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Fracture

They warned us about this. Global warming. They said it was going to change the world. If Fracture is anything to go by, then we’ve got a major problem on ours hands. Depicting a ravaged and war-torn America, it seems the state of mankind is sure to plummet over the next hundred years. In this tale of devastation and destruction, Day 1 Studios tries to break the mould of the generic third-person shooter by offering a hugely original and entertaining experience. Somewhat ironically, this notion is instantly shattered, as Fracture plays out as a broken and merciless mess of standard, uninspiring storytelling.

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It must be said; you’d be forgiven for letting this one slip under your gaming radar recently. With an abundance of excellent, genre defining titles being released, Fracture is sure to have passed many by without leaving the faintest impression. Fortunately, this impression would have only been made up of frustration, boredom, and total disappointment.

The signs for a game are never good when you can immediately spot the overwhelming influences behind it. Opening with an initially impressive tutorial, it wouldn’t take a gaming novice long to spot who and what Fracture is trying to be. With huge third-person nods to the likes of Gears of War, Fracture instantly begins to lose any smatter of credit it may have started with. Granted, many games follow the fashion of the influential trendsetters, but these titles often come out looking less stylish and completely horrific in comparison.

Fracture is sure to have passed many by without leaving the faintest impression”So, what is Fracture actually all about? After the polar ice cap melts and the “Great Flood” splits the US in two, the entire planet is in complete chaos. With an insignificant government and lack of authority, two very different states are formed. In the West, you have the Atlantic Alliance, the homeland of your hero, Mason Briggs. Partnered with the technical prowess of Europe, this state evolves inhabitants by using cybernetics, a method developed over hundreds of years. By creating new weaponry and armour, the Atlantic Alliance battles against the opposing threat of their newfound enemies, the Pacificans. These opponents have not only formed a partnership with Asia, they structure their entire ethos around the evolution of human genetics. With the knowledge that the Pacificans are creating world-capturing weapons, the President of the Atlantic Alliance orders a ruthless attack on a number of their hideouts. Sound familiar?

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Once you get past the futuristic, yet extremely familiar narrative, you’ll be sure to uncover what is an infuriatingly shallow shooter. Made up of largely run and gun tactics, there isn’t anything here that betters any of the gunplay we’ve seen from lacklustre titles such as Mercenaries 2. It really is a great shame, as Fracture has one or two ideas that could have turned the genre on its unforgiving head.

If you’ve ever heard anything about this game prior to release, then it’s sure to be regarding the new feature that Day 1 herald as “terrain defamation.” This new take to weaponry sounds remarkably fun, as it allows players to manipulate the soft ground around them. In practise, the premise is as uninspiring and shallow as the rest of the game. Admittedly, players can throw enemies around by flicking the ground beneath their feet up, and can also protect themselves by creating defensive barriers for the enemy to work through. Although this is the case, the whole idea becomes overly scripted and too obvious. We wanted to be able to express our strategies by manipulating the battlefield to our advantage – not by following on-screen hints to “lower the ground here” in order to pass. The technique involved is terribly implemented, and never allows the player freedom to utilise what is a great idea, if only on paper at least.

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In fact, heavy scripting is part of what makes Fracture so problematic. With directions and orders being whispered into your ear, and obviously placed hints scattered throughout the terrain, you’ll rarely have to use your brain in order to progress. The times that do require a slight exercise of the mind do not fit into the feeling of the rest of the game either, as objectives become confused and uninformative. A number of times during our play through, we felt as if not enough information was given to successfully pass through an area, and many other times, we felt too much help was given. By not getting this balance correct, the ruthlessly alternating difficulty of the title will alienate more players than it will attract. A terrible design flaw, and an aspect of Fracture that should have been scrutinised more before release.

If by any chance you have the nerve to overcome these isolating surges of difficulty, then you may find some entertainment in Fracture, at least until the end of the first act anyway. Concluding with the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge, this is the most exciting part of the story. By this time, you would have got to grips with most of the weapons that are on offer; some of which are great fun to master.

“the ruthlessly alternating difficulty will alienate more players than it will attract”Most of the time, you’ll be equipped with a regular machine gun or sniper rifle, as these are the most common to pop up. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble across one of the more effective guns, including a mine scattering weapon, a rocket launcher, and even a freezing device. The best weapon comes in the form of the “Lodestone”; a gun that sucks all nearby particles in towards it, and then spits them out like an agitated toddler throwing its toys around a playpen. As terrain defamation can be combined at any time, this is meant to open up a whole new set of possibilities. Oddly, many of the grenades have the same effect as the defamation gun or other weapons, meaning there is less variety on how players will tackle each firefight. That is, if you bother after the first hour of play, as it’ll become all too clear that you are pitting yourself against an army of totally mindless, and mechanically robotic goons.

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The depth (or rather lack of it) of Fracture’s design begins to wear the player out quickly, especially if you are looking for an original set of enemies to face. This represents the lowest point of the game, as the army of Pacificans show up looking like an over-sexed group of Power Rangers. They all glow, usually green or gold, and all fit into the inevitable class system at some point into the game. You start off against the lowest rank, and eventually work your way up through the terribly apparent divisions of the army. You have the cannon fodder, the snipers, the bulkier shotgun wielders, the super-fast travellers, and even the jet-packing explosive kind. If you manage to shoot one of them in the head, then be sure to witness them standing in the same position, and not flinching until they are shot again, eventually dying. AI is taken to a new low, as the reactions to gunfire are non-existent and humorously absent.

And yes, there will be a lot of them to gun down. In a stupidly cheap move, battles will see the re-spawning of numerous enemies, meaning you can never be sure when a shoot-out is won. With a set of useless AI allies alongside you for “help,” the lone-wolf story couldn’t be in greater view here. It’s so disappointing to see a game that promised so much fall into the traps that many before have succumbed to. Oddly, what started out as a relatively ripe idea quickly shows itself to be a seed not worthy of growing, as the economical design and flaws are all too apparent from the outset.

“Oddly, what started out as a relatively ripe idea quickly shows itself to be a seed not worthy of growing”If you do somehow enjoy the single-player experience, then there is a set of well-rounded multiplayer games to play through. As with everything else, Fracture doesn’t innovate here; but it is entertaining. With a group of friends, the weapon set on offer allows for a decent experience online. If you are going to get any value out of the game, it’ll sure to be from the online section; something that can amount to a good few laughs, as you all use the defamation tools against each other in a variety of frantic, fast-paced battles.

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It happens so often. A game that promises a different outlook on an overcrowded genre often stutters into the depressive faults of those before it. By trying to match up to juggernauts such as Gears of War and Halo, Fracture ultimately becomes a prisoner shackled by predictability and poor design. Ironically, what began as an interestingly fresh premise finished as an unoriginal and largely barren product. You’d expect LucasArts to publish better and more polished works, as this game could have spent another few months churning in the production pit. At least that way, it might stand some chance against the exceptional field of titles that are hitting our screens over the next month.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

Gentle persuasion

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