A Rage Quit Review
The psychotic psychic is back and she’s expecting. FBT didn’t expect this.
FEAR Alma for a third time? FEAR forced us to survive Alma’s rage after being turned into a monster and FEAR2 turned Alma into a Video Vixen, so what does Alma have in store for us in FEAR3? Morning Sickness.
By now, the series has completely jettisoned the idea behind the First Encounter Assault Recon team. FEAR might as well have been called Project Origin since the entire franchise has centred on Alma rather than a Spec Ops team investigating paranormal activity; they’ve had one case. In the original, F.E.A.R investigated Fettel, a rogue commander in ATC’s army-for-sale who’s looking for Alma; a hugely powerful psychic who, after years of abuse by ATC’s science team (including her own father), went Carrie on her tormentors. It was a great game; full of awesome firefights, a terrifying but complex antagonist and a twisting plot. The perfect shooter. In FEAR2, a new Spec Ops team were tasked with finding ATC’s boss, Aristide only to get caught up in Alma’s explosive family reunion. Alma’s interest was piqued by ATC science project Sgt Becket, and she developed a big crush on him. Despite Alma changing her little girl image to an Instagram Model look, Beckett left her on Read and enraged, Alma took matters into her own hands. Not only was FEAR2 a sub-CoD horror-shooter, it ended with a bun in the oven for Alma; it wasn’t just morally dubious, it didn’t make a lot of sense; but presumably FEAR3 will reveal what the hell it was all about and what Alma’s end-game is.
I really wasn’t sure the FEAR franchise could withstand another round with Alma but FEAR3 does something unexpected with the demonic hellcat; puts her on Maternity Leave. It’s unexpected because all the trailers, the box art, the opening, even PR quotes from the studio promised Alma was back and badder than ever. Yet Alma is out of the picture for the entire game, save for a few non-threatening cameos. What the hell? While her contractions threaten to merge her nightmare world with ours, practically nothing Alma-related happens in FEAR3. We’re supposed to stop her giving birth because reasons, but first we’ve got bigger questions - like why is Fettel back in ghost form, and how come Pointy can’t think of a THING to say? He’s still silent despite finding out he’s a lab experiment, ATC have manipulated his entire existence, his Mom is a vengeful spirit and he shot his own brother in the face – who’s back from the dead. Not even a quietly muttered ‘FML’?
We first meet Pointman while he’s being beaten up by Mercs in a ATC-controlled town. No idea why, it just seems they’re knocking him about for fun; he was a considerable asset, a first blood of Alma and they’re beating him to death? You’re wasting your time guys, he’ll never talk. Thankfully, Fettel appears, possesses one of the soldiers and frees him. Without explaining himself, Pointy resolves to escape, link up with Jin from FEAR1 - who for some reason has spent the last nine months kicking around the decimated city doing nothing – and finally close a FEAR case by ending Alma. Fettel meanwhile also wants to find Alma, claiming he’ll join the family together like an R-rated version of the Munsters. Since their plans roughly align, the two siblings agree to work together.
As far as Pointy’s plan goes though, why does he want to kill Mom? She was as much a victim as he was, and why isn’t his rage directed at ATC? It could have turned it all on its head and have the bros protecting Alma’s newborn from ATC, or the three of them destroying Aristide and ATC once and for all; can you imagine Alma as a follower?! Holy shit. No. But we’ve got Fettel along for the ride; he’s an Alma-lite but still, packs a cannibalistic punch and that’s gotta be fun – get to know my undead bro on a road trip! Apologise for shooting him in the face, bond over our mummy-issues and all that? Nope. None of that either. He's not even following.
The implication seems to be ‘will you rescue Alma (Fettel) or kill her (Pointy)’? But it doesn’t set that narrative out in any meaningful way and missions don’t impact your choices - it boils down to differing play-styles. This has several increasing levels of frustration; first, you don’t even have your brother as a follower. Once you’ve made the call on who you play, the other disappears until the next cut-scene, having reached the same spot somehow. Playing as Pointy means the same old same old – two guns, bullettime. But to have Fettle alongside doing supernatural stuff on command would have been awesome. And to play him should be awesome too, but it’s supernaturally disappointing. He’s a ghost who can get shot for starters. He’s already dead! But he can be deader? It’s idiotic, did not one person in the dev team go ‘hang on…’ At the very least Fettel should have been a stealth character, or capable of ghosty stuff. Instead, he can possess ATC troops but that just makes him Pointman without bullettime - pointless. Fettel can use telekinesis and fire bolts of evil but they’re nowhere near as awesome-destruction as they should be. He’s also not doing any of the cannibalism he used to get up to (health bump at least? How is biting not a weapon of his?) and lastly, why don’t we at least perceive the world from his POV – it is literally the same play through, different arm. What is the point of Fettel? What he is changes based on the story needs. He’s dead, undead, real or a ghost, depending on plot points. We can’t even walk through walls like he does in the cutscenes; Fear3 made playing a ghost boring.
