There are so many third-person shooter games being released this year that it is starting to get ridiculous. When competing with so many large budget titles, how do you possibly stand a chance? Well you throw in a gimmick of course (just look at how much they help Nintendo)! The problem comes when knowing a gimmick limit and appeal, as overwhelming the other aspects of a games genre will only hurt the gameplay itself. An example of how to ‘do’ a gimmick would be Half-Life 2, with its gravity gun, while on the other hand of how not to ‘do’ a gimmick, we have Fracture.
Fracture allows you to deform the terrain by either heightening or lowering the land at places of dirt (which is basically everywhere). This concept alone is enough to make a giddy school kid wet himself with glee, but the learned gamer will know well to be hesitant of such concepts (for we have been hurt too many times before). Fracture handles how I expected upon first hearing about the title; like a confused bear in a roller disco. Whilst the experience is fun at first, allowing you to point at exciting moments to all your friends, the enjoyment soon ends when you find the lethal concoction turns into a frenzy of panic and death.
In a nutshell that is Fracture… confusion. A concept which is planned and taught throughout the tutorial as being extremely useful in the battlefield, allowing you to create bunkers and valleys for your advantage during combat. Sadly this only causes you and your enemies to battle over a playing field which can best be compared to a water bed. Guns, explosions and special grenades all vary the landscape, which both you and the enemy posses. Considering most battles include you, a few teammates, and a truck of enemies you can expect how this results. A flat plane with a few grenades and gunfire soon turns into a mess of bumps and dips with you having little knowledge of where enemies are shooting you from. The game does not suffer from a difficulty that is too hard, but more a gimmick which just complicates a simple situation. I found that using normal weapons without terrain deformation typically resulted in an easier combat experience, which completely ruins the plan that changing the land is meant to help me. This would be nothing more than simply disappointing if the basic gunplay controls were anything but dull and average. You can choose to play with the terrain which becomes confusing and causes more harm than help, or play without and basically bore yourself with dull controls and encounters. The fact that the game has a large range of different weapons is a slight relief to having to wade through rough gameplay; you will be thanking the stars that you have more than the dull assault rifle.
What lets the single player portion of Fracture down is the complete lack of needing to know, or caring, what is going on throughout the story. This is not helped at all by the basic structure of progression which relies on waves of enemies to progress. Recently games have had a steady emphasis on rushing and pushing forward, with breaks of standing ground. A good example of this would be Call of Duty 4 which does an excellent job at balancing progression of combat. Fracture typically revolves around moving ahead to a pointer, defeating a wave of enemies, then another will come out of some door/elevator, then another and finally it will end with a checkpoint. This quickly becomes frustrating as it is not only dull and repetitive, but dying on the second or third wave means restarting it all over again, time after time. Due to this it is not recommend playing Fracture on the hardcore difficulties (trust me, the frustration is not enjoyable).
As mentioned above, this is the general situation for the single player portion of Fracture. As for the multiplayer counterpart I could not tell you as the ability to have multiplayer locally has not been included (which is a large shame), and since the game is not yet released, there are no public servers present. I will give the benefit of doubt to the developers as I expect Fracture to be pretty intense and enjoyable as a multiplayer experience, with the removal of dull AI and repetitive progression through a forgetful story. If the game has been balanced so that terrain deformation is a requirement of combat, and not simply something that just gets in the way, Fracture could be a pretty unique and enjoyable online experience.
Sticking with what I was able to experience, graphically the game is rather bland, mostly thanks to the requirement of having lots and lots of mud at most stages of the game. If you thought Gears of War took the colour brown to extremes, you will love the environments of Fracture. Character models including friendly and enemy models look great, but they do not vary near enough, with a small selection of different styles of full-body armour , neglecting the need for many models. Equally the audio is great and never lets the game down, but equally does little to help it either. The end of battle dramatic scores are present, but the typically minor gun battles do little to create intensity; and the dull storyline makes little use of the good voice acting.
It’s a shame that LucasArts and developers Day 1 Studios did not nail the blend of terrain deforming and first-person combat. The moments out of combat when the terrain is used for puzzles works fantastic and the developers certainly deserve a pat on the back for developing such a complex game mechanic. Unfortunately it could easily be said that the title is but a fracture of what it could have been.