiplayer mode in this horror-themed shooter.

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We rounded the next corner and poured out of the alleyway. From behind cover, a half-dozen enemy soldiers opened fire on us as we sprinted up the street. There were flipped cars and sandbags to hide behind, but we knew better. The real danger wasn't at the end of a rifle; it was behind us, chasing us. Our hands were wound tight around the controller, and our eyes were glued to the screen. We were eating bullets like they were candy, but safety was just a few yards away. We could hear the voices of our teammates screaming over the headset as we crossed the threshold into the safe house. And just before the doors closed behind us, we turned to see it: the Wall. This is the story of our time in multiplayer. The third game in the F.E.A.R. series will have pulse-pounding multiplayer to go with its single-player game.

The F.E.A.R. series has always combined gunplay with horror elements. Just when you think it's safe, some supernatural horror will materialize from out of nowhere and send your heart straight to the back of your throat. While this experience can be easily manipulated in a single-player game, it's a bit more difficult to build that same dread and tension when you're chatting with your friends over Xbox Live. However, this hasn't stopped developer Day 1 Studios from trying. It may not give you goose bumps, but it's hard not to be freaked out when you're blazing through F.E.A.R.'s new multiplayer mode, which is called, and we're completely serious about this, "F***ing Run!"

The new mode cleverly adapts tense atmosphere into a multiplayer setting.
The new mode cleverly adapts tense atmosphere into a multiplayer setting.

This new multiplayer mode is a four-player race against the clock. In front of you stands a city of armed soldiers, ready to give their lives to end yours. Behind you is the Wall, a physical manifestation of rage from the most dangerous character in the F.E.A.R. series, Alma. The Wall takes the form of a twisting gray storm cloud made up of screaming faces. The goal is to get all four players from checkpoint to checkpoint without losing a single one to the Wall. When you reach a checkpoint, you're given a brief reprieve (and some ammo) before being shoved back into the chaos. This is an all-or-nothing situation; the moment one of your teammates gets swallowed up by the storm, the round is over.

Maps will tempt you with weapons and ammo hidden within side streets and long alleyways.
Maps will tempt you with weapons and ammo hidden within side streets and long alleyways.

After playing a handful of matches, we quickly learned that the best strategy wasn't to shoot every bad guy we came across. Dropping those fools takes too much time, and we had to keep moving if we wanted to survive. However, if we just ignored our foes, they would quickly swarm us with numbers and bury us under a barrage of shotgun fire. Being felled by an enemy doesn't spell instant death. If you aren't too far behind, an ally can double back and quickly revive you. That is, if the Wall doesn't get you both first.

When the rolling terror gets too close, the screen starts shaking, all color fades from your view, and a violent end is usually one wrong turn away. Together, these elements made for a multiplayer mode that was stressful in all the right ways. It relentlessly challenged our fight-or-flight instinct, and even the tiniest slipup was a panic-inducing one. The emphasis on teamwork and the pressure to keep moving forward reminded us of the frantic matches of Left 4 Dead. Not surprisingly, that game happens to be a favorite around the Day 1 offices.

When things go bad, above all else, make sure you don't hit the Wall.
When things go bad, above all else, make sure you don't hit the Wall.

One aspect of this new mode that we didn't get to experience was "score attack," which was still in the works. Once implemented, this fiendish risk/reward system will grade your team not just on its speed but also on its efficiency. How many kills can you score and still finish within the time limit? See for yourself when the game debuts on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC this May.

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