You could say that it would be boring to constantly chase the same old multiplayer game, with the same types of maps, same types of killstreaks giving out the same rewards at 3, 5, and 7 kills, with the challenges, persistent stats, and levelling you've seen time and time again. You could also say that, if you were some kind of suit-wearing business numbers man, it would be supremely foolish for a developer without an industry-leading budget to even attempt competing for territory in the absolute harshest of online arenas.
F.E.A.R. 3 doesn't bother to pitch its own variants on Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Domination, then, but instead dishes up a higgledy-piggledy quartet of existing game types remixed into fairly original new combinations. The game also fancies itself as an intimate experience, knocking the player count down to four compared to the double-digits you come across in genre heavyweights such as Call of Duty and Battlefield.
Headlining F.E.A.R. 3's multiplayer is F**cking Run, and not just because it has a swear word in the title. Though it does, which means thirteen year olds everywhere will be delighted.
The idea is to, well, f-word'ing run, as fast as your little legs can carry you, away from an all-absorbing wall of grey death. Brave players will try and run backwards so they can make out the faces of the grey cloud as it consumes everything in its wake, but as long as they're still moving forwards they should be okay.
Along the way are rest stations, obstacles, and masses of enemies you can dispatch for a tidy sum of bonus points. F**king Run is very much all or nothing - while downed allies can be revived, if the wall touches any one of you it's game over for the entire squad.
The idea, of course, is to foster a sense of friendship between the four of you - it's just you against the massive wall of angry dead souls, after all - though there's a very real chance you'll occasionally end up cussing your mate Dave for being utterly useless.
Maps have eight stages to clear, and it doesn't look like you'll just be able to breeze through: after a couple of play-throughs on forest-themed map Mother's Dark Nature we hadn't even seen past the third stage.
Weapons are your standard mix of assault rifles, sub-machine guns, and red dot sights, and you squeeze off rounds in the exact pattern of small bursts that you've probably perfected over the last decade. If you're feeling bored or crazy then you can challenge yourself with a shotgun or pistol, but the feeling will soon subside and it'll be back to the ever-reliable red dot sight.
To the credit of F.E.A.R. 3's arsenal, however, it's not like there's anything particularly wrong with the way the guns handle. If anything they're too comfortable and familiar, and you'll probably get a bit ahead of yourself and jump into the first few encounters forgetting you can't conveniently and immediately respawn.
Elsewhere there's Contractions, a wave-based survival mode. A round on a map titled Mechanized Invasion, which featured a dilapidated house underneath a bridge rather than the purported steely offensive, started out similar to Call of Duty's Zombies mode, but promptly progressed in its own unique direction with mech suits dropping out of the sky, a wandering Alma who killed players foolish enough to stray too close - think the Witch from Left 4 Dead - and the inclusion of a rising fog (of death, naturally) that periodically forced players to higher and higher ground.
The objective is to fend off twenty waves of assorted nasties, though as you can probably imagine you'll need to have a cast-iron trigger finger, cat-like reflexes, and three other teammates who aren't afraid to communicate with one another. A small team of fellow journalists and me stumbled on the sixth wave, which was particularly devastating to our collective ego.
Long-term survival is helped by picking up the allied P.A. (a massive mechanical beast with chainguns for arms, though I was initially expecting to have my appointment schedule rearranged by a Personal Assistant) which spawns when you hit the third wave. There's not enough mechs for everybody, however, so the rest of the gang will be doing their best to erect barricades and head outside the safety of the central confines to scavenge for randomly generated weapon and ammo crates. Fail to do this and you're unlikely to pack enough punch to take out later waves.
The next mode is Soul King, which will be immediately familiar to fans of Halo: Reach's Headhunter. The four of you are thrust into a free for all scuffle where you collect soul tokens from downed rivals, dropping your own cache on the ground for others to hoover up if (or, in my case, when) you unfortunately bite the dust.
Soul King's twist is that you play as a phantom that can leap into the bodies of the AI enemies roaming the arena. In spiritual form you're lightning fast but flimsy, and despite being able to chuck balls of raw spirit energy you'd be more likely to kill foes by throwing a Kit Kat Chunky at their head. The trick, then, is to jump from body to body and rack up the kills - the game, however, decides to show everybody the location of whoever is in the lead. Which is nice.
Soul Survivor, the final mode, keeps the wraiths and possession but wraps it around an objective-based setting that's similar to Halo's Infection gametype. One of the quartet is randomly selected to start the game as a wraith, and then must head out to transform the other three into the same. The human trio are left fighting off waves of AI units and the odd possessed character.
The game keeps running until either the timer expires or there's a last man standing, who is then shown a spot on the map where he can escape or, alternatively, just stick to his guns, dig in, and try his luck against three frenzied wraiths and a clock that seems to run to a similar idea of time as watched kettles.
The success of small, intimate games like Left 4 Dead has shown Day 1 Studios it can create a multiplayer component without regurgitating the same old modes that every other game is doing. The influences for many of F.E.A.R. 3's gametypes are plain to see, and whether an overall focus on teamwork will be accepted by a genre that thrives on competition is yet to be seen, but F**cking Run could have just enough originality to carve a space in the market all for itself.