Fracture Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

A game built around the raising and lowering of terrain is something that you don’t hear about every day, and, in what is a very crowded genre, it’s this that sets Fracture apart from the rest. This manipulating of the ground is something that is so unique, yet so simple, that it’s rather surprising that someone didn’t get there first.

The annoyingly named Jet Brody (I certainly preferred Mason Briggs which was his original, and more ordinary, name) is as charismatic as just about any 80’s action star, thus he’s not actually very charismatic at all, being one of the dullest and dumbest (more about this later) characters I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting in a game. The story on the other hand is rather clever, involving global warming, a future America (2161 to be precise, so no need for concern just yet) that has been split in half due to the melting of the polar ice caps, as well as a civil war between the two sides. It’s just a shame that dialogue is so dull and clichéd, whilst the plot doesn‘t really build on its potential, once again bringing to mind those 80’s action films (well, maybe not the potential part).

I mentioned that Jet is dumb, now to tell you why. Jet simply doesn’t seem very bright as when he gets hold of The Entrencher right at the beginning of the game, he still requires tips as to where and how to make use of it, despite being instructed of its capabilities. Anyway Jet may be stupid, but I will leave you in the dark no longer, The Entrencher is one of the things that makes Fracture such fun to play.

The Entrencher isn’t a weapon that will directly cause the death of your opposition, although it does allow you to raise and lower terrain, basically giving you the opportunity to create your own mole hills and craters (there’s also a couple of grenades which serve the same purpose) and even to send things tumbling down on top of your enemies, or, in guilty pleasure mode, to crush them against a roof. It’s sadly not possible to deform the ground at will, limiting you to dirt instead, whilst it also restricts you to just how far up or down the terrain will go, but it’s still mightily impressive and helps carve out an identity for the game.

All this ground morphing isn’t a pointless bit of fun to while away the hours on the battlefield, instead it gives you free reign to create a wall of dirt or a nice snug foxhole to avoid the gunfire of your enemies. Said enemies also have the kit and the clever intelligence to shape the battlefield, thus if you think you‘re safe behind something you might not be for very long, as they’ll use their ground altering guns and grenades to flush you out.

Weaponry is interesting with highlights including, tunnelling a torpedo under the ground (causing impressive ripples) that can be detonated at will, whilst the Deep Freeze Rifle allows you to freeze enemies or the ground, smashing them into icy particles or to temporarily halt any deformation respectively. The Lodestone gathers up enemies and loose objects in the vicinity, which means you can squash enemies between said objects, or perhaps force them into deadly hazards such as boiling hot lava. The Rhino gun amasses a boulder which can be lobbed at and will follow enemies on the run, steamrolling them and eventunally exploding. There’s the more traditional machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles to add bulk to your arsenal, alongside the rare and fantastic vortex grenade, which basically takes the lives of your enemies with a suction that is more powerful than any Hoover that I have ever encountered, and the spike grenade which gives you a raised platform for puzzle solving and to elevate yourself to higher areas. Of course, The Entrencher is deserving of another mention, so there you go I’ve mentioned it again.

Staying on the subject of terrain deformation, abusing the ground is also a requisite when it comes to puzzle solving. Puzzles are rarely difficult, only requiring you to stop playing and start thinking on the very odd occasion. If you need to get underneath something, yes you guessed it, you lower the terrain, if you need to scale to a higher area of the level, again you’ve guessed correctly, you elevate it. Obviously all the puzzles aren’t quite as straightforward as this, but patronising help is given to you all too often, whilst all the solutions do require you to have your way with the ground beneath your feet. Perhaps it all feels a little contrived then, although it’s only those who get tired of playing with the dirt that will have any complaints.

As for other game elements, Jet has a recharging shield and he can only carry two weapons at a time, both having become standard features of the action genre since Halo showed its tactical magic on the Xbox. You can also sprint, which brings about a Gears of War like shaky camera, and Jet’s suit receives some handy augmentations as you progress through the game.

There’s also a few thrilling driving sections, complete with a vehicle that can lower terrain and create ramps for it to jump across – all pretty standard stuff in Fracture’s game world then. It’s a nice change of pace from being on foot and, like the rest of the game, is very action packed with an impressive amount of things going on around you. In fact, that’s the game engine on the whole, it looks impressive, performs impressively, and whilst the ground deforming could have looked ridiculous, developer, Day 1 Studios, have done a fantastic and memorable job with it.

When going online you’ll find that Fracture has few real surprises, with the Excavation mode being its most unique. Again, what separates Fracture’s online mode from any similar game is the ground morphing, which is satisfying to use to your advantage when you’re playing against real people. I can’t tell you how great it felt, when one player rushed into a tunnel to avoid my grenade, I then raised the ground with The Entrencher and crushed them against the ceiling, killing them just when they thought they were safe. There’s Free for All (death matches), Capture the Flag, Kingmaker (King of the Hill), Break-In (the aim being to capture your opponents base) and, the already mentioned, Excavation (the only mode that forces you to use your Entrencher, with it you‘ll be digging up spikes in order to score points). It’s such a great online mode, that it’s a crying shame that uptake hasn’t been particularly strong, thus the game servers aren’t exactly heavily populated with players at this moment in time.

Fracture, with its ground deformation and unique weapons, is a tremendous amount of underrated fun. The ground deformation looks brilliant, more importantly it works as a mechanic that you are encouraged to use for puzzle solving as well as to shield yourself from the hostile reception. If only there were a few less patronising puzzles, the campaign lasted another couple of hours or so, and the story had been taken further it would have been a better game, although it still comes as a recommendation for those who can’t get enough action or a bit of innovation in their games.