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LCG’s FEAR 3 Review

In the over-crowded FPS market, the FEAR franchise insists on making a name for itself. After numerous delays, FEAR 3 finally shows up to the fight with it’s unique brand of combat and horror. It’s signature slow-mo gunplay and paranormal elements are back again, but are they enough to truly separate FEAR 3 from the rest of the pack?

You’ll be playing as Point Man, the protagonist from the first FEAR title. You’re a scruffy-looking mute with the ability to heighten your reflexes at will. Your brother Paxton Fettel has rejoined you in the form of a psychic projection and offers insight into what is going on. Apparently, their mother Alma is giving birth to a new freak of nature and this is more than enough reason for Fettel and Point Man to check it out.

In the single-player campaign, players will initially play through as Point Man. His slow-mo abilities is the central gameplay pillar for which the FEAR franchise was built on. You’ll be running through levels, turning a corner, toggling slow-mo, and blasting away at anything in sight. It sounds fairly repetitive;  which it is, but there is still some measure of satisfaction when you clear a room full of baddies with one clip. Everybody knows that stuff looks cooler in slow-mo. While the mechanic is somewhat dated, it still works pretty well here.

The control scheme is almost button-for-button with Call of Duty’s. The only difference is that the slow-mo button is relegated to a face button that normally switches weapons in other shooters. Switching weapons in FEAR 3 is now moved to a shoulder button. It’s a very minor tweak, but anyone who is familiar with other popular shooters out there will surely adjust in no time.

You’ll shoot your way through several Intervals (levels) that take you through surprisingly varied environments. You’ll start out in a prison that you have to escape from, creep through a dimly lit hardware store full of lunatics and kamikazes, and romp through a few urban environments in the daylight (yes, sun). Of course this wouldn’t be a FEAR title without a few excursions into another world. Previous games in the series had you sauntering through the same old office buildings and construction sites. The varied locales are a welcome plus in this latest entry.

Wow... no abandoned warehouse here...

At best, the graphics are decent. You can tell that the artists made a real attempt to mix up the feel and atmosphere of each level. Particles look great in slow motion, the rain makes everything look wet, and the sun casts down impressive looking “God-rays” through thick smoke. The engine is serviceable for what it needs to do, but FEAR 3’s graphical impact does not meet the one that was established by the first game. It looks great, but it’s pretty comparable to other first-person shooters in the market this year and the last.

A few new additions to the usual FEAR formula might rub veterans of the series the wrong way. There is a cover system that will allow players to duck behind objects and walls. It works surprisingly well at times when you need to seek refuge from bullets. However, there were a few instances where I simply wanted to crouch behind an object and found myself snapped into the piece of cover. This resulted in a few deaths when I tried to escape from a live grenade as I annoyingly negotiated with my controller. This is only a minor complaint and doesn’t really ruin the overall game, but it has certainly greeted me with a few loading screens.

Also, players use to be able to carry more than two weapons in the series. I assume this was done for the sake of creating a more approachable control scheme. Normally, toggling between two weapons in other shooters is okay. However, FEAR 3’s lack of a varied arsenal can make options limiting. There’s a sidearm, smg, dual-smgs, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper-rifle, rocket-launcher, and ray-gun (yes, ray gun). I mostly found myself sticking with the smg and assault rifle while the use of the other weapons were left completely to circumstances that warranted their use (aka shoot down the chopper with the launcher, use the sniper because you’re on high ground). It would’ve been nice to at least carry one other weapon as I often found myself making a bad switch, forcing me to lean on a weapon that already lacked ammo.

Fettel doesn't believe in ammo

Gripes aside, the core game is certainly fun and has a few memorable moments. But those moments are spread too thin across the course of the game. While there is variety in the environments, there is none whatsoever in terms of what you’ll be doing. You’ll be funneled from firefight to firefight and only allowed to proceed when everyone is dead. Yes, I realize that this is a shooter and that’s what you’re suppose to do in shooters. But the problem is that the game throws heavily armed soldier after heavily armed soldier at you and doesn’t do much else. There’s a few occasions when you’ll find yourself in a mech but the experience isn’t any different. You’ll blow up everything in your path only to get out of the mech to do more of the same as Point Man. It’s easy to fall into gameplay fatigue from the waves of enemies.

