Tuesday, July 12, 2011
F3AR for 2wo
To be clear, Fear 3’s cooperative mode differs from others quite significantly. Rather than play a duplicate of Point Man, the game’s protagonist, coop partners control his ghostly brother Paxton. A spectre with just enough corporeality to receive bullet wounds, Paxton’s abilities are quite unique. Armed with an endless supply of “mind bullets,” he can fire on enemies from afar as though armed with a pistol. In his ethereal form, Paxton cannot wield weapons. He can, however, levitate enemies and most notably, possess them. The second player can leap across the battlefield with the possession ability, taking control of particularly troublesome or distant enemies for a short period of time.
More than just a clever gimmick, the possession mechanic vastly improves Fear 3’s combat encounters. In the single-player game, intelligent AI and room layouts force players to constantly move from cover to cover, never quite getting the advantage over opponents. The game feels more hectic than strategic. By giving a second player the ability to essentially teleport across the room, coop partners can devise offensive plans on the fly, flanking enemies in an instant or drawing fire as necessary. During most battles, I found myself calling out targets for my partner to dispatch while I positions myself to help their forward movement. Likewise, my teammate would describe which enemies he possessed and their weapon loadout, keeping me knowledgeable about our circumstances.
Paxton offers a completely different play experience than Point Man. Possession lasts only for a short period of time, but can be extended by picking up orbs dropped by enemies. Since the possessed soldier body must be killed first, the coop partner has every incentive to dive into the fray, killing as many enemies as possible without too much concern. Even the suicide bomber enemy types (uninspired annoyances in most games, perhaps save for the Gears of War and Halo series), are entertaining when players can take them over and become walking explosives.
While my paranormal partner and I are only halfway through the game, I see no reason to continue without them. I can safely say were it not for its clever use of cooperative play, Fear 3 would hold no interest for me. In fact, I am most shooters seem increasingly irrelevant without cooperative play. The one exception, of course, is the much anticipated Bioshock: Infinite. But what if Irrational were to allow someone else to join the battle? I might be even more eager to explore Columbia with a friend.