It?s always a good thing to see developers think outside the box a little bit when it comes to gameplay features that have the potential to be so, so generic. Take, for example, Day 1 Studios and its handling of the multiplayer modes for horror finale F.E.A.R. 3.
Keen to leverage the background and history of the franchise (and also keen to do a good job after being handed the IP from Monolith, no doubt), the multiplayer elements of F.E.A.R. 3
feature unique twists on the traditional deathmatch and point-scoring modes of yore.
I played a selection of these modes - the first was called Contractions, and is about as close you?ll get to co-operative modes found on other games. Namely, Horde. A team of players is sat in the middle of a creepy, eerie map, fighting off waves of enemies that get progressively harder to kill. The twist is that as time goes on, a blinding fog starts to rise, forcing you to climb to higher ground in order to survive.
As well as demented cultists and possessed creatures, you?ve got to be careful not to run into Alma herself - if you spot her, your vision gets blinded for a good minute or so. Which is not good if you decide to wander off away from your team, as you?re quite obviously open to a lethal attack at this point.
On top of the main goal of simply surviving, the scene is littered with crates that contain ammo and other limited bonuses. Picking up these crates and dragging them back to your team?s base gives everyone precious bullets and earns you individual points, which will then be stacked up at the end of each round. This is where a competitive edge comes in, for winners are decided on how many individual points are accumulated.
The Contractions stage I played was set in a daunting woodland area, after dark, but I was told that there would obviously be more ?scenarios? to play within this mode when the game is released. Scenarios being the key word, rather than maps - apparently each map is tailor-made to a particular mode, so you won?t be playing the exact same stages across all other multiplayer setups. An example of another scenario that was given, which I wasn?t able to play, was one called Mechanised Invasion, which pits you against robots rather than squishy, fleshy cultists.
The second mode I played was Soul King, and is a little bit confusing to wrap your head around at first. It?s a free-for-all point-scoring game, where each player takes control of a spectre that can possess AI humans on the battlefield. In order to score points, you have to jump into the body of an NPC - be that axe-wielding madman or F.E.A.R. squadman - and kill other human NPCs in the area using whatever weapon you have to hand.
You can?t kill anyone in your spectre state, but other players can kill you - and the NPC AI won?t appreciate you trying to get inside their head either, so you have to keep on the move. A good tactic I found was to hop from body to body every time my possessed character was going to die - it seems you don?t have an awful lot of health, which is good because rounds would last forever, otherwise.
Soul Survivor is easily one of my favourite modes, as it captures the frantic horror-based action of F.E.A.R. perfectly. One player is assigned as a spectre, and everyone else assumes the role of a F.E.A.R. squadmate.
The aim for the squaddies is simply to survive within a given time limit, against the attacks of possessed enemy AI and the human opponent who tries to turn your teammates into a spectre too. Because ammo is limited for the F.E.A.R. players, everyone has to keep moving together to stay alive.
The final mode I was shown was really quite far out there - titled ?Fucking Run!? it puts you and your friends through a gauntlet of enemies that you have to either kill or dash past as quickly as possible. Why? Because Alma?s Wall of Death is right behind you, and if one player get enveloped by the dark, apocalyptic cloud then everyone loses.
It?s a scramble to kill everyone in sight, make sure your friends are still alive - as you?ll have to revive them if they?re down - and reach the checkpoint in time. It?s great fun, but as the stage I played was essentially a straight line, I wonder if Day 1 have more inventive stage designs planned for later levels.
All in all, I?m intrigued by all of F.E.A.R. 3
?s multiplayer modes. I admit that not all of them may be hits - Soul King seemed confusing at first and a little bit tedious after that (but maybe that?s just me) and Contractions was very much a by-the-numbers Horde mode with a twist - but I admire the fact that Day 1 is trying to go with a truly unique route with this.
There?s great promise in the Soul Survivor and Wall of Death modes, so these will likely be the ones you?ll see me play the most when the game is released in May.