Shoot guys. Get into mech. Shoot guys AND mechs. Get out of mech. Shoot more guys.

Flat out, FEAR 3 is not scary at all. If you’re looking for a scary game, you won’t find it here. There’s maybe a few occasions where I was startled, but I was never on edge like I was with the first FEAR. There’s a couple of occasions where this monster will appear out of nowhere to shake you and then disappear. That’s not scary, that’s annoying. The developers tried to fit in a few creepy/scary moments between each firefight, but they fail to succeed because of the game’s overdose of combat. Fear 3 is not scary. At. All.

Sorry Alma... you're just not that scary anymore... *exploding head*

The campaign isn’t bad, it just doesn’t do anything differently than any other shooter. Even with the FEAR name attached, it’s not the kind of scary that was presented in the first game. While the story ties up some loose ends fans may have been waiting for, the plot is still two-dimensional. Characters come in and out of the story like a revolving door. For the first half of the game you’ll be tracking down a familiar face from the first game. Once you locate her, she get kidnapped. Later on, it felt like my rescue was completely accidental as she seemingly appeared out of nowhere to “help” me again. I completely forgot she even existed. She then tells you to look for the protagonist of the second game, Beckett; whom is ALSO kidnapped. *sigh* The twisted brotherhood between Point Man and Fettel overshadows the objective storytelling. Which is a good thing because their relationship is far more interesting than any other story FEAR 3 tries to tell. The campaign is a decent length clocking in at around 8 hours by yourself. But if you have intentions of playing this game cooperatively, two players can breeze through this game in roughly 6 hours of play time.

What probably kept me coming back was FEAR 3’s character progression system. By repeating certain tasks like collecting ammo, scoring a number of headshots, or killing during slow-mo; players are awarded experience points. These experience points level you up RPG-style resulting in improved stats such as health or slow-motion duration. What’s neat is that the character progression is carried across ALL modes. From single-player, to co-op, to online multiplayer; your rank and stats stay with you. Kudos to Day: 1 Studios for implementing this. It makes all the modes a bit more compelling, even if the main campaign is somewhat by-the-numbers.

Speaking of the co-op, I was so pleased it was in FEAR 3. The cooperative mode is supported in split-screen and online. There’s a morbid sense of joy as you and another player march through enemies. Player one is Point Man while the second player takes on the role of Paxton Fettel, who can levitate enemies, possess their bodies, or simply make them spontaneously combust. Playing through alone was one thing, but adding another player to the mix allows for some more chaotic fun. Taking out the opposition in slow-motion while watching your partner turn enemies into bloody geysers is pretty empowering. Also if you finish the campaign together, the game does something pretty cool towards the end to determine which ending you get. (I won’t spoil it for you)

Players can play as Fettel for each mission they complete as Point Man. Co-op nets you both

There are 2 cooperative and 2 competitive modes. “Fucking Run” has you sprinting for dear life as a fog of death is hot on your team’s heels. You’ll need to eliminate any baddies along the way to the safe zone. Just do your best not to turn around to look at the fog; its never any further away and quite possibly the scariest element on the disk. “Contractions” sees a team of four surviving against wave after wave of enemy troops as they scavenge for weapons and ammo. It bares alot of similarities to Black Op’s zombie mode.

The competitive mode “Soul Survivor” has players defending against phantoms. Those who find themselves taken down by ghost will join the ranks of the undead and have to take down their former allies. “Soul King” will pit players against each other from the get-go. Players will play as ghosts and would have to possess one body after another in order to out-kill their opponents. The multiplayer modes may not be award-winning material, but the ideas behind them are unique enough to warrant some fun. It’s up to the community and DLC to truly give it some legs.

