We were recently given the opportunity to have a bash at the multiplayer for FEAR 3, and it only seemed fair that we tell you about it. It’s pretty exciting stuff – a long way off your standard Take and Hold or Capture the Whatever. It’s frenetic, exhausting, undeniably supernatural and lots of fun. Let’s take a look at each mode in detail.
We start off in the Contractions mode, which is Point Defence by any other name. It’s not new by a long shot, but it’s fun to see it given so much attention and a couple of refreshing twists.
You co-operate with your friends to survive against wave after wave of mind-controlled baddies, ranging from lunatics with knives and hammers to well-trained soldiers with assault rifles to massive great robotic suits bristling with guns.
These are the aforementioned lunatics. This one is wearing an official cultist sweatervest (TM)
We grab a massive uber-shotgun with a top-loading magazine (a bit like a P90 but with shells the size of those miniature cans of coke you get on planes) to back up our starting pistol and set to blasting away at the bastards as they rush through the doors. Someone else nicked our massive great robotic suit bristling with guns, sadly.
In between the waves, you’re encouraged to run outside of your base and grab ammunition and weapons for your team-mates to use, but they’re in heavy boxes that limit your movement. It’s a nice risk/reward mechanic that spices up the whole affair.
Finally, because this is a FEAR game, there’s some supernatural stuff to really screw you over. Fog rolls over the map and fills up the lower regions, making them killing grounds for the players – so they’re forced to cede ground and move higher up the buildings in the map, making each move critical as enemies swarm the narrow platforms.
Fog: the silent killer
Plus Alma (the creepy psychic child/mother/don’t ask in the red dress) rocks up and messes with your day by popping in and saying hello which stuns you for a few seconds at the start of a wave. It doesn’t matter much in the early stages, but a few rounds in your team-mates will have to defend you as you stagger about uselessly clutching your head.
It’s a tight mode, and as we were about to find out, it sets the stage for the pulse-pounding frenzy that is the rest of the multiplayer options. Just like Soul Survivor.
Soul Survivor is probably our favourite mode. Borrowing from games such as Left 4 Dead and the really-not-quite-as-good-as-it-should-have-been Kane and Lynch, this mode is both co-operative and versus. We’ll explain.
As you arrive in the level, one of the players is turned to the other side (by Alma, again, that cheeky little sod) and becomes a spectre with the ability to possess the other enemies on the map – and there are loads. It’s the spectre’s job to try and wear down the health of the good guys then turn them into baddies as they lay on the floor bleeding out. The good guys just have to survive.
Easier said than done with no respawns
It’s just like British Bulldogs, really, but with ghosts and fully-automatic weaponry. We grab a full-auto submachine gun with a generous clip and get to blasting as one of the other journos in the room is selected as our traitor.
There’s no pre-determined path, like Left 4 Dead, and no objective other than survival, so the baddies come thick and fast and the spectre is always hovering nearby waiting to strike when we go down. “We’re getting royally fucked down here, gents,” FHM opines as another three soldiers run into the courtyard, our generous clips click dry and we’re forced to switch to our pistols. “Shall we get to the roof?”
This is a spectre. AIf the game gets to this point, things have gone badly for you
With no path to take, your movements are down to you and whoever happens to be the natural leader for your squad. We shoot and stab our way up to the roof, uncover a box of ammo, and hold out until the time limit expires. Soul Survivor is a mad experience and a really satisfying one, too, which excepts sudden and brutal teamwork and punishes a lack of it with death.
Sounding a little like a Deep South fried chicken restaurant, Soul King is probably the weirdest of all the modes. Players are in control of Spectres – like the one in Soul Survivor – but this time they’re competing to capture as many of the souls of the poor innocent baddies that are wandering around the map as possible.
As a spectre, you can’t kill (only stun) so you need to possess baddies and use them to kill their allies, then collect their tasty and delicious souls for fun and profit. And points.
God, that's some bad eczema you're got there
It’s not co-operative, though, and you’re competing to steal each other’s scores which you do by killing each other. The highest scoring player (or “Soul King”) glows brightly, giving the other players a good guide as to who they’re supposed to be killing and devouring. Thankfully there’s a respawn put in place or this mode would be over rather quickly.
Of the two times we played, the first time the enemies were predominantly soldiers so the game was much slower and planned-out, moving through cover and unleashing long-range shots from their chunky, powerful three-round-burst assault rifles.
Those yellow glowing things are souls. Eat 'em up quick before someone else does
The second time, the level was filled with hammer-wielding frothing lunatics, so the game devolved into a back-and-forth brawl based around who could get the first attack in with their particular repurposed DIY implement. It was a bit too frantic, to be honest, although once you got into the swing of things we could see how it could become pretty awesome.
Talking of pretty awesome, the final multiplayer mode is called FUCKING RUN, all caps. Yup. We like these guys. “In this scenario,” smiles the developer, “you are running away from a giant Wall of Death.” Said wall is an enormous roiling cloud of smoke and evil faces (and probably all sorts of other nasty things too like thumbtacks and farts) through a gauntlet of enemies and inhospitable terrain.
A wall of death! Quick, murder everyone in our path
It’s about as co-operative as it gets, because if one of your team gets caught by the wall, it’s all over. Players hurt by enemy fire go down rather than dying, so it’s up to your friends to run back and save you before you’re caught by The Wall.
It’s very exciting stuff. We go back to our old friend the shotgun and charge ahead, blowing great holes in the enemy defences and running like a mad person. We weren’t scared of the wall, or anything. We were establishing a forward position. Definitely.
Establishing a forward position in that guy's LUNGS
We do well, dragging each other along for short periods, before our team blunders into what was an entirely unfairly-placed minefield and lose almost all of our legs in one go. We try to crawl on but greyness fills the screen and we’re informed in no uncertain terms that this is game over.
Overall? Yes. Yes. Lots of fun, and panic-inducing to boot, plus the ever-looming supernatural horror means it’s different from most of the other stuff out there. The single-player game looks fun too (although you’ll really need a friend around to play it in co-op and get the most out of it) but the multiplayer, from what we’ve seen, is ace.