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Fracture Review

Fracture pack shot
Developer:Day 1 Studios
Publisher:LucasArts
Genre:Third Person Shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.fracturegame.com/
Release Date:October 10th, 2008 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
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Diggers are cool. There’s no other way of defining how watching a massive JCB machine tear into the ground and rip massive chunks out of it makes you feel. So how would you feel if you could raise or lower the terrain at will, simply by pointing your arm at it- very cool is the answer.

So we come to Fracture, the latest offering from Lucasarts who are, no doubt, capitalising on the sudden surge in interest as a result of their last release- The Force Unleashed. In that game, far-out force powers was the gimmick, in this one, the selling point is all about two words- Terrain Deformation- the ability to raise and lower the in-game environment at will, and honestly, it pretty much rewrites the rules of third-person shooters.

Anyway, the plot centres on the plight of the United States of America (no surprise there), which, as the seas rose and started to drown the world, shored up its borders using massive terrain altering machines.

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Although the western US and the eastern US survived the change, the middle of the massive country was destroyed by the cataclysm, and this fracture (see?) in the country’s unity grew until they became entirely different nations, each with their own take on the evolution of man.

The eastern US, now known as the Nation of Pacifica, took to using genetic modification to survive the changing world, while the western US, now forming the Atlantic Alliance, abhorred any kind of genetics, choosing instead to turn to cybernetics and transcend humanity with technology.

Into the beginnings of this war comes your character, the macho-named Jet Brody, who is sent to stop the dangerous Pacifican General Sheridan from doing something or other.

If you can’t tell, the plot isn’t really something you haven’t seen before, so I’ll just skip over it and get to the true meat of the game- gameplay.

Brody is your typical hard-nut solider, who handily bears more than a passing resemblance to Marcus Fenix of the Gears of War games. Actually, to be honest, the whole feeling of playing as Brody is comparable to different bits ‘borrowed’ out of some of the Xbox’s best sellers.

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First up is the over-the-shoulder view, Brody’s chunky armour and the ability to sprint (featuring a similar shaky-camera), which have been lifted from Gears. Brody’s armour is equipped with shielding which can take a few shots then needs a few seconds to recharge provided you can find cover- a mechanic obviously lifted from Halo, as is the ability to carry only two weapons- forcing you to choose your arsenal.

Finally, the way Brody switches between weapons and can run and gun with impunity is more than a little familiar to me as it seems to have been lifted straight out of Mercenaries. So what we have is a copy-cat game with a fairly boring plot, and, if it wasn’t for the gameplay, I’d almost certainly have panned it, but, thanks to its gimmick or unique feature if you will, this one elevates itself out of the rank-and-file shooters that sully the genre.

Put simply, the ability to deform the terrain on the fly gives the game a whole new element. Provided you fire at an open patch of ground, the ‘Entrencher’ tool attached to Brody’s arm will raise or lower the ground with one shot.

Say you need to get around a fence, you could build a hill to climb over it, or you could fire your entrencher at the ground in front of you and burrow under it- your choice. Say you need to climb up a ramp that’s flat on the ground- throw a spike grenade under it and watch as a boiling hot spike of magma lurches up to lift ramp high into the air- the possibilities are endless.

Granted, the entrencher only works on open ground, and the frequent spells inside corridors or sealed bases removes the gimmick from the gameplay, when you’re running around, forcing your way through the stream of rent-a-grunt Pacificans, there’s nothing better than digging your own bunker while your shields recharge, or raising the ground under you as you jump, flinging yourself into the air like an acrobat.

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You will find that your old tactics of gameplay are useless- it’s no use hiding behind that hill over there- your enemies will just lower it, digging you into a hole why they fire at you mercilessly.

And they will be firing at you- a lot. You have a considerable arsenal at your command, from the basic assault rifles to snipers, mine launchers, and even a couple of weapons which use terrain deformation- such as the underground-torpedo launcher, or the deadly vortex grenade that will suck in everything around it before exploding.

My personal favourite was the Rhino, a gun which gathers up the dirt and mud, electrifies it and fires off a glowing ball of energy which chases its target and kills them in one hit- naturally, this gun became a favourite on multiplayer as savvy gamers realised the massive number of ‘balls’ jokes that could be made when using it.

Speaking of multiplayer, Fracture features all the usual flag and deathmatch games, with a few interesting additions, including one known as ‘excavation’ - where two teams fight to control zones which have to be dug down to, turning each round into a mole hunt.

The multiplayer offers the use of all the terrain deforming abilities and weapons from the single player, resulting in turning what was once a large open field into something resembling the battlefields of World War One in seconds.

Coupled with this is a brilliantly written dramatic score and an excellent graphics engine that renders the action beautifully, if a little jumpy when the action gets a little too heavy.

The replay value should keep you going for hours, even if you get bored with the underwhelming AI and rubbish plot.

Summary

Overall, Fracture is the type of game that you’ve played before, but the terrain deformation feature is more than an added bonus, it’s the very centre of the game. If you’re looking for something to bridge the gap between now and Gears of War 2, a game with something a little different than your standard shooter, then this might be worth a look.

The bottom line
7.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Terrain Deformation is awesome
  • Fast paced gameplay
  • Brilliant score
  • Cracking multiplayer

Not so good stuff

  • Boring plot
  • Feels very similar to two or three other games
  • Terrain Deformation is underused
  • Can be buggy when a lot is going on (and a lot is always going on)


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