Another frustration is the continuity cracks. Since Pointman refuses to talk to Fettel and they have no bearing on each other’s actions, there’s no reason why they team up. They have zero use for each other and nothing to say despite there being a huge depth to their backstory as explained through tons of cutscenes. How come the troops can tell when one of their buddies is Fettel? And where’s Aristide? She was the series’ The Smoking Man but she’s nowhere to be seen in 3 so who’s controlling ATC? They’re a major thorn in Pointy's side but serve no story-purpose. What are they even doing? The Replicas also put in an appearance but who’s controlling them, and why can’t Fettel imprint on them like before? And, if this is nine months after FEAR2 (ignoring the fact that at the end we saw Alma about ready to drop, implying a supernatural birth) why is Jin just knocking about in a warzone; and why has that ruined city been left to fester, how are the zombies still alive, why are people possessed - and by who, Alma? Why? Where is everyone else? Why did this start in Brazil then never reference it again? WHAT IS GOING ON FEAR3?
Not even the gameplay can distract you from those petty plot points. The ATC soldiers don’t have anywhere near the flair of the original Replicas and they’re boring to engage with, as are random supernatural creatures that make no sense. The levels are linear, and the mission goals feel more like we’re being ordered about (by who?) and those classic scared-to-death FEAR moments are a thing of the past. I’m not even scared of ladders this time. And another gameplay annoyance is both Pointy and Fettel start out as newbies, gaining XP as they go. Why?! And why have we got to piss about hunting collectables to gain XP when we’re supposed to be hunting our own mother, let’s focus on - wait, COLLECTABLES?! What?! We can find little mini Alma dolls for extra XP. You turned her into a toy? Why does FEAR3 hate FEAR so much?
Anyway, we track down Mr Lover-Lover Boombastic Becket, who isn’t nervously pacing outside the maternity ward. His reaction to meeting his step-sons is extreme to say the least, screaming they need to ‘kill the filthy maggot inside her’. That’s a tad harsh but not as bad as how FEAR3 resolves his storyline; by having him explode from the inside out during Fettel’s possession/interrogation - and Pointman does fuckall about it. What was that?! FEAR2’s rape scene was always incredibly contentious, not least due to its ‘but she was hot so clearly he was up for it’ subtext, but to horrifically kill off a rape victim who's been imprisoned just to further the story is unpleasant in the extreme; you couldn't find you way to freeing him? Or maybe just ask him? It just resolved FEAR2’s story by punishing the victim - and our hero didn't stop it. FEAR3 already felt cheap and nasty, now it's reprehensible.
So, with Alma busy at Lamaze classes, we get no scary little girl appearances, not even an attempt to kill you for old times’ sake … instead we get ‘The Creep’, a manifestation of Alma’s own fears of her father. Fear has fears? It literally behaves the way Alma did in the first game, appearing at opportune times to wipe out the bad guys, take an interest in us and kindly creates pathways with its destructive behaviour. But unlike Alma it’s not scary. Also unlike Alma, it’s the final boss. We can literally kill a ghost now? Who you gonna call? Monolith, who developed the original, to sort this crap out. Day 1 Studios made this, and they previously worked on ports of the original so they knew what FEAR was; what were they thinking? At the very least you’d think only Fettel can take down the Creep but no, bullets can kill an imaginary friend too. Also, Alma Feared her Father? In FEAR she dissolved him alive with just her brain; she's over her daddy issues. This is so shit. Once the brothers dispatch The Creep, we finally reach Alma, who decided to give birth at Pinhead's maternity clinic. Clearly something's up.
Then the game goes multiple endings on us. Pointman favours ‘Bullet to her belly’ while Fettel wants to call it ‘Junior’. Which is a huge crock of shit. We haven’t been given any context, a chance to draw our own conclusions on Alma or the brothers, what could happen and neither brother makes a case or grows during the game in a way that makes you ponder the choices; AND we still don’t know Alma’s intentions – why she wanted the child, what it means, what her plan is. But never fear, we reach Rage Quit level when the game just makes the call based on which bro you played as so it’s all redundant anyway; we watch as Pointy changes his mind and becomes a brother-dad and Alma fades away peacefully. What?! That was it? She ... Fuck you FEAR3. It’s a muddled, unresolved ending to a pitiful, half-baked, hateful mean-spirited, confused, lazy, tame, boring game. And Pointman still doesn’t say anything.
FEAR3 sucks on every level – it’s a dull generic shooter, makes a mess of the FEAR narrative, removes its iconic villain and makes the entire game about one non-event without any resolution or explanation. It also forces the franchise into a co-op mode when the central thing to the original was you were alone - and even fucks that up. No way I’m going through that again to see what Fettel does. Rage Quitting the shit out of this abomination and googling 'completely remove game from Steam'. I'm updating my bio's most hated games list.
The worst thing though is Day 1 Studios wheeled John Carpenter out for PR points. Clearly they were just interested in his marquee value not input because pre-release, Carpenter and writer Steve Niles talked about how dangerous Alma is in FEAR3, now a protective mother, and that’s what FEAR3 should have been; everyone knows you don’t get between a bear and its cub and that’s exactly where Pointman should have been instead we’re her midwife.
Alma is Fear. This isn’t.
2011 | Developer; Day 1 Studios | Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive