The psychic terror of Alma the undead brood mare is back again, so I take a retrospective glance back and a peek ahead for the upcoming third chapter of the story.
Read my preview over at SquareGo, or cower beneath the cut and see the words there…
F.E.A.R. 3 – First Impressions
F.E.A.R. was never like the other shooters in the room. While Half Life was busy building narratives and Serious Sam was sitting smirking in the seat left empty by Duke Nukem, Monolith’s original opus was sat like an attractive but creepy kid, drawing worrying pictures in the corner. Sure sometimes it hung out with Condemned, and some of the time it talked a lot like Call of Duty but there was always something slightly unsettling about it, as if you could tell one day it was going to go completely insane.
The Downward Spiral
Half urban-combat shooter half Japanese horror movie, F.E.A.R. gave us genuine scares as well as pant-soiling gunfights and featured one of the best examples of melee combat in an FPS. The story wasn’t half bad either: After leading us from the obliquely tame beginnings as our hero ‘Point Man’ is sent in to wipe out rogue Armacham Technology Company (ATC) employee Paxton Fettel and his army of psychically controlled Replica supersoldiers. The twisted story turns from the absurd to the horrific as the revelations stack up on each other. By the time we’ve reached the apocalyptic finale, we’ve learned all too much about the terrible fate of 9 year old Alma, placed in a chemically induced coma, forcibly impregnated and used as a psychic brood mare and guinea pig for the ATC scientists. The sickening revelations, including the reveal that both Fettel and Point Man are in fact the genetically enhanced fruit of her loins, captivate as much as they revolt. The first game leaves us with a tantalising cliff-hanger as Fettel lies dead, Point Man escaping and the now fully grown and naked Alma, newly freed from her stasis lab, hanging onto the F.E.A.R. team helicopter as the city erupts in an atomic explosion behind her.
When Love & Hate Collide
The second offering, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, continues tangentially; following Delta Force soldier Michael Becket as he is drawn into the world of Alma Wade, trying to rescue the ATC CEO and prevent a cover-up. In the process being captured, genetically tampered with and incurring the interest of the completely loopy and now disturbingly lustful Alma, who seems intent on spilling enough blood to drown the already ravaged city, but wants something altogether different from Becket. The escape from the ATC labs brings to life the remainder of the Replica Soldiers as Alma rampages out of control, trying first to consume Becket’s psychic powers, then later trying to seduce him. As ever, the series manages to both shock and disturb with the finale, as poor Becket winds up locked inside a sealed chamber with the semi-undead Alma, fighting the remnants of previous allies, whilst having flashes of the hideously emaciated Alma writhing atop him in the throes of passion. Having finally defeated his foes, Becket wakes us and is confronted with the reality that he’s still strapped into the chair inside the chamber, presumably forever, with a now heavily pregnant Alma eyeing him coyly. Ick.
Third Time’s a Charm
Which brings us neatly to F.E.A.R. 3, or F3AR as the marketing campaign would tell us. Like so many other successful franchises, F.E.A.R. has been passed from hand to hand in an attempt by the current license holders to wring the most quality from the premise. The third chapter is being released by Day 1 Studios with original creators Monolith advising, and after some delays, is due out in the next month. It’s been a fairly quiet run media-wise, with only a couple of trailers, mostly live-action, and precious little in-game footage released.
F.E.A.R. for all the Family
The plot of FEAR 3 is a confusing one, especially for completists and loyal fans of the series. Yep, sorry folks, you can consign those hours spend playing expansion packs F.E.A.R: Extraction Point and F.E.A.R: Perseus Mandate to the bin, as they are now officially non-canon and never occurred. Instead we pick back up with Point Man, who has survived the Alma/Huey interface and is now sporting a fetching goatee and long-hair combo. He is still trying to stop Alma from sucking the entire world into her psychically projected madness, all the while being followed and helped by the now resurrected Fettel (he stole a cloned body in the FEAR 2 DLC pack). Meanwhile poor Becket is still trapped inside his box with his baby-mother; precisely how he fits into things is currently unclear, but the smart money is on him being a villain, not least as he is being voiced by Mark Hamill. What’s more, the story is being helped along by legendary Horror Film maestro John Carpenter, and 30 Days of Night scribe Steve Niles; who are advising on making sure it’s even more terrifying than the first instalments
Blood Runs Thicker
Beyond that, it’s business as usual, expect lots of shooting, frustratingly adept AI enemies, hallucinations and visions, disturbing plot twists and large gun-toting mech suits. The latest news tells us that the game will feature improved cover-based combat mechanics, although no mention if the ‘lean’ function will be returning after it’s absence from F.E.A.R. 2. What’s more intriguing is that the game will feature two player co-op, allowing one gamer to exercise his gun skills as Point Man whilst the other takes charge of Paxton Fettel’s psychic arsenal. Additionally both characters will apparently be playable in the single player campaign. There will also be a host of multiplayer modes, including the wonderfully titled: Fucking Run! Which features players running from a giant wall of death, through hordes of Replica Soldiers.