Fracture (360) – Review

cover Fracture, created by Day 1 Studios and published by LucasArts, makes its claim to fame by adding in the concept of “terrain deformation” to a third-person shoot to alter the environment for both progressing in the game and defeating foes.  Unfortunately, while the mechanic certainly works, the whole game is mostly a mess with a weak story to try to justify the mechanic and gameplay that really doesn’t make the most of the mechanic, while also being on the shorter side.  I strongly recommend trying the demo even before hitting the rental store on this.

Story: D+

Fracture takes place in the semi-far future; with global warming raising the ocean levels, American scientists developed terrain deformation technology that allowed them to raise the coastlands above the rising tides, but leaving the middle of the country to flood.  The divide between the coasts led to two a civil war between the East and West, with the “Pacificians” developing genetic mutations to try to surpass the rest of humanity, while those on the Atlantic Alliance use technology to help keep the rest of humanity safe. In the game you play as Sergeant Brody of the Atlantic Alliance as the Pacificians release a monstrous mechanical beast to attack Washington D.C., your goal to stop its attack.

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The story is really really lame and obviously written to support the “cool” gameplay feature of terrain deformation.  There’s no real interesting characters and while they try to write in some characterization, what dialog there is feels like it gets in the way of the action.  The inclusion of issues around global warming and maintaining humanity also make it feel like there’s a hidden morale underneath this all.  There is certainly a way to keep most of the same gameplay and level aspects to this game with a more original story but what’s seen here is very stereotypical.

Gameplay: B-

Fracture is a third-person shooter most similar Halo; you get to carry two weapons with grenades and have limited use of cover to keep yourself out of fire, and you can engage in upclose melee attacks.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the terrain deformation, this could easily be called a poor copy of Halo; the enemy AI is not very good (they’ll reuse the same spots for cover, and its clear the computer has an advantage in knowing your location as soon as you step out of cover), and the one section that does involve a vehicle controlled in similar manner as Halo is rather clunky.

Where Fracture does try to set itself apart is the use of terrain deformation.  As long as the ground is export, you can raise and lower it (within certain limits) to achieve a number of possible objectives.  Most commonly this is needed as to reach a higher point on a fixed structure or to make clearance under a low-hanging gate, but it can also be used to create cover, toss an enemy into the air  (possibly crushing them on a ceiling), dislodging crates and boxes, and the like. This is a power that you start with and retain through the game, and is only limited by a short recharge time.  Terrain deformation also comes about through grenades and a few of the weapons that you carry, usually to more potent results.  For example, some grenades will raise or lower ground forcibly, damaging nearby opponents.  Another grenade type is used to create a “spike” of ground that can be used a number of ways from crushing foes into a ceiling or using it to lift fallen platforms to allow access across a chasm.  Other weapons have small deformation effects, typically to erode away the ground as to reduce any cover that might come up.  There are also weapons that use the Havok physics engine to some degree; two will help create a vortex that will drag anything loose towards it, while another provides a ricocheting projectile that can explode on impact.  Beyond that, most of the weapons are archetypes of the usual found in shooting games – rifles, sniper rifles, shotgun, etc.

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Unfortunately, while this also sounds pretty good on paper, the whole terrain deformation thing is really really gimmicky and as I found more a nuisance in battle more than a help.  While the suggestion that one can use the deformer to create cover is primarily true, I found more often than not that the height that I could raise that cover to was barely enough to stop the bullets for a fraction of a section, after which their impact reduced the terrain enough to make the cover useless.  I found it much easier to seek out the fixed installations to use as cover instead of trying to rely on the ground for this.  While the deformation could be used to knock enemies off the ground, they simply get back up and start firing at you again, again providing only a small bit of breathing room.  While the deformation grenades do work as promised, they are also very difficult to throw accurately and really aren’t a great effective offensive tool.  Even standard aiming can be difficult, since missed shots by your opponents will deform the land around you, and you will keep needing to adjust your aim.  Because of this, I found the most effective method for dispatching most foes, if I wasn’t on stable ground, was simply to run up and punch them out, which almost became cartoonish and silly by the last half of the game.  I really could never figure out what the “shooting” part of this game was really trying to get across.  Mind you, there are boss fights that you don’t want to get up close and personal with, and there are sections where the enemies simply swarm you, so sniping from far away helps as well.

Which brings me to how poorly done the game’s difficulty is.  As with most modern shooters, you have regenerating shields and health, but the rate they seem to fill back is awfully fast compared to other games; you still need a few second in cover to let it come back.  Thus, when facing the bulk of the game’s ground troops, thinning their numbers and then going into for a few rounds of bunching nearly always works.  Then the game throws a few enemies that basically teleport from place to place even if they are caught in one of your explosions or your punches, making it nearly impossible to find cover since they can appear anywhere.  It did take me a while to realize that they do jump around in a pattern that is semi-predictable so I could wait with a rifle and taken them out when they paused, but it was still an annoyance.  The boss fights are somewhat annoying in that they don’t follow the same feel of gameplay from the rest of the game, that is that you need to aim at specific spots on the boss instead of just general damage, and the attack patterns they use require new tactics that never really come up with average fights.  It just feels overall haphazard and not as fine-tuned as Halo’s gameplay is.

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Another annoying aspect of the game is that while an objective is shown on your map, completing what that objective man entail for progressing is not always clearly broadcasted.  For one example, there was a point where the objective was this transmitter above my head, but no matter what I threw at it, I didn’t seem to damage it.  Only after wasting a lot of ammo did I realize that I needed to use terrain manipulation to engage a fuse on a column holding up the transmitter in order to destroy it.  This wasn’t conveyed in the minimal information given by the voice over commands and wasn’t immediately obvious from the area.  To some benefit, I didn’t have to worry about enemies once I had cleared out the place, but still, having to guess that much seems out of place for a shooter.

There is a multiplayer aspect to the game, but there’s not much new here; team and solo variants of deathmatch, capture the flag, and king of the hill, as well as a team-based Onslaught-type mode, but save for this last mode, none of the other modes really take advantage of the terrain deformation aspects of the game which is a shame as I could see some modes that would be effective here.  For example, a mode where you fight to keep your terrain while trying to drop your opponents below a certain level.  Otherwise, it is simply just a tacked-off addition to the game.

Value/Replayability: C

The game took me under 8 hrs to complete at the base difficulty.  While there is a collection aspect to find data cells semi-hidden around the levels, it’s not that compelling an experience to repeat.  The multiplayer is not much to support much replay of this game.

Graphics: B

Oddly, the game has a rather “bright” style instead of the usual dull grays and the like you’d find in what otherwise considers itself a modern shooter.  That’s doesn’t mean that it’s not without its problems; there’s a lot of cookie cut-sections throughout the game, and the textures do get a bit dull later in the game.  When things get hectic, there’s noticeable slowdown to the game as well, and the camera controls are a bit awkward as well.

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Audio: C

There’s nothing special here. The music is average, and what voicework there is sounds unremarkable, and laughable at times.

Overall: C+

Fracture is an odd beast – while it does borrow a lot of elements from other good games like Halo and adds in its own mechanic, the resulting game is a mess – the story is hokey and overblown, the game mechanics really don’t jive with the whole work, and the game itself is inconsistent, which is a shame as there’s a workable game in here with the same pieces.  I wouldn’t even recommend a rental, and suggest trying the demo out to see if the game is even of interest.

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One Response

  1. I can tell that this is not the first time at all that you write about the topic. Why have you decided to write about it again?

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