FEAR 3 does it’s best to appeal to the broad FPS audience by streamlining the controls and borrowing elements from other online shooters. It succeeds in providing a familiar progression system while maintaining it’s own identity in the multiplayer space. However, it’s brand of competitive multiplayer may not be enough to garner a heavy following. To some degree of success, FEAR 3 manages to tell a story that simultaneously brings new players up to speed and finishes what it started. While the selection of environments are wide, the variety of what you’ll be doing is very limited. It is an unrelenting marathon of activating slow-mo, shooting, reloading, and repeating. Because of that, the fear in FEAR 3 is never really felt. It no longer lives up to the franchise’s namesake and is nothing more than a horror-themed shooter. It’s just not scary and will definitely disappoint those looking for some good spooks. But for those looking for a decent cooperative experience or maybe something to pass the time until the onslaught of releases this Fall, FEAR 3 may be enough.

+ Cooperative campaign is bloody fun
+ Character progression is preserved across all modes
+ Varied environments

– Not scary at all
– No split-screen online
– Last boss fight was needlessly tedious
– Confusing ending

7.1/10

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Life Culture Geek’s “Welcome Back” Download Guide

If you’re one of the many users inconvenienced by PSN’s recent downtime/maintenance, you’re in for a treat. As you may already know, Sony is giving out some free games for you to download as an apology and thanks for our “patience”. There are a handful of games Sony has allowed us to choose from and they’re all decent in their own right. At LCG, we’re here to help you decide which games to take advantage of. This way, you’ll end up downloading a game you can be sure to enjoy; rather one that will take up precious hard drive space on your PS3 or PSP. Remember, you’ll have to download the “Welcome Back” e-voucher before making a selection and you can download up to two free games per system.

Dead Nation – If you’re a fan of zombies, this title is the way to go. This Smash TV-style shooter will have you upgrading armor and weaponry as you make your way through hordes of undead. Players will need to play missions consecutively in order to maintain their score multiplier. The scores will be tallied against players from other regions world-wide. It’s playable solo, but the co-op is where this title truly shines. If you’re looking for something gory and challenging, this is your kind of game.

Super Stardust HD – Do you enjoy yourself some “Bullet Hell” gameplay? Still can’t put down Geometry Wars? Super Stardust HD is a bright seizure-inducing dual-stick shooter that should be right up your alley. It’ll have you saying, “One more time” over and over again as you try to beat your last best score. It’s also playable cooperatively to boot. If the Fourth of July was a game, this would be it. (No… I’m not talking about Fantavision…)

Wipeout HD –  You may be familiar with this futuristic racing title from as far back as the PS1 era. It hasn’t changed an awful much besides being displayed in full 1080p and running at a smooth 60 fps. The blistering speeds and weaponry you’ve come to know are still intact, just prettier to look at. This download also comes with the Wipeout Fury add-on that includes 8 new tracks, 13 new ships, and 3 additional game modes. So if you’re into hyper-fast futuristic racers in the vein of F-Zero, definitely give up one of your free downloads to this title.

Infamous – Open-world games usually stumble into pitfalls of filler missions and monotony. Infamous creates a world that is not only fun to navigate in, but also enjoyable to be apart of. As a messenger with sweet electrical powers and parkour skills to boot, you’ll be dishing out justice however you see fit. Players can decide if they want to go down the path of righteousness or become infamous (har) altogether. You’ll encounter moral choices that will effect the abilities at your disposal. The main story is certainly worth playing through twice just to explore all the possibilities this game has to offer. The side-missions aren’t the usual brand of fetch quests you experience in other games. They lead to much of the game’s variety and often reward you with enhanced powers. Completing these side quest will also release the denizens of the city from the clutches of various gangs; allowing safe passage for the citizens as well as yourself. If you’re looking for one of the best open-world games this generation, look no further than Infamous.

Little Big Planet – It doesn’t get any cuter than Media Molecule’s 2D-ish platformer. Little Big Planet boasts a near-infinite amount of user-created content for players to explore. Up to 4 players can traverse the highly-abstract story or tackle custom levels put together by the game’s community. While the gameplay may bare some resemblance to a Mario title at the first superficial glance; it contains a deep array of creativity and physics driven action. The Sackboys that populate Little Big Planet are just as customizable as the levels. You can outfit these adorable characters (puppets? creatures? things?) with an impressive lineup of costumes. You can mix and match their appearance to suit your tastes or make them look like other video game characters altogether. Not to mention it has the catchiest soundtrack ever. If you’re looking for a game that will entertain multiple players or something simply child-friendly, surrender one of your free game downloads to Little Big Planet. It’s charm is sure to delight younger and older gamers alike.

