Fracture is one of those games that you'll want to love but can't. Even more so than LucasArts' other recent next-gen release Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Fracture will dumbfound you with endless moments of greatness followed by even more moments of vein popping annoyance. It's a game that teases you with possibilities, but rarely delivers, and it somehow manages to look solidly next-gen and woefully generic at the same time. Just as the United States has been divided in the game, our thoughts on Fracture are split right down the middle. Can a game be good and bad at the same time?
If you were describing Fracture to your typical Halo/Resistance loving gamer they'd probably be very interested. It's a third-person shooter that allows you to manipulate the ground. Dirt can be lowered and raised by firing your special Entrencher gun into the ground. One button fires off a lowering blast, another fires a raising blast. It's pretty neat. This basic idea is used throughout the game, with puzzles being solved by moving the ground, cover being made on the fly by raising the ground, pathways being cleared and enemies bamboozled. As we said, it's pretty neat and initially quite exciting.
You also have numerous weapons that work with this terraforming mechanic. Grenades come in four types, two causing explosions while lowering or raising the ground, one causing a pillar of rock to shoot out of the ground and the other causing a mini vortex of air that sucks up everything (including enemies and objects, and you if you're close enough) before imploding. The Vortex Grenade will probably go down in history as one of the best weapons ever to grace a video game, it's that much fun to use.
On top of this your standard weapons aren't too shabby either. As well as standard machine gun, sniper rifle and shotgun-alikes you'll get hold of plenty more interesting tools of destruction. Our favourites are the rocket launcher, the grenade launcher and the Rhino (we won't spoil what the Rhino does, but it's very cool). The grenade launcher, named the Black Widow, allows you to fire off four explosives before detonating them one after the other. We're not especially sadistic here at VideoGamer.com but it's hard not to smile as enemies go flying after mini explosions tear up the landscape.
The game even does a pretty good job of gradually introducing these tools, so you don't feel overwhelmed with options. You'll grasp the basics pretty quickly and it won't be long until you're crushing enemies with your ground shifting super gun. There's rarely a dull moment as you work through the sizeable three-act campaign, but something isn't right. On paper Fracture should be amazing fun, but for a lot of the time it's simply not.
Let's start with the story, something that could and should have been a strong backbone to the action gameplay. After an intro that briefly fills us in about the two sides (evil Pacificans who want genetic modification and the Atlantic Alliance good guys) we're not given much more to latch on to. A fight between those who approve of genetic modifications and those who don't has the potential for quite a lot of deep storytelling, but it falls a distant second to the endless ground deforming and explosions.
Although great on paper the shooter mechanics in Fracture just don't feel as good as we'd like. It's down to a combination of loose controls, an occasionally awkward camera and hard as nails enemies. If you're not careful it's far too easy to find yourself being pelted from all angles, with death only seconds away. Yes, you can use your Entrencher to raise the ground and create temporary cover, but that's easier said than done when you've got snipers on numerous high platforms, a guy flying around with a rocket launcher and some generic grunts throwing grenades and firing their guns at ground level. It often becomes too much to take, and you'll get into loops of death that seemingly have no escape.
You can get through these moments, but creeping about and taking out a group of enemies by poking your head out from behind a crate over the period of five minutes isn't much fun. Tactics do come into play in Fracture, but stealth isn't one of its strong points. The onslaught of enemies is one of Fracture's most hard to forgive problems. At times there seems to be no end to them, with battles going on far too long and with no clear end in sight. These aren't particularly special moments either, but simply areas that have quite clearly been designed to extend your time with the game.
After a while smaller things start to grate too, like the often terribly placed checkpoints (a couple that spring to mind triggered a split second from instant death). It's rare that you have to replay large chunks of the game, and you can restart quite quickly, but you'll grow very tired of the restart menu before you finish the game. Unless your gaming skills were granted to you by a being greater than the Games Master you're going to die a lot, often in the most infuriating manner possible.
Yet despite these problems we were eager to carry on. Perhaps we were attracted to the technically impressive visuals, ever hoping that the art direction would find some inspiration before we saw the end credits roll. Perhaps we just wanted to set off another Vortex Grenade or collect more tokens so we could unlock more items in the Weapons testing facility. It's hard to pinpoint an exact reason, but somehow Fracture managed to get hold of us.
Twelve-player multiplayer is also available in both versions of the game, but it's hard to see it gaining a large following. The terrain deforming makes for something of a unique experience, but the core shooter mechanics don't really suit competitive gameplay. Although people are already using the terrain tools to do some cool stuff, we think the novelty will wear off quite quickly, especially with numerous higher profile shooters out very soon.
Although the text next to the score below says 'disappointing' Fracture is more than that. If there was more room it would add the words 'but worth a look', because it most certainly is. It will be an incredibly dividing game though, with many people unable to forgive its considerable flaws, others completely taken in by the technology and others unsure what to think either way. We certainly felt the earth move but not in the way we'd hoped.