FEAR 3 Updated Impressions

Fountains of blood, flashbacks, and disturbing dreams: All in a day's work for FEAR 3's two heroes.

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The next installment in the FEAR franchise will take the trademark first-person shooter action and horror atmosphere of the series and introduce a third ingredient into the formula: teamwork. Cooperative play is coming to the franchise for the first time ever, as one player assumes control of supersoldier Point Man and his ghostly brother Paxton Fettel. It's a bold move on the part of developer Day 1 Studios for a pair of reasons. First, the series has traditionally relied quite heavily on alone-in-the-dark scares, and second, the style of co-op the developer is aiming for--an uneasy alliance between two people who don't trust each other--is fairly novel for the genre.

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Previous Coverage: We got our first look at FEAR 3 last month with a demo that showed off some basic combat differences between the two brothers, as well as a sequence showing off the game's focus on mech combat. All in all, it was a pretty action-oriented demo.

What's New: The demo we saw at E3 had a decidedly different tone from the last one. Here, the combat was punctuated by frequent apparitions and flashbacks. At one moment, Point Man and Paxton were working in tandem to proceed through an abandoned building riddled with ghastly thugs--the enemies that might torment the nightmares of someone with a crippling fear of drug dealers. A highlight: Point Man used his slow-motion ability to let Paxton sneak into the middle of five or six thugs, at which point Paxton used his telekinetic powers to emit a violent energy that exploded everyone in the room into a fountain of blood. It was...gruesome. That's a good way to put it.

Contrasting that visceral team-focused combat were frequent head-trip moments like the one that suddenly teleported the two from said abandoned building into a dark forest with nothing around but a creaking carousel. At another moment, they capped off a violent shootout against armed soldiers by suddenly finding two small boys cowering out in a clearing. Turns out, Point Man and Paxton were experiencing bizarre flashbacks of their childhood together, as the game's roller-coaster storytelling includes intense gore, abstract imagery, and creepy images of the two men as children--definitely an odd trio of themes.

What's Changed: Nothing, really--it’s only been a month since our last look at the game. The only thing that's really changed was the environment in which we saw the game. Warner Brothers went to town decorating the private FEAR 3 demo room at E3, scrawling crazy messages in red paint on the wall and sticking kitchen knives all over the place. It was more than a little bit unsettling.

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Final Word: FEAR 3 looks very interesting. We're eager to see how the whole fragile alliance element plays out in later stages of the game, as what we've seen so far suggests that the two protagonists have little choice but to work together to avoid certain death.

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