It's late at night. The lights are off so that the only illumination is the glow of the TV attempting to transport me into the worst nightmares. It's so quiet that only the screams of terror and the spooky audio cues from the game are audible. I'm traveling down a dark hallway, my flashlight flickers in and out. I catch a glimpse of a shadow moving across the wall, but maybe it was just my imagination. I bust through the only door which is stained with blood and face off against my waiting foes. Oh sweet, I leveled up again for killing 4 guys in slow motion. That's pretty much a perfect encapsulation of what the experience of playing Fear 3 is like. It's a solid and fun shooter, but it's practically fighting itself on the horror front.
Fear 3 dumps you straight into the story assuming you played and remembered the previous two games. I actually appreciated the relative lack of "previously on Fear" from the opening. There's enough shown to get your up to speed if you are new to the series, but not so much to get you off to a boring start. You return to controlling Point Man, the character from the first game, and you are broken out of prison by your deceased ghostly brother Fettel, who you shot in the head. The brothers form a tentative alliance in order to reunite with Alma, their mother.
Fear 3 delivers on a unique narrative that simply isn't some variation of commando team A must defeat ethnic terrorist group B before C happens. I liked the story overall, but it isn't without problems. Point Man is a silent protagonist and the game doesn't do a great job of either displaying the emotions in his face (he basically holds the same scowling look the whole way through) or providing a good secondary character through which you can essentially see yourself, like Alyx from Half-Life 2. There's also very little to discover in the course of the game. If you played the previous titles, you'll pretty much know exactly what's going on and what led up to it. Learning that you and your brother may not have been raised under the best conditions is hardly a reveal when you know what happened already with Alma. That you didn't know exactly what was going on was what made the first Fear so memorable for me, forcing you to piece things together through audio recordings, voicemails and clues.
As loose as the story can be, Fear 3 makes up for it with really great gameplay. The game is actually intended to be played cooperatively, with one player controlling the speedy Point Man and another in the driver's seat of the NPC-possessing Fettel. Point Man can hang back and stick to cover, popping out to use slow motion to line up shots, but I found it way more satisfying to toss a stunning flash bang and sprint up the enemy, using the characters improved reflexes to annihilate a group of soldiers at close quarters. Fettel doesn't have access to slow motion like his brother, but he can lift and hold soldiers on spectral lines, fire off psychic blasts and possess enemies, turning their them against their comrades. Fear 3 puts everything at your fingers tips for you to effortlessly butcher squad after squad of soldiers in a variety of ways.
I would have liked to see a few more weapons though. Baring a few almost scripted giftings, you'll mostly only see the same four weapons: the pistol, submachine gun, assault rifle and shotgun. Shotguns are practically a staple in my Fear arsenal for those up close slo-mo kills, but why bother putting in exotic weapons like the Penetrator, which lets you pin enemies to wall with high velocity spikes, if you'll quickly run out of ammo and need to abandon them?