Some fans of F.E.A.R. have a problem with the third instalment in the series. They see original creator Monolith passing the torch to Day 1 Studios and worry. They see gameplay videos packed with mechs and worry some more. Then they hear strange noises about something called divergent co-op and Alma's son's Point Man and Fettel sharing destruction duties and they start worrying all over again.
Here, in an interview with Eurogamer to coincide with the release of an exclusive new trailer, Day 1 Studios art director Heinz Schuller and lead systems designer Parker Hamilton reveal why there's no need to be afraid. Read on to find out more about their vision for F.E.A.R. 3.
Eurogamer: We're not used to seeing co-op modes that allow players to work against each other as well as with each other. What, exactly, will happen when Point Man and Fettel pull in different directions?
Parker Hamilton: Fettel's motivations for working together emerge out of his ability to suspend an enemy and pull him up out of cover and then be able to possess that enemy and gain their abilities.
One thing that can happen when you're playing cooperatively and competitively is Fettel could pull that enemy up out of cover and Point Man could, just to help create an assist, kill him. But sometimes Fettel might really want to possess that body.
So Fettel could pull an enemy out of cover and Point Man could kill him before Fettel is able to possess that body – steal the kill, steal the body Fettel really wants in order to become more powerful.
Our scoring system rewards cooperative play via assisted kills, but also competitively in terms of what sort of scores you can rank up from getting individual kills. That's one example of how that can play out.
Another example is, if Fettel possesses, for instance, an enemy carrying an explosive device, that's a good advantage for him, because Fettel could detonate the device whenever he wants.
Fettel might run into a crowd of AI and end up getting a large number of kills, but in a chain reaction, that explosion might knock the other player down into Last Stand, and then Fettel could get a number of kills on his own before reviving his partner and getting his partner to come back up.
Further, Point Man using his Slow Mo ability to give himself additional time and ability to eliminate enemies can award Fettel the opportunity to have a special Psychic Melee blast, which is an area of effect attack that shoots a radial splash damage to kill a number of enemies.
So, Point Man and Fettel could co-operate and it's a lot of fun to do so, to have that Psychic Blast and eliminate a lot of enemies. But when you start to compete for the best score, you have to consider whether or not turning on Slow Mo might award your partner, Fettel, the opportunity to get a lot of quick kills fast.
Eurogamer: How does the fear factor the series is known for translate into the co-op experience? Will it still be scary when you're playing co-op?
Heinz Schuller: We're providing a similar narrative track between both single-player and co-op modes. We're not forgoing any of the scares or paranormal moments we've seen in F.E.A.R. before for co-op.
There is an element of working with someone that is different than what you would get in a pure single-player experience. That's one of the reasons we provide both modes Co-op, we provide the same stage but obviously it feels a little bit different because you're playing with someone.
The one thing I'll mention though is Fettel is pretty creepy. By having him there and unleashing paranormal death on the world, it's a new facet of the game I feel helps build more of that unique F.E.A.R. feeling into co-op than you might expect.
Parker Hamilton: Sometimes one player might see something and get startled and then ask the other player if he saw it as well. And then the other player might not have seen it, and you have this uncertainty factor that comes out of it and you get players talking and having people on the edge of their seats trying to figure out whether or not they've seen the exact same thing.
Eurogamer: F.E.A.R. has always been an intense experience. Why did you decide to create a co-op mode in the first place?
Heinz Schuller: We wanted to provide new experiences for the player. This being the third product in the franchise, we wanted to bring an element to it people didn't expect. If you look at where gaming is trending, it's becoming much more of a community experience. We wanted to support that in a way that could let two people experience F.E.A.R. together as opposed to one.
It was an interesting challenge for us, but we liked the challenge of taking on divergent co-op and making a co-op experience people hadn't had before. It was a combination of those things that inspired us to do this.
Eurogamer: Is divergent co-op split-screen as well as online?
Heinz Schuller: We support both split-screen and networked co-op modes on the console.
Eurogamer: Does it have seamless drop-in/drop-out co-op?
Parker Hamilton: When joining F.E.A.R. 3 you'll be able to play through the campaign single-player and then you'll be able to host a lobby and invite friends in to join your game, as well as setting settings for whether or not you would like it public – someone else to be able to join your game.
That way, players will be able to join mid another person's progress and continue their own game.
Eurogamer: In F.E.A.R. 3 you can only play single-player as Point Man. Why not give us the choice to choose between Point Man or Fettel to play the single-player game?
