Monday, February 27, 2012

F.E.A.R. 3 (F.3.A.R.) Review

Game:  F.E.A.R. 3 (AKA F.3.A.R)
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Day 1 Studios
            pub.  WB Interactive Entertainment
Engine:  Despair Engine (modified)
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of February 27, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $39.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $25

Game Time: 

Single-player campaign:  about 15 hours, both characters played through on default

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also:

F.E.A.R. Review:
F.E.A.R. 2 Review:

Plot and Horror

FEAR 3 follows the two brothers from the first game (Point Man and Fettel) as they fight Armacham mercenaries, zombies, and ghosts in an attempt to stop Alma from giving birth.  As far as franchise continuity, FEAR 3 throws it out the window.  Characters that were clearly killed are back, and others behave quite uncharacteristically (the most glaring example is that Alma isn't homicidal).  It's a mess. 

The plot also fails to make sense in and of itself.  You spend half the game trying to rescue a prisoner, and when you finally reach him... you kill him.  Armacham has a Latin-American city under martial law, for some reason.  Et cetera. 

Director John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from LA) was brought on board for this.  His style doesn't convey the prevalent apprehension that was iconic of the first two FEAR titles.  There's a couple of weak jump-scares in FEAR 3, but nothing memorably creepy or scary. 

Day 1 and Despair

Day 1 has developed about ten games that I've never heard of.  This is the only one I've played.  Monolith developed the first FEAR, FEAR 2, and the FEAR 2 expansion.  TimeGate developed the FEAR expansions, which were not considered canon. 

The Despair Engine is graphically comparable to the Monolith's Jupiter EX engine.  The only difference to note is that character faces are now simpler and more cartoony.  Day 1 carried gameplay elements, weapons, fonts, voice actors, sound effects, and I'm pretty sure some textures from FEAR and FEAR 2.  They did a good job of keeping the general look of the series with their own engine. 


You can play as either Point Man or Fettel, by yourself or in two-player co-op.  Point Man was the original protagonist, and utilizes the slow-motion super reflexes that the series is known for.  Point Man was presumed to have died at the end of FEAR (he wasn't in FEAR 2 at all), but apparently did not. 

Fettel was the original antagonist, and may have been a vampire.  He died at the end of FEAR, came back as a ghost in a non-canon expansion, and came back as a possessed Replica soldier in a FEAR 2 expansion.  In FEAR 3 Fettel is clearly a ghost and there are no Replica forces.  Go figure.  He can carry no weapons, but can throw fireballs, possess people, and hold enemies defenseless in the air. 

Characters level up based on points.  Points are gained on a per-level basis by completing challenges, like getting twenty kills with the shotgun. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Currently there is only fan speculation of further FEAR titles.

Final Thoughts

The Good:  FEAR 3 has fun gameplay and looks a lot like the other games.  Having two character options, as well as co-op with a friend, stretches the game out to longer than the typical twelve-hour shooter.

The Bad:  FEAR 3 isn't frightening at all, and I'm really not sure why they went with the guy that directed Big Trouble in Little China.  The plot makes no sense, and the most positive thing I can say is that the game is better than a few games that are worse.

The Verdict:  This is a disappointing continuation of a franchise I rather enjoyed.  I suggest  skipping this one and pretending FEAR 2 was the end of the series. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Painkiller: Overdose Review

Game:  Painkiller: Overdose
Year (s):  2007
Company:  dev.  Mindware
            pub.  DreamCatcher
Engine:  PainEngine using Havok pysics
Type:  First-Person Shooter, old-school gameplay

Price (as of February 19 , 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $5
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $10

Game Time: 12 hours, first time, on default difficulty

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

Painkiller Review:


You are a half-angel, half-demon creature, feared and hated by both Heaven and Hell.  Lucifer's death at the end of the first Painkiller releases you from your prison.  Then you battle through Purgatory (or maybe Hell, the franchise treats them as the same place) to seek vengeance against Cerberus and Sammael, the ones that imprisoned you in the first place.  "Plot" progression is told by voiceovers after each chapter.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Fans of the first game, apparently: Overdose begain as a fan-made mod before DreamCatcher jumped in to fully support it.  The multicore issue has been fixed, and the save file corruption bug may have been addressed (or I got lucky and just didn't run in to it).  Overdose features new levels, weapons, and enemies with the same old-style gameplay of the original.  No weapon reloading required.

The engine is unchanged., and as a result, Overdose looks like crap for a 2007 release. 

The protagonist frequently repeats a half-dozen phrases, which become annoying pretty fast.  Levels are unbalanced, with some being a breeze and others being a pain in the ass.  Opting for voiceovers instead of cinematic cutscenes between chapters was a poor decision.  Lastly, the absurdly large bosses that made the first game unique have been replaced with more realistic-sized monsters.

