The F.E.A.R. series has always been a strange one, with developer Monolith mixing military-style tactical shooting with J-horror jump scares in a combo that works together like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, Monolith is off making Gotham City Impostors, so the development duties for the three-quel F.E.A.R. 3 have been handed off to Day 1 Studios, developers of…not a helluva lot. Despite being a fairly inexperienced developer, Day 1 managed to get horror vets like Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and John Carpenter (if you don't know what's he's done, get the hell out of here) putting pen to page for the game's fable of a fractured family.
Unfortunately, the influence of the two maestros is barely noticeable in the script for F.E.A.R. 3's lean story campaign. The Point Man, the protagonist from the first game, is back in this installment with his brother Paxton Fettel (also from the first game) in tow. Despite having his brains blown out by the Point Man in the first F.E.A.R., Fettel looks little worse for the wear, alternately harassing and helping his brother as a purring wraith as the two trek back to the town of Fairpoint to reunite with their mother Alma. Solo players can expect only a few brief hours out of the single-player campaign, which is a fairly sore sticking point for a series that used to pride itself on solo scares.
However, after a little coaxing I got my girlfriend to join me in some split screen cooperative play, and F.E.A.R. 3 really came to life. One player takes the role of the Point Man, and the second takes on the psychic role of Paxton Fettel. Fettel plays very differently from his brother, using his psychic abilities to hoist enemies in the air, possess them (and their abilities), and possibly explode them from the inside out. The two work quite well in tandem, with each character's abilities complementing the other. There's also a slightly competitive aspect, with each player scoring points for certain actions, vying for the coveted title of "Favorite Son."
There's a lot more multiplayer mayhem available as well, including the bluntly named "Fucking Run!" which sends a squad of players against waves of enemies, all while outrunning a consuming wave of darkness that envelops all in its path. Another, "Soul Survivor," plays out like the most vicious game of tag ever. Day 1 even went as far as to create their own carbon-copy version of Call of Duty's "Zombies" mode, called "Contractions."
When viewed as a multiplayer title, F.E.A.R. 3 is an absolute blast, offering a substantial variety of online modes for competitive junkies. However, when viewed as a follow up to the original titles, it fails. Even with the involvement of Niles and Carpenter, the scares are simply not there. It's a single-player disappointment, plain and simple.