Last June, a friend of mine who happens to work for Warner Brothers in Canada sent me a big care package full of their latest games & movies.

It was a pretty classy care package and I didn’t do it much justice when it arrives.

I did, however, INSTALL F.E.A.R. 3, or F3AR as the title screen describes it, and then I spent several months playing MMORPGs rather than playing anything in single player.

Having finally decided to get down to business and find out once and for all what’s up with Alma and her kids, I’ll say that I ought to have played it earlier, because it’s pretty good.  It doesn’t have quite the same enemy variety of earlier entries in the series and it rather suffers from Ugly First Level Syndrome, but it has plenty of creepy atmosphere, a good number of jump scares and the pacing is much improved over earlier entries.

That last is kind of code for “It’s an awfully short game”.  I’m not a very skilled FPS guy and it took me all of two evenings to play through.  Of course, it does have some multiplayer modes and there’s a co-op option for the campaign so there’s lots of options to extend that out, but if you just want to get in, play through the story and be done with things it won’t suck up too much of your life.

I will say, however, that it would be a shame to rush through, guns a-blazin’.  Much like FEAR 2 and the Reborn DLC, they put a lot of effort into the environments you’re running through, and it’s worth the occasional pause to appreciate the details.  Furthermore, getting off the main path and exploring a little tends to come with rewards, generally in the form of ordinance.

One thing that I WILL gripe about, however, is the game’s leveling system.  As you play, you co-incidentally complete certain challenges, which come with point rewards.  When you’ve gathered enough points, you level up and get benefits – for example, you may get to carry an extra clip for weapons or get a little more health.  Basic stuff in modern shooters, really.

What’s a bit annoying about it is that you’re constantly getting pop-up messages about these challenges and your progress towards completing them, and this tends to kill the mood just a bit.  For a game like F3AR, where being immersed in a horror world is part of the draw, it’s a pretty glaring sin to have these “You got 5 kills with the shotgun!  only 15 more kills for the get 20 kills with the shotgun achievement!” messages pop up.

It’s not an unforgivable sin, however, and I will admit that it encourages you to experiment a bit.  I’ve never been much for the melee attacks in the FEAR series, for example, but having the challenge system in-place got me to finally give them a go and I found myself quite enjoying myself as I punched, kicked, and knifed random bloodthirsty cultists and demonic hound-thingies.

Overall, well, if you’ve played through the first couple of games, it’s a satisfying conclusion to the series and you’ve probably already played it.  If you haven’t played the first couple, it probably wouldn’t make a lick of sense.  If you haven’t played the first couple of games, however, this represents an excellent excuse to go and do so.


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