and I Can’t Get Up!
Playing second fiddle to The Force Unleashed, LucasArts’ Fracture is a third-person shooter that features terrain deformation as its pièce de résistance.
Unfortunately, this key feature feels more cumbersome than fun, and what’s left is a shallow shooter with a single-player campaign that can be finished in less than ten hours. On the bright side, the multiplayer is an engaging experience, but the inordinately large and regenerating health meter does its best to foil that experience too. In the end, Fracture, with its unique battle mechanic, is little more than a good idea gone bad.
The setting of Fracture takes place in the 22nd century. The world has undergone massive changes due to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps. As such, the United States finds itself less than united because a great rift runs from what were once the Great Lakes south to the Gulf of Mexico. The heartland of the U.S. is a giant wasteland, and the country begins to divide itself politically and morally along these new geographic lines.
The East Coast, or Atlantic Alliance, aligns itself with Europe, emphasizes the use of cybernetic and terra-forming technology, and eschews the recent trends toward genetic enhancement and artificial evolution. In fact, laws are passed in Washington D.C. prohibiting genetic alterations among humans in an attempt to preserve the human race. This law serves as the final blow for the people of the West Coast, known as the Republic of Pacifica, who have come to rely on genetic mutations to cope with the changing world. The Pacificans secede from the Union, and the Atlantic Alliance is forced to quell the upstarts in to save the world and maintain the human race. Of course, such a difficult task is going to take the right man and the right tools for the job. Enter Jet Brody: patriot, gunslinger, and terra-forming badass.
As Brody, players will need to make use of their ability to raise and lower terrain to transform the battlefield to their advantage and surmount the myriad obstacles in their path. Players can also use a variety of grenades to help them with this task. While initially interesting, the ability to change the battlefield around you is rather awkward; it takes a very long time before use of the game’s Entrencher becomes second nature. Don’t get me wrong; there are some nice occasions when you’ll launch Pacificans into the air by raising some dirt and then fill them full of lead before they touch the ground. And I loved being able to instantly create cover from enemy fire. But, for the most part, terra-forming abilities are used to solve simplistic puzzles rather than true tools of combat. You can imagine how troublesome this is for a game that wholly relies on the concept to distinguish itself.
In addition to the Entrencher, there are a number of interesting weapons to take advantage of in Fracture. They include futuristic versions of machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles. There are a few others that are fairly unique. For example, there is a sticky-grenade launcher with timed detonation, and the burrowing-torpedo launcher was also novel. Unfortunately, these weapons are more or less useless, and players will find themselves relying on the stupid Bulldog machinegun, as it is the most all-purpose weapon in your arsenal. I say stupid because you’ll constantly blow through clips. You’d think they find a way to expand magazine size in the 22nd century!
Moreover, combat in Fracture is extremely frenetic, but not in a good way. You will constantly be bombarded with grenades and explosive elements in the environment that make the shooter experience very cluttered. Enemies are not tactically savvy, but rather omnipresent; they constantly thwart your advance with sheer numbers. And the camera angles…garbage! It is often extremely trying to get a clear shot without a wall or mound covering your view. When all is clear, knowing what you’re shooting at can be difficult. That’s because sometimes you’re very far away from your targets, and they tend to blend into the surrounding environment and cacophonous onscreen action. Combat in Fracture is a complete mess. Instead of using gaming skill, players will just have to rely on their huge, regenerating health meter and a lot of ammo to get them through the firefights.
Thankfully, the game is full of automatic save points, so frustrating, ambush-like hotspots can be reloaded for a second and third try without too much retracing of your steps. Interestingly, what’s more enjoyable than combat is the data chip collection side objective. Strewn throughout every section of the levels are data chips that, when collected, will unlock the superfluous weapon range on the main menu. Collecting these little chips is quite fun because getting to them is a challenge. This portion of the game tends to put the Entrencher abilities to the test and feels oddly similar to Portal – a dumbed-down version of Portal.
The single-player campaign is short and rather unrewarding. Graciously, the online multiplayer is more satisfying, though still not perfect. The multiplayer component of Fracture accommodates up to twelve players at once. The game modes are a smattering of tried-and-true favorites such as Deathmatch (Free for All), Team Deathmatch (Team FFA), two types of Capture the Flag, and King of the Hill (Kingmaker). Break-in and Excavation are unique modes that have your team infiltrate and control your opponents’ base for points or excavate, raise, and protect spikes, respectively. Multiplayer play is smooth, enjoyable, and frantic. However, it is, like the single-player campaign, held back by chaotic battlefields and the large, regenerating health meter. In other words, multiplayer action is more of a test to see who can survive the mayhem rather than who can skillfully eliminate their opponents.
Like other futuristic shooters out there, Fracture is a hodgepodge of carbon composite armors and flashy particle effects. Jet Brody and his crew look like Marcus Fenix knock offs, and the Pacificans look like something out of Haze. The animations are quite smooth, and, overall, the game looks quite good, though decidedly drab – except for the pretty, realistic, and incessant explosions that plague gameplay. On the sonic front, the background music has an epic sound that could easily find a home as a minor theme in an Indiana Jones or Star Wars flick; no surprises there. The voice acting is standard, but often doesn’t convey the emotion of the onscreen action. For example, one of the opening cutscenes depicts Brody being airlifted to a Pacifican base. Before the aircraft can reach its destination, it is shot down. The tempo and intensity of the pilot’s voice never increases and, in fact, the craft crashes before the monotone “hold on” line can even be delivered.
I’ve played worse games than Fracture, but it’s certainly not one I’d ever recommend. As it turns out, the core concept of terrain deformation is more of a gimmick than a fully fleshed out feature, and the rest of the shooter mechanics are painfully subpar. If you’re still intrigued by Fracture after reading this article, do yourself a favor and give it a rent.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The visuals are full of interesting particle effects and explosions. However, enemies are difficult to distinguish, and all the onscreen action can be overwhelming. 3.3 Control
While functional for the most part, using the terrain deformation abilities felt clunky. To top it off, the shooter controls are imprecise. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The background music is of high quality, but the voice over work doesn’t capture any of the emotion. 3.2 Play Value
The campaign is short, but multiplayer does add a fair amount of replayability. Unfortunately, none of it is particularly fun. 3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.