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FEAR 3 preview: On the run from The Wall

It's always a good sign when a representative for a game developer who's leading you through a demo tells you, "No, that's not an in-house nickname -- that's what this game mode is actually called." The gametype in question is FEAR 3's "F***ing Run" (its actual moniker), a four-player cooperative mode that sends players down streets and alleys filled with enemies, whom they must mow down as they race from checkpoint to checkpoint.

That would sound like a fairly uninspired experience, if it weren't for the gigantic, horrifying innovation Day 1 Studios has thrown in the mix: The Wall of Death. As the players shoot their way through the crowd, a towering black cloud pursues them, gobbling up any and all stragglers who rely on the safety of cover for too long.

Gallery: FEAR 3 (The Wall of Death) | 4 Photos

No shooter since Left 4 Dead punishes a players' reliance on defense quite like this -- though sallying forth with no regard for your own well-being can also result in your incapacitation. Players can revive you, though the precious seconds you waste during your First Aid maneuvers might just be enough for the Wall to envelop you or a squadmate. Leaving them behind isn't an option either; it only takes one player to be caught by the wall before the game ends.

The basic mechanics supporting this chase are just as strong as they were in the franchise's previous iterations. The guns (and the discharging of the bullets therein) all feel satisfying, sending enemies slumping to the ground to be devoured by the encroaching Wall. Environments are peppered by obstacles players can use to briefly recover from a few gnarly GSWs, or hurdle over while running away from their impending doom.

Whether the mode will flesh out the survival-or-progress balance provided by L4D's AI Director remains to be seen, but it seems to be capable of producing similar moments of emergent panic. That's an emotion that few games are capable of effectively evoking -- but FEAR 3 looks to have it in spades.

Regardless of how much Day 1 manages to capitalize on this feeling, it's clear the developer has some good ideas for how to keep the shooter genre fresh. It's also clear that they're extremely capable mode-namers -- more than a few times, I was temped to turn to my struggling teammates, and authoritatively demand that they ... well, you know.

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