Japanese films have used raven-haired children to scare us senseless for years, but it wasn't until Monolith's F.E.A.R. that a similar approach was used in a first-person shooter. The result was a psychologically creepy game that had a considerable impact. And predictably, that meant sequels.
F.E.A.R. 2 told the same story of spooky girl Alma from a different perspective. And now there's F.E.A.R. 3. This will be overseen by Monolith but developed by Day 1. And the story this time involves Alma's children Paxton Fettel and Point Man, who have super powers and will need work together in co-op.
Jumbled or genius? We sit Day 1 senior producer Dan Hay down for a chat, keeping the doors and windows open just in case he's a bit spooky.
Eurogamer: Please can we clear this up: is it F.E.A.R. 3 or F.3.A.R.? If you pick the latter, our readers will want to know why.
Dan Hay: The title of the game is F.E.A.R. 3 and the logo is F.3.A.R. If you're writing or talking about the game it's just like you'd expect - F.E.A.R. 3. However, if you decide to do a little drawing of the title you'll want to draw it as F.3.A.R. to be accurate. Joking aside, it is officially F.E.A.R. 3.
Eurogamer: Why reveal the game with a live action video? Do you have cinematic ambitions?
Dan Hay: There are many options in revealing a title such as F.E.A.R. 3 and it was decided doing something big was fitting. With the new direction of Alma's pregnancy story arc and such a momentous point in the trilogy, it called for a grand announcement to communicate the depth and range of the characters' motivations.
As far as cinematic ambitions go both the scripted events and cinematics in F.E.A.R. 3 are critical in truly conveying the position Point Man and Fettel have found themselves in. Both siblings have their own reasons to distrust each other. At the same time, they understand if they don't cooperate neither will be able to fulfill their personal agenda. This unique relationship could not be effectively conveyed without proper attention to the cinematic aspects of the game.
Eurogamer: The first F.E.A.R was creepy but subtle. How have the ideas behind the IP evolved with time?
Dan Hay: Day 1 has made sure the core foundation of F.E.A.R. has been preserved, these pillars being frenetic combat, horror and story.
That said, consumer expectations have evolved over the last several years and it is more important than ever to innovate. F.E.A.R. 3 is being created with Day 1's unique twist. The horror element is maturing with the generative system we created, which ensures that the appearance of scares, enemies, et cetera are randomised throughout the game. Replayability is higher than ever with the divergent co-op, and Day 1 is offering a new perspective on mechanised combat.
So in short, the game experience that players fell in love with playing F.E.A.R. is still intact while at the same time features are being evolved or added to make sure the game delivers a fresh experience.
Eurogamer: What's Hollywood director John Carpenter bringing to the table? Can you talk us through an example of how his Hollywood know-how has changed the emphasis of a scene or moment in the game?
Dan Hay: John Carpenter has been an invaluable resource throughout production. Horror is more than just scary moments. John has brought a holistic view to the table, offering advice for everything that plays into horror including crafting tension through light, shadow, sound, music and visuals. These elements are just as important as the horror moments themselves.John brings years of experience to the game and makes sure every method that mounts tension is utilised. With his expertise we learned that our toolbelt for scares is much larger than we first imagined. He has emphasised that t's not just about the horror moments, it's about the tension leading up to them.
Eurogamer: Writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) is on board too. How much of a starring role are you giving to story?
Dan Hay: Story is just as important to a F.E.A.R. title as combat. The deep engaging story is what gives the games depth and life. From the start of this project story was always a priority.
For us, we couldn't think of a better person to handle the task than Steve Niles. Not only does he have a great grasp on horror, but his stories have fully developed characters with great unique voices. The challenge of F.E.A.R. 3 is that is requires a personal story to be told in the midst of carnage and mayhem. Steve has a track record of doing just that so he was a perfect match.
Eurogamer: Let's rewind a bit to F.E.A.R. 2. What needed addressing?
Dan Hay: Monolith did an incredible job with F.E.A.R. and Project Origin. Working closely with them has been a rewarding experience and both teams have grown quite a bit from this collaborative venture. Most importantly, without their innovation the franchise would not exist. At Day 1 we looked to identify the best aspects of their titles and make sure they were preserved while we added an entirely new co-op experience.
