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SummaryNot as good, but still pretty damn good
The GoodThe co-op mode is really a big deal in this game because it not only increases the amount of fun you'll be having, it also increases your tactical options. Fettel can lift enemies out of cover or take control of an enemy sniper while Pointman slaughters enemies in standard cover-based combat.I highly recommend playing the single-player before you play co-up though, having another player around diminishes the horror element quite a lot, but luckily not to a point that the creepy atmosphere is entirely gone.
I vaguely remember that the first F.E.A.R. had a lot of weapons and it was very hard to figure out what an enemy was using until they are already dead and you can pick the weapon up. Here there is only a small variety of weapons, but they have different designs and the way they work makes them unique, so you never have problems like the one I mentioned again. New weapons also include a laser gun, a knife and suicide-bombs. The latter is probably my favorite for when it is in enemy hands.
The story literally grabbed me by the throat (I am still not sure if I am allowed to use mature language here, so I am leaving my genitalia out of this) and kept me hooked. The best part is, without a doubt, the way the two brothers interact between each other and the scenes showing their past, while Pointman is still a silent protagonist, you can feel how Fettel is trying his best to forge a bond between with him and is willing to accept his old rival as part of the family. Family is the main theme in this game and it's executed perfectly.
There are some very atmospheric moments in these games, F.E.A.R. games have always had the disadvantage that they need to balance the action and horror, but with the help of some professionals they managed to make those few moments during which the game wants to creep us out count. The final level was probably the best one I have seen in a long time and using the Pointman's past the way they did was a brilliant move if I ever saw one.
Playing as Fettel is a whole new way to experience the tactical F.E.A.R. battles; you jump into enemy bodies, fling explosive around or just use energy blasts like one would us a gun. He can also lift enemies off the ground to make them easier targets and when he is in a human body he can use their weapons, this allows for some fast tactical actions that can turn the tides of battle, you won't be able to use slow-motion though, but who needs that when you can take over enemy commanders.
The BadThe fact that Monolith was booted off the project is a very sad fact, but after you killed the last boss it goes from sad to disastrous. It's hard to explain the situation without spoilers, but the thing is that during the end-game cinematic everything Pointman has learned since he joined F.E.A.R. is thrown out of the window. Instead of a moving and logical ending we get a generic action-scene and Alma is thrown out of that same window as well. Yes, the woman this franchise was all about is pushed to the side and may not even appear in the inevitable sequel, this would never have happened if Monolith called the shots.
There are only two enemies in the game that are used for the horror part of the game and one of those is the Cult that also appears in bright daylight for action scenes. The atmosphere is great and the handful of scenes where Alma appears (again, damn the new studio) are creepy, but you always know what to expect and that is a bit of a problem. The Replica soldiers are also gone since Fettel is on your side, so we get to fight twice as much Armacham squads and their new soldiers. They did upgrade them, so there is still a lot of challenging battles, but that doesn't solve the whole problem.
The level design is not very interesting aside from the horror scenes, all the action scenes take place in pretty standard locations with nothing very interesting. Likewise there is no music that made me go "wow, I really need to buy the soundtrack CD", it is just your standard mix between horror and action songs that you have heard a dozen times before in movies and other games. It's a shame because F.E.A.R. 2 did have some cool songs like "Snake Fist" or "Still Island Combat".
The Bottom LineEven though I hated the ending and there aren't any monsters in the game, I really loved F.3.A.R. anyway, when I finished it I stood up from my chair and I saluted for it, something I have only done for a handful of other games. It has a great story and it's the first horror game I have ever seen that can be played with two people at the same time. This is without a doubt one of the best games I have played in a very long time.
If you want to play this game yourself however, I have to recommend playing the previous two games (you can ignore the expansion packs) before you start on this one because you pretty much need to have experienced both of those. Experiencing them is important, you can't just look up a summary online to get yourself up to date because you'd miss out on the way the story was presented in those games. If you did all that and liked those games, get ready for another one!