Killzone Liberation – Looking for a more manly man game to download onto your PSP? Killzone Liberation is an isometric tactical shooter that takes place in the Killzone universe. If you’re familiar with the first-person shooters, this isn’t it. Killzone Liberation is played from a top-down view to hit home a more tactical feel. Players will be running through the usual assortment of gritty battlefields and rustic military complexes while unloading on the Helghast. Running in Rambo-style will usually greet you with a Game Over screen. Players will have to examine the layout of the battlefield and be judicious about their cover. A second player will be able to join you throughout the entire campaign for support, which you’ll need since the game presents some stiff difficulty from the start. Players looking for a challenge that’s more on the mature side should give this tactical shooter a download.

Little Big Planet – It’s exactly what it sounds like; Little Big Planet… just on the PSP. The core tradition of customizing Sackboys and creating levels is still intact in this portable rendition. Although it’s decent for a PSP version of a PS3 game, you’ll find yourself flying solo a majority of the time unless you know 3 other people with a PSP and a copy of the game. LBP is certainly less compelling when you’re playing it by yourself. But if you can’t get enough or want LBP on-the-go; there’s no reason you shouldn’t download this excellent PSP version.

Modnation Racers – Who doesn’t like kart racing? Sony seems to be pushing the user-created envelope this generation and Modnation Racers is no exception. Players can expect highly customizable drivers, karts, and tracks. In typical kart racing fashion, racers will have a wide variety of projectiles and defensive abilities at their disposal to maintain an edge. If you’re looking for a racing title that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Modnation Racers’ insane levels of customization and dedicated community will keep you coming back for more.

Pursuit Force – This early PSP title is equivalent to that of a B-movie in terms of plot and premise, but it’s damn fun. You’ll be playing as a member of the… yup… Pursuit Force. Which means you’ll be driving, shooting, and leapfrogging from car to car. It’s essentially Spy Hunter on crack. You’ll pursue generic bad guys and take them down by JUMPING ON THEIR CAR AND SHOOTING THEM IN THE FACE! Players can then take over completely drivable vehicles by jacking the poor sucker who happens to be in it. The plot may be a little thin, but the gameplay is fun enough to keep you entertained. If you’re looking for something braindead but highly entertaining, give this one a go.

Hopefully you’ll find this guide useful to some extent when considering what free games you’ll be downloading. Those lucky enough (is lucky the right word?) to own BOTH a PS3 and PSP will be able to enjoy up to 4 free games! There’s also a Pixel World dynamic theme to download for free if you’re looking to pimp out your XMB. Happy downloading and enjoy!

Playable Catwoman Sneaks Into Arkham City

The pre-E3 surprises keep rolling out. Rocksteady recently put out a trailer showing Gotham’s favorite feline burglar taking it to the streets. Not just in cutscenes, but in fully playable fashion. Catwoman’s method of navigation and combat is on display here. It’ll be interesting to see how her style of gameplay will fit into the scheme of the final game. Is there anything sexier than a woman who can kick your ass? No. Batman: Arkham City is set for release on October 18th for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Check out the brutal new trailer below.

Down the Rabbit Hole, Alice: Madness Returns Launch Trailer

EA has just released the launch trailer for the upcoming sequel to American McGee’s twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. Alice: Madness Returns finds the title character back in the morbid world of Wonderland. Alice is coming to grips with her insanity as she fights to preserve the very world that haunts her. The original was a cult classic with a very distinct art style and the new one certainly looks to continue that trend. Alice: Madness Returns is just around the corner with a June 14th (that’s THIS month) release date. It will be available on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

It’s 2011; No One Has Killed Halo Yet

June 3, 2011 4 comments

Whoa… that’s alot of pitchforks and torches. I do realize that the title of this article is a bit pretentious, however I do have some objective FACTS and EVIDENCE to back up this bold statement. Simmer down any urges to punch me in the face and hear me out for a few moments.