Eurogamer: How's the co-op going to work in F.E.A.R. 3?
Dan Hay: Day 1 is taking a new approach to co-op that offers a unique experience. We've developed something called divergent co-op. What this means is that both players have completely different skill sets. While this takes longer to develop and implement, we felt having two unique play styles spoke to the nature of the brothers' relationship.
Point Man has the same skills you've grown accustomed to over the series: weapon proficiency and slow-mo. He is the supersoldier muscle that clears out contingents of soldiers. Fettel, on the other hand, is more ethereal. He can fire psychic blasts, levitate enemies out of cover, and most importantly, possess the bodies of his adversaries. Additionally, alternative paths are set up through the levels for Fettel so he can experience the same area in a completely different manner.
What really turns the tables is how Point Man and Fettel can work together. The depth of strategy offered by these two varying skill sets is impressive. The way Point Man clears out a room is much different than how he tackles the same situation while working with Fettel.
However, Point Man and Fettel have an uneasy alliance and they may not always choose to work together. Whether the players team up to tactically engage the enemy or compete to get the most kills is entirely up to them. There is a wide variety of ways for players to work with or against each other and the game can accommodate both play styles.
Eurogamer: Paxton Fettel has telekinetic abilities. What sort of things can he do?
Dan Hay: Fettel not only has the ability to wield telekinetic blasts, he can also levitate enemies. The levitation comes in handy when the enemy has taken cover because it exposes them for Point Man to take out.
At the same time F.E.A.R. 3 is a shooter and the option to play more aggressively is available to Fettel through the possession mechanic. He can inhabit an enemy's body, even across the battlefield, and wield their weapons.
When the two players work together it can be an impressive sight. Not only are they tactically complimentary, but when the two strategize they become more deadly.
Eurogamer: Point Man is a super soldier. What sort of things can he do?
Dan Hay: Point Man is the same character you know from F.E.A.R., evolved. His enhanced reflexes give him an edge on the battlefield. There is a wide variety of weapons at his disposal as well which will allow the player to carry what best fits their play style.
What is going to be different is the cover system. Day 1 has crafted a cover system that adds a great deal of depth to the game play without slowing down the combat. You have to remember, F.E.A.R. is known for great A.I. and we are continuing that tradition. Even if you take cover and use it wisely, the enemies are not going to cut you a break. The will try to flank, attack, destroy your cover, or - thanks to new Armacham technology - appear out of thin air next to you. The new cover system allows the player to react to all of these threats seamlessly.
Eurogamer: Chunky, devastating weapons were a hallmark of F.E.A.R - will F.E.A.R. 3 carry on this tradition?
Dan Hay: F.E.A.R. 3 is a shooter and that means the game is all about weapons. We developed a great set of weapons that are going to really please the players. We are feverishly working to make sure they look great while feeling and sounding perfect. A lot of fine-tuning is going on to make sure regardless of what weapon you pick up, it feels just right.
Eurogamer: Similarly, F.E.A.R. ripped onto the scene with a glorious engine full of big bangs and shrapnel and slow-motion. How's F.E.A.R. 3 going to grab our attention?
Dan Hay: We asked ourselves the same question. Imagine this, the environment is literally crumbling around you, Armacham is attacking with full force, and they are wielding some brand new technology to toast you. Alma is in labour and her contractions are causing her paranormal power to spill into reality and bringing horrific creatures with it, and the whole time, fighting right by your side, is your brother who hates you... And is dead. Trust me, it is a very satisfying experience.
Eurogamer: OK, now for the bits we don't know: multiplayer? Something complimentary or something much beefier?
Dan Hay: We're hard at work to bring you some multiplayer modes that can only be played in the F.E.A.R. universe. I can't elaborate much more at the moment, but I think you're going to like what you see.
Eurogamer: And release - what's the target?
Dan Hay: Fall 2010.
Eurogamer: Are we going to see more at E3?
Dan Hay: I hope you can stop by the WB Games booth to see what we have to show.
F.E.A.R. 3 will be released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 this autumn.