The ability to alter terrain isn't enough to save Fracture from becoming the latest run-of-the-mill shooter.
- Great soundtrack
- Multiplayer Excavation mode is cool
- Collecting data chips encourages creative terraforming.
- Terraforming is vastly underutilized
- Many derivative elements
- Tons of frustrating, cheap deaths.
By most accounts, the future's going to be a terrible place. Books, movies, and games typically aren't kind when they predict the plight of the human race, and Fracture is no exception. To deal with the rapidly changing climate of the 22nd century, the West Coast (the Pacificans) began altering its citizens' DNA, while the East Coast (the Atlantic Alliance) decided to ban genetic engineering and go the route of cybernetic enhancement instead. Long story short, the Pacificans get all bitter about the ban, secede from the union, and threaten to take over the world. The Alliance isn't a big fan of this tactic and sends you, Jet Brody, to apprehend the Pacifican general responsible for the uprising. The general decides not to go quietly, so it's up to you to spend the next eight hours or so trying to track him down in this exceedingly average third-person-shooter that has few noteworthy features outside of Jet's ability to raise and lower terrain.
You've probably already played several games like Fracture. You can regenerate your health by taking cover; you've got machine guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and more at your disposal; and you'll drive a futuristic (poor-handling) off-road vehicle. Fracture differs from other, similar games in that you're able to use your guns or grenades to alter terrain. Although the game hints at some interesting applications for this ability in the tutorial, the reality is you'll raise the ground to reach ledges and lower it to get under some walls, but not much else. The only puzzles that require terraforming are exceptionally simple. The situations in which you can change the terrain to kill soldiers are few and so contrived that in the middle of the action, the game points out that the ceilings are low so it might be a good idea to raise the ground to crush them. Really, the only time you'll use the mechanic without being prompted is when you make a hill to use as cover. It's a shame the concept wasn't taken further because it has potential, but its execution here is underwhelming.
You progress through the game's linear levels by blasting wave after wave of similar-looking enemies. Once you clear an area, you'll hit a save point and then do it all again in the next room. The bad guys aren't smart, but they make up for their lack of brainpower with sheer numbers. In fact, on what amounts to "normal" difficulty, Fracture is quite difficult. Unfortunately, from the first level all the way through to the final boss Fracture's challenge is often more frustrating than it is fair. Enemies will blast you from all sides while you search for a safe corner and struggle to keep the camera at a useful angle. Although save points are frequent, you'll play certain areas over several times as you figure out the best way to exploit the bad AI. If you're able to keep your frustration in check or play through on a lower difficulty, there is some fun to be had. Headshots yield a satisfying spray of yellow goo, and sticking foes with an explosive fired from the black widow gun then taking your time before you detonate the charge is entertaining, if not a bid sadistic. Data chips, which are hidden throughout the game, do little more than unlock the pointless weapons range, but because you need to be creative to reach many of them, they're fun to collect.
Like other aspects of the game, Fracture's multiplayer doesn't take any chances. Solo and team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill...all play fine, but you've seen it all before. Well, almost all of it. Excavation mode has teams traveling to specific areas, digging down into the ground, and then raising a giant spike to denote the location is in their possession. The team earns points for as long as the spike stands, but it can be destroyed by the other team. This results in a cat-and-mouse game where players quickly scurry to an enemy foothold while trying not to leave their own territory undefended. Teamwork yields the best results in Excavation, but you'll still have a good time with the mode even if everyone on your team goes their own way.
Fracture plays like most futuristic shooters so it's not surprising that it looks and sounds like most futuristic shooters. Jet Brody looks and sounds like his name should be Jet Brody, while enemies are nameless, faceless shiny dudes. There's also enough gray, green, and brown in this game to make you wonder if you caught some sort of disease that makes your eyes unable to see any other colors. Some aspects of the visuals, such as the ground, and most textures aren't much to look at, but they're not all bad. Some of the bigger explosions look nice, and the snow that falls in a later level is impressive. Outside of some hitching at save points, the frame rate is solid--an impressive feat given the amount of carnage that sometimes occurs. Although most of the audio could have been taken from a CD called Noises to Use in Your Futuristic Shooter, Volume 1, Fracture's music is noteworthy. The catchy theme from Michael Giacchino, Chris Tilton, and Chad Seiter is intense, without being overbearing. It's a real pleasure to listen to--it's too bad it's not featured more.
Other than sometimes frustrating gameplay, there's not a whole lot really wrong with Fracture--but there's not a whole lot really right with it either. If you need another shooter and you need it right now, you could do worse than Fracture. You could also do better.