As a Monolith fan, I was genuinely interested to see what Warner Brothers have in store for the F.E.A.R. Franchise. The news that cooperative mechanics would playing a huge part this time around both intruiged and worried me- and luckily, I was granted some hands-on time with the demo and a handy rep to answer a few of my questions.
Let's kick off with the player characters. As you probably know, F.E.A.R. 3 casts you into the role of two psychic clone soldiers, each of whom hate each other but grudgingly need to rely on each other's unique abilities.
The Point Man, as you'd expect, is all about direct combat. He's skilled with firearms and hand to hand combat- and naturally his slow-motion enhanced. This slowed perception also allows his co-op partner to operate in bullet time for the duration of the effect, which provides as well as providing a fair few achievements. He doesn't really offer anything new or exciting, but you can still rely on the Point Man to bring a hail of lead and devastating slide kicks to the party.
Fettel, on the other hand, is a much more interesting combatant. Whilst he can throw weak bolts of psychic energy at his foes, he's extremely vulnerable in open battles and needs to rely on his seriously impressive unique ability. Holding the left trigger while targeting an opponent binds him with a leash of twisted psychic hate... and a single button jab subsequently allows you to leap into your enemy and control them from within. Whilst possessing an enemy Fettel can shoot, equip weapons and take cover just like the Point Man- so considering that he offered the best of both worlds, I took control and started the demo with the WB rep backing me up.
The demo started in a dark and creepy house, with the two 'brothers' needing to fight their way out of the surprisingly lengthy maze. As usual, plenty of incongrously-impentrable doors and impassable barriers forced us to blunder through a boring and linear selection of corridors, though even the rep frequently ended up getting lost thanks to some repetitive level design. Scattered opposition was provided by enraged (and unarmed) zombies/junkies/psychic puppets that proved resistant to Fettel's psychic projectiles. Luckily, the Point Man was on hand to slow down time and open fire– and realising that they could be possessed, I leaped into one and scratched the remaining enemies to death with its weak claws.
Upon reaching the basement, a horde of slavering zombies and partially-invisible fanged horrors rushed us, and luckily, Fettel's psychic lash allowed me to lift enemies helplessly off of he ground so that my partner could execute them at his leisure. A little counter on the right clearly demonstrated that we'll be rewarded for clever cooperative play with gamerscore and trophies (as well as an easier time of it).The 'horror' experience felt cliched and boring rather an genuinely oppressve and psychological... though there's a world of difference between playing in a brightly lit booth with a talktative rep and playing alone in a dark room.
Finally, we emerged into a playground that was swarming with enemy soldiers. Several snipers pinned the Point Man with a withering barrage... and I suddenly realised that this presented Fettel with a unique opportunity. Spotting the most distant sniper, I possessed his body- and used his obscenely powerful rifle to murder all of his squadmates. A single button press also allowed me to snap into distant cover (a great new feature)... and in concert with the Point Man, proceeded to flank and destroy the remaining frightened combatants. Once finished, I jabbed the Y button and Fettel literally ripped his way out of the flesh puppet. Awesome. The possession mechanics and gunfights felt refreshing, new and yet reassuringly solid- and quite frankly, it felt a lot more fun than most of the shooters I'd already tried at Gamescom thus far.
To summarise, F3AR is shaping up to continue the excellent shooting mechanics of its predecessor with a surprisingly effective cooperative twist. But the horror? Not so much. Even Monolith themselves were unable to recreate the spooky atmosphere of the original F.E.A.R. and Condemned... but there's still plenty of time for WB to shock and surprise us. Fans of manic FPS experiences and co-op shenanigans should keep an eye on this one.