Fracture Review

Fracture offers a future where our best hope for survival relies on making enemies walk uphill.

Well, here we are. Cybernetic Al Gore is dancing an I-told-you-so jig as global warming has caused the rising sea levels to envelop the entire United States. Luckily, with the help of terrain-deforming technology, we were able to elevate and save most of the Blue States, but the middle of America was flooded by an ocean of sadness. This essentially cleaved the US in two, and since water is a barrier which neither man nor idea dare cross, we have become a nation divided and have set to war.

The actual back story in Fracture details how the Pacificans (West Coasters) chose to augment their bodies by way of genetics, while the Atlantic Alliance (East Coasters) chose to alter themselves using cybernetics. Of course, this causes all sorts of trouble, and since the seat of government still resides in the East, the Atlantic Alliance says a big HELL NO to genetics (and Fat Burger), thus causing the Pacificans to secede from the union. In the game, you'll jump into the shoes of Jet Brody, a special unit with the Atlantic Alliance, intent on stopping this nefarious rebellion.

Making enemies climb out of holes really annoys them.
Making enemies climb out of holes really annoys them.
You might as well be fighting an invading army of aliens from the amount that all this actually works its way into the game. You'll be running around fighting a bunch of guys that look and sound more like Halo cosplayers than genetically enhanced supersoldiers. You also won't find yourself morally torn, debating the role of government versus freewill. Actually, the biggest question you'll probably have is “Who the hell sent me out here with only a gun that raises and lowers the friggin' ground?”

That's right: Terrain deformation is the mechanic du jour here, and your special weapon, the entrencher, will enable you to raise and lower terrain to your heart's (or the engine's) content. The idea is that being able to manipulate the terrain can give or strip away cover, giving you a huge advantage during firefights, during which you will be grossly outnumbered. The fundamental problem I found with this is that while you can certainly create a mountain of cover to shield you from incoming fire, you'll still have to either go around or lower it to shoot at your enemy. Without an easy way to pop in and out of your newly made cover you are continually exposing yourself to a barrage of pinpoint accurate enemy fire. This works the same way when you eliminate cover from your enemies and you suddenly find yourself in a “oh, hello there bullets!” situation.

You'll also find grenades which can raise or lower the ground, much like your entrencher. The unfortunate part here is that your enemies have also found them, and will constantly use them to destroy both your cover and you. While all this tearing up of the ground and cover adds a very hectic pace to the battles, it can also make them frustrating and you'll probably find yourself seeking more permanent shelter than your entrencher can build for you. While you'll also be using the entrencher to solve some puzzles here and there, its most useful application is also probably its most mundane: simply reaching higher ledges. It's a shame more couldn't be done to make the terrain deformation mechanic more useful and rewarding on the battefield.

Aside from your entrecher, you'll be able to carry your choice of two other guns. While there are more than a few options to pick up, I found that--either due to limited ammo or range constraints--there were only two or three I could rely on. In addition to your weapons you'll be granted a couple of enhancements every few levels, from your loving team back home. Some of these include a more powerful melee attack, stronger shields and the ability to jump higher. While these are probably the most helpful things you're given throughout the game, they also make you wonder why in the world headquarters just doesn't give you them all at the start?

The physics are actually pretty dang fun at times.
The physics are actually pretty dang fun at times.
The game consists of three acts spread over eleven missions. While the game itself can be reasonably lengthy, a lot of that time will come from replaying the same battles over and over. Even on normal difficulty you'll find that the game can be brutal, with swarms of enemies bombarding you from every angle. Once you've finally managed to overcome your last foe in a given encounter you'll enter into the next area where you'll have to do it all again. This kind of staggered, battle to battle pacing, combined with the relative lack of variety in the enemies, can make the game begin to drag in the latter missions.

The game looks sharp, aside from a lack of variety in the units and levels. The music is maybe a little too Lucas for its own good, suited more for lightsabers and cracking whips than post-apocalyptic terrain deformation, but is solid nonetheless. The terraforming effects all look good and animate well and after a frantic battle the surrounding area will look appropriately torn up. The physics in the game are also well done, allowing you to take advantage of precariously placed explosive barrels and other objects strewn throughout the environment. Even still, a solid presentation and decent physics engine can only do so much to buffer you from the repetitive and frustrating battles that are the core of the game.

The multiplayer offers up much of the same in terms of gameplay, though this time there is even less use for the entrencher since humans over three years old rarely find themselves baffled when you vanish behind cover. You'll be capturing flags and doing free-for-alls in a pretty standard fashion. The heavy reliance on the weapons over terrain deformation makes it a little too vanilla to set it apart from other games, though.

While the game itself is technically proficient, nothing about the gameplay pushes it above and beyond that base level of proficiency. Its biggest problem comes from a clever premise with poor implementation. There's some replay value here in the multiplayer and the collection of data cells, which unlock the weapons from the campaign in a weapons testing area, but even those can get old very quickly. Once you get past the limited use of the terrain deformation you'll find yourself searching for anything new or exciting in Fracture's take on the sci-fi third-person shooter.