In a futuristic America locked in a civil war between the Eastern and Western states, split between those who favour technology or direct genetic engineering, you control Jet Brody, a man with a porn star moniker and a gun called the Entrencher. This weapon can raise or lower the terrain, and by thatwe mean that it can create a weird-looking bump in certain areas of ‘dirt’ – limited to areas that the game tells you it can. It does so violently enough to throw any enemies, boxes or explosives on top of it flying upwards, or indeed downwards. Fracture itself works this bizarre gimmick into a reasonably generic third-person shooter using the Unreal Engine 3, and the greatest thing about it is the dedication to the world they’ve created.
While the story is packed with obvious political nonsense related to climate change and how human someone is with genetically monkeyed-with body parts, Day 1 has done its best to make the world believable. While the Entrencher and other terrain-fluxing devices are ridiculous in prospect, the game at least justifies them convincingly enough as a means of defeating the slowly rising water-levels. Artistically, it’s a triumph, with bright, sharp, colourful graphics and a consistent style to both the evil Pacificians and do-gooder Atlantic Alliance forces. Its above-average action sci-fi plot will carry you through some of the greater moments of teeth-gritting frustration that results from the combination of terrain deformation and unpredictable AI of the Pacific soldiers.
The action is somewhere between Dark Sector and a very floaty platformer. You raise and lower the terrain with the shoulder buttons, which is at first a little annoying, as it causes a few embarrassing situations where you go to shoot an enemy, instead accidentally bumping them a few feet in the air. However, once you get used to it, this mechanic becomes a useful way of making yourself some impromptu cover, or getting the high ground over enemies. As you’ve got a health system very similar to COD4, you can save your bacon by surrounding yourself with raised terrain; the time it takes enemies to find you between the rocks is just enough for your shields to recharge. In fact, using the Entrencher is incredibly satisfying when you do it with some freedom – changing the battlefield as you go and effectively controlling the enemy’s cover.
The problem is that Fracture is quite a linear game. For technological or logistical reasons, Day 1 have had to limit the areas in which you can use the Entrencher, and the weakest parts of the game are when it desperately wants to be another one. When you’re able to truly let loose and tear apart the battlefield, you’ll find it to be a chaotic, yet loveable shooter – but when you’re running along walkways and shooting at the same five kinds of soldier, you’ll lament the lack of a Brothers in Arms-style cover system, and the fact that, frankly, Fracture just isn’t that great a shooter. Any non-explosive weapon feels weak and ineffective, and there are many that you’ll just forget about using, erring on the side of the Raptor or, alternatively, just running over and punching enemies in the face.
To top it off, Terrain Deformation becomes a lot less fun when the game needlessly forces it on you in the form of a dull physics puzzle. A door will be hidden underground with little or no explanation, and some situations become a futile mess of shooting the ground or throwing grenades around until you’ve jumped through the right hoops. Ultimately, Fracture takes itself very, very seriously. The Entrencher is, let’s be honest, one of the sillier ideas in gaming history, and Day 1 missed the chance to poke fun at it with a series of Doom-style catchphrases, such as: “You just got a raise!” or other things. Instead, your superiors will tell you: “You need to get UP there SOMEHOW,” and you end up rolling your eyes in disbelief at their blunt insistence and Day 1’s painful shoehorning of their mechanic into the game.
This is an above-average shooter, with a semi-original concept that works only when it blends with the rest of the game. Still, Fracture is a fun diversion from the fact that we’re all going to be underwater in around 100 years.
Oct 7, 2008