Final Thoughts

Though it's a separate title, Overdose is essentially an expansion to Painkiller.  Fans of the first will like this one, as it's pretty much more of the same with a few bugs fixed.  After playing both of these games, I find the franchise to be a nearly plotless, graphically-challenged chore that, unlike rival throwback franchise Serious Sam, takes itself way too seriously.  I don't recommend this one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crysis 2 Review

Game:  Crysis 2
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Crytek
            pub.  EA (Electronic Arts)
Engine:  CryEngine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of February 12, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  Not Currently Available
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  ~20

Game Time: another 10-12 hour game

Obligatory Trailer:


Crysis 2 takes place three years after Crysis.  The invaders (called The Ceph, short for cephalopods) have unleashed a plague that ravishes Earth's population.  Initially, you are just another grunt sent to the front in New York City.  Early on, Prophet, from the first game, gives you his nanosuit.  You then fight the military (who mistakes you for Prophet), the CELL mercenary group, and The Ceph as you battle your way through the city trying to save the day.  There are many fantastical story elements, but little to explain what happened in the gap between the two games.  The main character isn't the player, but the nanosuit.


This game was initially available on Steam.  Months later, EA launched their own digital-download service, name Origin.  High-profile newer releases are now only available for download on Origin, though most titles are on available on both Origin and Steam.  For now, EA is trying to find out if Origin is viable.  Those that buy a retail copy of Crysis 2 can play offline (the single-player campaign) without having to install either Origin or Steam. 

CryEngine 3

This is the best looking game I have ever played.  I ran it on extreme (the second-highest settings) in 2D.  I also had options to run the game in DirectX 11 instead of DirectX 9, and (if I had a more powerful machines) to download and run with high-resolution textures.  Looking better than everything else wasn't good enough: the game is the first I know of that can also be played in 3D, for the rare few that have monitors to support it. 

Branches realistically blow, creating moving shadows, which I may have shot at once or twice.  On a large scale, Crysis 2 has entire bridges and buildings toppling.

This is Crytek's first cross-platform game.


Similar weapons and minor weapon modification return, and the player is still limited to just a couple of guns.  The interface has changed, but the nanosuit retains all it's speed, strength, stealth, and armor capabilities.  Killing Ceph allows you to collect samples.  These samples can be used to augment your preferred suit abilities. 

This is the first game Crytek has made that is not in a tropical jungle.  Gameplay is still open-ended, but buildings creature corridors more akin to the genre's roots.  Crysis 2 points out some of the flanking, amoo dump, and other approaches to the player in the course of the campaign.  Combat can still be challenging, but it's never quite as intense as in the first. 


Hans Zimmer did some of the music.  He's a big name in film scores, and you might recognize his sound in The Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Dark Knight, and The Lion King.  Hans has written over 100 scores.  The name might not be as familiar as John Williams, but Zimmer is right up at the top of his field. 


The obsessive-compulsive player can collect all sorts of souvenirs, dog tags, and car keys scattered throughout the game.  These items serve no purpose.  Players can also find emails, which are not essential but do add a little bit to the story. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

There are currently two DLCs, both of which are simply map packs for multiplayer. 

The plot for Crysis 3 has been written, but there is no information about development or release date.  

Final Thoughts

With 3.9 million illegal downloads, Crysis 2 was the most pirated game of 2011.  It's also sold over three million copies.  With the best graphics and highest-quality musical score, this feels at times like you're watching a Michael Bay film.  While the plot is so-so, the combat is fantastic.  This is a good, unparalleled game.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Section 8 Review

Game:  Section 8
Year (s):  2009
Company:  dev.  TimeGate Studios
            pub.  SouthPeak Interactive
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter, multiplayer emphasis

Price (as of February 5, 2012 )

Regular price on Steam:  9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  6.50

Game Time:  Campaign on normal, first time, under ten hours

Obligatory Trailer:


You're a soldier in the 8th Armored Division, and you're at war with The Arm of Orion faction.  Fight! 


This game reminds me of the Star Wars: Battlefront franchise.  All maps are squad-based assault missions, with multiple objectives and a handful of different loadout options.  Section 8 adds deployable objects, like turrets and supply drops, that are launched to the ground from orbit.  These cost money, which is gained through kills and completing objectives.  The power armor everyone wears has a few neat tricks; my favorite of which is the jetpack.

The single-player campaign is short, and intended to basically be a tutorial.  It's incredibly easy, as your squad mates can't die (though friendly-fire will toast their shields), and you have no limit on your number of spawns.  Unfortunately, the campaign doesn't teach you everything.  I tried a couple of instant action maps and really didn't know what was going on.  The team that drops deployables first seems to have a huge, unrecoverable advantage.

All players have the same amount of shields and health, and the same power armor toys.  Weapons are fairly inaccurate, and the loadouts are not terribly distinct from one another. 

Games for Windows LIVE

A Games for Windows LIVE account (hereafter shortened to LIVE) is required for any progress in the campaign to be saved.  I've had problems with LIVE before, so I wasn't surprised when I ran into trouble.  I tried running this game half a dozen times with no saved progress, then stopped playing it for a week.  The next time I played it, it worked fine.  I largely dislike LIVE.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Sectio 8: Prejudice was released in 2011.  It is said to have more content.  .

Final Thoughts

Flying around in a jetpack is gratifying, and the game is cheap.  That being said, there are a lot of cheap games, most without LIVE accounts required.  I find no compelling reasons for the single-player gamer to buy this one.