Today’s FPS games are a dime a dozen and first-person shooters are easily the most popular genre of them all. How much can developers really change the experience of looking down the barrel of a gun and blasting away at anything that moves? How did we wind up with all these different games where the core action is the same? Run/Strafe. Move reticle. Aim. Trigger. Reload. Rinse and repeat. Developers have to break up that core action by always giving the player something new to do that supplements the base shooting.

Ever since Halo: Combat Evolved, Bungie always possessed an internal mantra of taking “30 seconds of fun” and stretching it across an entire game. In retrospect, Bungie never relied too heavily on scripted events. They would craft sprawling sandboxes, give the player the tools to have fun, and let the artificial intelligence breathe. Granted, players will navigate through the same environments upon replay like in other games, but the battles unfold differently thanks to the dynamic AI. Most other games are just military-themed shooting galleries with the same terrorist popping out of the same cave and/or bunker.

A screenshot from Call of Honor: Contemporary Conflict 5 Operation: Terrorism Shits It's Pants

You might be thinking, “Whoa this guy has a hard on for Bungie”, but the truth is that first-person shooters (see: Call of duty) are banking the entirety of their excitement on “set-piece” moments. I love my Call of Duty games as much as the next gamer, but recently I’ve discovered (after the release of Black Ops) that replaying the single-player campaign in a Call of Duty title doesn’t maintain the same “wow” factor it did the first time around. These scripted moments are very intense and exciting when they pop your cherry, but coming back to reclaim the White House from Russian soldiers or marching up that hill to kill some more VC is a ride we’ve all been on the first time around. It’s like chewing gum, the flavor is amazing when it’s there but after awhile, you’re just kind of chewing it for the sake of chewing.

This moment was shocking the first time around... but do I really wanna play this part again?

Bungie’s design philosophy allows players to control their experience. Do I want to take this Warhog and tear up this extraterrestrial countryside? Or do I want to nab a Banshee and scope things out from the sky? Or should we take the tank because it’s a fuckin tank? Halo has always given players options to tackle objectives how they see fit and replaying it warrants new experiences. You may state, “Hey Call of Duty has vehicles too” but those moments, may as well be on a rollercoaster. The snowmobile opening in MW2 and the takeover of a Russian Hind in Black Ops will always play out in the same way and the destination will always be the same. At some point the programmer is going to say, “The ride’s over, get off”. A vehicle section in Halo gets me to think, “How long is this vehicle going to last me before the Covenant blows it up with one of theirs?” My point is that If your approach in a Halo game doesn’t work, there’s always another option. In other shooters, you have to act out your role. Why haven’t developers escaped this need to hold my hand to show me something cool? Give me some freedom.

You decide the approach here

When you think about it the Halo formula has never changed since Halo:CE. Bungie gave birth to the then-dreaded, now-lauded two-weapon inventory, dedicated grenade button, and weapon-specific melee. Every installment (with the exception of Halo Wars, duh) never moved away from any of these basics. Halo games have always played like Halo games, you’ll come to an area, unload, circle-strafe, and grenade Covenant (and Flood) to death. This type of gameplay may sound uninteresting to some people, but no one has been able to replicate this to any measure of success. To be objective; how many shooters are you playing now that involve you pulling left trigger to auto-aim somebody and pull right trigger to kill them? Pretty much every major shooter like Battlefiend BC, Borderlands, Call of Duty, Killzone and more recently, Crysis 2 (only to name a few). They may not all be the same type of game but they all PLAY THE SAME. I’m terrified if this control-scheme is going to be the new gold-standard. Yes, the Halo controls and the formula that comes included is about a decade old, but it still works, it’s still fun, and no other game plays quite like it. Who do you think made Y (Triangle) “Switch Weapon”, X (Square) “Reload”, and A (X) “Jump”?

Quick-scoping? No. Just no...

