Less than a year ago we put our eyes on F.3.A.R. (or, as we prefer to call it around here, F.E.A.R. 3) for the first time. In a strictly hands-off event the developer showcased what it believed to be the game's calling card: cooperative gameplay.
Not something new to the gaming world, but certainly something new to F.E.A.R universe, and as expected the experience is given its own twist that's fitting of the title. Two brothers, divided by life and death, each attacking with the only weapons each could use: guns or supernatural powers.
The clear division between the two, and the limitation to use only one or the other, but never both, would allow for plenty of potential for multiplayer.
We were not surprised, therefore, that the first event in Milan dedicated to F.E.A.R. 3 has been exclusively focused on just that. After a two hour session we finally got a better picture of what awaits us in the final game.
Multiplayer features four modes. The first is the rather catchy "Fu**ing Run!", swiftly followed by 'Contractions', 'Soul Survivor' and 'Soul King'.
Fu**ing Run! is probably the game mode that has aroused most enthusiasm during the session. The goal is very simple: run. Fast. Without looking back. The players are chased by a deadly wall, called (rather imaginatively) the Wall of Death, which gradually eats all the level and swallows all the participants who have the misfortune to be left behind. However, if a player is caught, the game ends for everyone. Of course, your path is littered with enemies, forcing you to use lethal force strategically to clear the way swiftly rather than being slowed by an extended firefight.
Naturally, teamwork is everything. The wall moves slowly but inexorably, and downed players must be revived quickly by a companion.
There is an exit, even if it is a bloody long way away...only to drop you and your friends into the next inevitable slog through another run. Its like Running Man, Crystal Maze and Nightmare all rolled into one. If the wall gets too close, the screen begins to blur and the colours desaturate. The panic that accompanies every game is extraordinary.
Contractions is the classic Horde mode, but adds in something perverse. As we deal with waves of enemies (twenty in total), a fog invades the field, limiting each players' view and forcing you to proceed with an almost perfect coordination in order to get out alive.
Soul Survivor adds the first competitive element to the mix. At the beginning the mode is purely cooperative, but Alma can infect a partner, making them an enemy. The tarnished soldier then has a time limit to corrupt other members of the team. Its Infection doubled with Horde, but with the added hook that the last man standing wins the round. There's plenty of potential here for last second betrayals and back-stabbing tactics.
The last mode, called Soul King, was the only competitive mode we had the chance to play at the event, and possibly the only one we'll play in the actual game. The gameplay is based on the acquisition of souls: who holds more souls when the time is over, wins. The game begins with the player in the role of a ghost, who can possess an armed enemy in order to kill other AI-controlled enemies. Each kill drop some souls, which accumulate. By killing an enemy controlled by a human, you can steal half of the souls in his possession. The human enemies, therefore, represent the most attractive target, with whoever is in the lead switches from hunter to prey. Ranking reversals are almost constant.
Mainly focused on cooperation, the multiplayer modes in F.E.A.R. 3 were quite fresh and enjoyable to play. Of course, coordination is everything: local multiplayer will generate verbal deliriums. It remains to be seen whether it will succeed in achieving the same frantic nature once transplanted online, where most of players deliberately avoid the use of headphones and microphone.
In addition, there remain doubts over the level designs and under-the-hood tech. There was some visual glitches and bad map design, the latter especially evident on the Fu***ing Run mode where orientation is essential to survival. But the creation of four very unique multiplayer modes means that we're more intrigued than fearful come F.E.A.R 3's release on June 24.