FEAR 3 – The Greatest Co-Op Comedy Horror Shooter Ever
The FEAR series doesn’t exactly have a cheerful, funny story. Remember the grim things that have happened to Alma at the hands of the Armacham Technology Corporation? It’s the kind of stuff that makes for a sympathetic villain. Sad, dark, and frightening, the series is a strong horror shooter. FEAR 3 did a great job of this as well. However, it’s also the greatest comedy horror game ever made. Why? Its co-op campaign.
While the main story is still bleak, depressing, and full of startling moments, the game’s co-op takes the game in a bit of a different direction. Not that it specifically goes out of its way to do that, but because the two playable characters, Point Man and Paxton Fettel, have a suite of abilities that, when used together, turn once-tense shootouts into pure pandemonium. Flying jump kicks, enemy possession, lethal slides, and enemy levitation turn every area into this carnival of shooter chaos that’s hard not to laugh at.
A normal round of FEAR 3 will have the player carefully working their way through cover against their clever enemies. These folks are aggressive, and aren’t shy about tossing grenades to flush you out or flanking you to take you down. It makes for a tense game where you’re honestly afraid of your enemies, as they’ll easily take you down if you don’t fight as aggressively as they do. Also, I mean, there’s a supernatural being who sometimes does spooky things throughout the game to you, too. But it’s those armed soldiers that constantly had me racing around, heart pounding.
You have a few abilities in the single player mode to help you out. As Point Man, you’ve got a slowdown ability that lets you lower the speed of the action. You can only use it for a few seconds before you need to recharge, but it makes life much easier in a pinch. You can also do an attacking slide move that will just clobber enemies it hits. So, if you find yourself running into an ambush, start sliding.
That slide was where things started to get kinda silly in FEAR 3. I love the idea of a rushing melee attack for an aggressive FPS. I love the idea of one that has you ducking under enemy fire, making you harder to hit. However, there’s just something silly about Point Man doing these baseball power slides all over the map because they do an absurd amount of damage. It’s to the point where I would often just run around, sliding into folks. It became pretty fun after a bit.
When I brought in a friend to play, that’s when things got completely ridiculous. The second player gets to control Paxton Fettel, and he has his own wild powers. Fettel is a ghost, so he can’t use any weapons on his own. However, he can use his powers to give Point Man a protective shield to help out. Not terribly interesting. How about using his powers to levitate an enemy into the air, leaving them helpless for your co-op buddy? Far more interesting. How about making them explode? Now we’re talking.
That’s not all Fettel can do. He can also possess enemies, which gives him more health and access to the enemy’s weapons. He can also do his own power sliding while possessing someone, which adds more ridiculousness to the mix. So, you’ve got a character that can take an enemy out of the fight in a variety of ways, all of which make life a whole lot easier, but that also make for completely absurd shootouts where a bunch of wild things are happening at once.
Picture this. A bunch of well-armed soldiers are coming after you and your ghost buddy. They move with purpose, splitting up to flank you. Throw grenades to force you to a certain position. It’s frightening in its precision. Except, then you start doing rapid baseball slides throughout the room, sending soldiers flying. One soldier is lifted into the air. Time slows while Point Man fires away with his machine gun. When time has returned to normal, one of the soldiers in the back is now firing at his friends. This is how things go down most of the time in co-op in FEAR 3’.
On a pure gameplay level, its genius. Most co-op shooters I know of give the second character largely similar abilities. It’s just a second person working through the game, and that’s perfectly fine, honestly. However, Point Man and Fettel’s abilities are completely different, and also complement each other well. Fettel’s abilities provide fantastic support and make flanking easy, making a perfect backup for Point Man’s slowdown and general combat abilities. The two work great together, and can make it feel like you’re playing an entirely different game when you switch characters.
Not only this, but FEAR 3’ offers some of the funniest fights I’ve ever had in an FPS. There were shootouts where nobody fired a round because me and my buddy just slid all over the place. Where you’ll do a slowdown and notice an enemy soldier doing a jump kick on someone in the back. There’s moments when bodies are exploding, folks are getting possessed, time keeps slowing, and enemies are getting lifted into the air. It turns the game’s normally-tense gunfights into something absolutely comical.
It mostly just sounds like the two characters are overpowered when working together when I type it out here. You’re not wrong, either, as you can really mow through foes like this. However, when my friends and I play this, it’s hard not to laugh as you go to shoot the last foe in the firefight, only to find him exploding, your ghost buddy popping out. Or to just see who can jump kick the most people in a shootout. It ends up being so utterly goofy, especially in such a serious horror title, that it’s difficult not to crack up at whatever silliness comes up.
FEAR 3 offers some solid shooter action, some great scares, and a co-op mode that’s easily some of the most fun I’ve had in the genre. It also offers more laughs than I’ve ever had in the genre from the absurdities that comes from these two characters using their powers together. This game took horror elements like slow, bloody gunplay and ghost possession and turned them into an incredible experience in silliness and action, something I never would have thought possible. It’s such a shame that few games have come close to this ridiculousness in the ten years since it came out. But at least the original’s still available.