Heinz Schuller: Right now we can confirm Point Man is the single-player model for playing the campaign. There may be more information about this as we get closer to release, but right now that's the plan.
Eurogamer: Can my mate and I switch between characters while playing?
Heinz Schuller: You can't switch while playing. You're either starting the session as Point Man single-player or Point Man co-op and Fettel will join in as part of that.
Parker Hamilton: To switch characters, you'd have to switch out and host a new lobby so you can choose to play as Point Man and the other person will then have to join as Fettel. If you want to switch, the other person will have to host as Point Man and you join in as Fettel, or just choose another match the game will match you up for so you can play as Fettel.
Heinz Schuller: Fettel is a partner to Point Man, but the way we designed the game Point Man is the focus. It's possible to switch, but you do have to start a new session in order to do that.
Eurogamer: Are you aiming for a different audience with divergent co-op than has traditionally enjoyed F.E.A.R.?
Parker Hamilton: One of the things we wanted to do for F.E.A.R. 3 was to continue to extend the audience. The landscape of gaming is developing into more social aspects and people wanting to play together.
We're hoping we can evolve the franchise, maintain all of the tenets we had in previous versions of F.E.A.R. and offer a new, fresh look that new players will enjoy as well. We are definitely interested in pulling in a new crowd for the franchise.
Heinz Schuller: When I look at F.E.A.R. 3, for me, part of that is scale of combat. F.E.A.R. 1 and 2 were done on very close quarters spaces. We're offering a broader topology, and we get into some pretty epic combat situations.
We're hoping to see more people who like that kind of experience try F.E.A.R. because we think that's going to be a pretty fun experience for them.
Eurogamer: Fettel is a new playable character and he seems to have awesome powers. Aren't you afraid players will have a clear preference for just playing Fettel in co-op?
Parker Hamilton: People enjoy playing as Fettel, but a lot of people are interested in playing Point Man as well because there's such power and familiarity. A lot of people are familiar with how first-person shooters work and like to play Point Man, get into cover, run and gun and use Slow Mo, which is extremely powerful in terms of the F.E.A.R. franchise history.
But it's a nice problem to have – a new character with new play mechanics. If they want to play as Fettel and offer shield assistance to Point Man so he can rush in and not take damage for a minute, or get into a run and gun mode by possessing soldiers, they can do that.
We don't want to make the players choose one way or the other. We want them to be able to make their own choices.
Heinz Schuller: We put a lot of energy into making Point Man an awesome character to play. We didn't sell anybody short on amazing weapons and things he can do. It's badass to be Point Man and wield the firepower he wields. We're taking what you would think is the F.E.A.R. character to a new level with Point Man in terms of his combat abilities.
Personally I like playing both, and Fettel is fun and unique, but playing Point Man is a hell of a good time, too.
Eurogamer: The game was recently delayed. What has that allowed the development team to achieve it wouldn't have otherwise?
Heinz Schuller: We just wanted to make the best possible experience. Warner Bros. is just as focused as we are on making sure it's a high quality product.
For us, the additional time gave us the ability to really dial it in, to make it as high quality as it can be, which, from a developer standpoint, we couldn't ask for much more.
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Eurogamer: You emphasise the co-op. Will F.E.A.R. 3 also be attractive to people who just want to play a good single-player FPS?
Heinz Schuller: Absolutely. First and foremost, F.E.A.R. is a single-player experience. While we put almost as much energy into co-op as we did single-player, a lot of us are big fans of the single-player experience, even though that seems to be waning these days. For us it's still key.
The way I look at it, it's a great, high quality single-player game and it's a great co-op game. I weigh them pretty much equally in terms of how well they came off.
Eurogamer: Long-standing fans of the series love the meaty guns feel F.E.A.R. is known for. How does it translate to F.E.A.R. 3?
Heinz Schuller: To me, a gun's gotta feel right. I'm sure you've played games where they feel off, they feel wrong.
In this game, an incredible amount of energy went into making our assault weapons, our bigger ticket weapons, feel satisfying, and not only feel right but feel like you can control them in a way that makes you good. That is, for me, how the weapons feel in the game.
Parker Hamilton: F.E.A.R. is all about visceral combat, that chaos, smoke flying, enemies flying, the ragdolls going everywhere, blood puffing out. A key factor for the guns for us is allowing the player to feel empowered so they can feel successful when they're trying to implement all the strategies they're going for, but not making them overpowered.
We put a lot of focus on it. We know it's a hallmark of the franchise. We hope we've delivered and we feel like we have.