Lets shift our focus over to what is now a strong selling point to most gamers: multiplayer. A proper multiplayer suite was a pipe-dream for most console gamers and developers until Bungie put their foot down. Halo:CE featured co-op play throughout it’s entire campaign via splitscreen, 4-player splitscreen deathmatch, and 16 players via system link. Pretty lackluster by today’s standards undoubtedly, but why are shooters these days still struggling to create a cooperative splitscreen experience? There are too many great games out there where I think to myself, “This would be cool if it had splitscreen.” The Halo franchise was great for getting people to play together.

"I brought some friends... and a few rides.

My heart broke a bit when Battlefield: Bad Company didn’t feature any splitscreen support through it’s campaign. Everyone and their mothers were begging for it in Killzone 2 (we eventually got it in Killzone 3). I don’t want to pass off, let me give another controller to someone else so we can kick some ass together and enjoy the story. Props to the team at Gearbox for giving us splitscreen play in Borderlands, a game that could’ve easily shipped without it, was made more enjoyable when you have someone to loot with. As much as I want to commend Treyarch for implementing a cooperative campaign in World at War, they subsequently removed a splitscreen campaign in Black Ops. It’s like they were thinking, “Boy that was fun, lets get rid of it.” What!? Halo never REMOVED any cooperative elements from their games.You want splitscreen coop throughout the entire campaign? Bank on Halo. Campaign co-op online? H… a… l… o…

It's good to kill together

You want splitscreen competitive? Guess what? Yup. Since Halo 2 (that’s on the first Xbox yuh…) you can jump online with up to 4 buddies on the same couch. It’s a wonder as to why developers can’t implement 4-player splitscreen online. I’m aware that Black Ops has pulled this off, but it’s still limited to just two players on a single console. Although, I’m not completely heartless, splitscreen Black Ops is balling. My wish is that more games/developers follow this model if their goal is to get people to play online more. There is nothing quite like teaming up with people in the same room and coming out on top. It’s a high-five bromance-a-palooza that not too many other multiplayer games can replicate. Halo’s base shooting may not have the depth other shooters possess in the online arena, but the franchise has always presented a wealth of campaign, cooperative, and competitive features that is still unparalleled to this day.

Wanna grab a few beers after this? Better yet, lets grab a few beers now

For those who like to see the stats that match the glory, Bungie has included a wide-array of stat tracking ranging from weapons used/favored, killzones on particular maps, and proficiency in each gametype. All of which can be viewed thoroughly (for free) at Bungie.net. Each individual player’s stats are persistent across all Halo titles that were released on the 360. So if you want to see the mountain of numbers that prove how great you are, Bungie has you covered. It’s also on the house.

Statistical stats and such...

Halo has always been a social shooter. But perhaps what’s more telling is the footprint it still leaves on other games in the same genre. Sure, it’s a game about space marines, pious aliens, and intergalactic undead; but it is THEE game about space marines, pious aliens, and intergalactic undead. Remember, at it’s inception Halo was an RTS that was developed in the mid-90’s on the Mac. Halo put Microsoft in the console race and shaped the brand to what we know it as today. Halo 2’s online features catapulted Xbox Live and made PC gamers blush, right about the same time the first Killzone fell flat on it’s face. Halo 3, ODST, and Reach carried the torch by allowing players blast their way across the sprawling campaigns in splitscreen co-op or in 4 player squads online. Xbox gamers with a thirst for competition can jump online with three other buddies on the same console. There’s nothing more fun than gathering your own rag-tag team of couch potatoes and unleashing a teabagging epidemic upon the next unsuspecting matchmaking party.

Best. Pistol. Evar.

This is not an attempt to say that the Halo series is the best ever. Far from it. It’s just to say that the Halo formula is often imitated, but never perfected. It’s style of gameplay and features from the last generation are still fairly non-existent; even in the current generation. People looking for a sweeping sci-fi saga will find it here. Halo is meant to be enjoyed together. Be it split-screen on the couch or online. Halo is the kind of first-person shooter that other shooters can only hope to be. I’m sick of scripted moments, watching the same explosion, and being funneled into another shooting gallery. I know haters are gonna hate, but if I have to pull left trigger and then right trigger to kill someone in a game one more time, I’m never buying another damn shooter again.

Face it, no one has killed Halo yet.