October 19, 2008
Tell me if you have heard of this story; a boy’s parents are killed by a gang of thugs and the boy is thought to be killed, boy gets found by a village and is raised to protect said village. The army ends up recruiting him and now is off to save the world. Generic? In some ways no, but in most ways, absolutely. Fracture is the latest production from LucasArts and developed by Day 1 Studios. While a valiant attempt at trying something new, Fracture gets stuck in following the same trends we have seen in so many games today.
Roadie run from Gears of War? Check. Emotionless character from Mass Effect? Check. Halo style HUD and shields? Double-check. Don’t get me wrong, none of these things are bad, but it seems like so many great ideas from other games were done so half-assed in Fracture. They have also given the bald-headed main character the worst name for a hero I have ever seen; Jet Brody sounds like the type of kid who would have gotten stuffed in his locker, given a wedgie, and then thrown in the garbage can at least twice a day when in high school. Of course, now that he is all grown up and a general bad-ass, you wouldn’t think to cross him. It’s not just his name that damages your ability to associate with him, it’s the voice acting as well. Imagine a computer talking to you; now replace the computer’s voice with a human and you have our pal Jet, it just seems so generic and monotonal. The horrible voice acting isn’t just confined to Jet either; his “father”, Colonel Roy Lawrence, also sounds as emotional as a brick. The only good voice acting performance can be credited to one of the four main characters, Mariko Tokuyama. Enough about the voice-acting, let’s jump in to the action.
The world is in crisis; the icecaps have long since melted and global warming has taken a brutal toll on our planet. The United States is no more and is split into two factions separated by a large mass of water; The Pacificans and the Atlantican Alliance who are two very separate groups. The Pacificans aim to do whatever they want with no consequence, such as augmenting the human body while the Atlantican Alliance claim that science has gone too far and just wants things back to the way they were. You begin playing as Jet to learn the basics in a generic tutorial level that attempts to show what makes this game so great.
I must say, I was quite impressed with the way “special” grenades can augment the terrain to your advantage. Armed with an augmentation called “The Entrencher,” you can fire it into the ground to either raise or lower the terrain to your advantage. Can’t reach a ledge? Fire the entrencher at your feet and be raised high enough to make the jump. There are also different grenades that allow you to reach even further heights and even create a vortex which sucks enemies in and destroys them in a satisfying manner. However, this is the only intuitive thing in this game and Fracture abuses it to a great extent. Solving puzzles becomes a chore because they all deal with deforming and reforming the terrain. I was stuck at many parts because I had deformed the terrain so much that it caused it to be incredibly uneven and unstable. Items began flying around as I tried to level the ground only to have things fall on my head and drop my shields. It eventually became so frustrating that I would give up and just reload the previous checkpoint to try again.
The enemies in this game follow the same generic pattern that all other FPS titles tend to follow today. Weak light infantry accompanied by medium to heavy infantry and once again, Fracture follows this formula to a T. What I don’t understand is why do they take so many bullets? Not only do they have shields, but when their shields are gone, then you have to fill the enemies with bullets again just to drop them, and that was only the first one! As the levels progress, you get introduced to new soldiers that are essentially the same but just eat more lead before dying. The guns are extremely bland with the prototypical assault rifle, shotgun, long-range rifle, sniper rifle, and rocket/grenade launcher. However, there is one gun that breaks the mold and it just so happens to be my favorite. This little piece, when fired, burrows underground until detonated by Jet. Perfect for when you don’t have the rocket launcher and still highly effective.
While terrain deformation is cool, it just seemed like the visuals were, for lack of a better word, blah. Even the enemies who were supposed to be brightly colored seemed dull and the game just didn’t feel alive, even though I could move the ground with a click of my bumper. To be honest, it felt like I was walking through a graveyard the entire first act. It may not have just been the visuals that led to me thinking this way, but the action that went along with it. The pattern of play tended to be fighting for two minutes and then puzzle solving for ten; now multiply that by twenty and you have the first act laid out for you. It most definitely becomes tedious and ultimately, boring by the end of the level.
The online offerings for Fracture are the norm for an FPS; with deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag. Other gametypes include “kingmaker” which is essentially king of the hill and new gametypes “break-in” and “excavation.” Break-in is definitely the match you want to look for if you want a break from your normal routine of deathmatch type games. It offers something unique without budging too far from a proven concept. With this gametype, you have to break into the opposing team’s bunker and hold it for as long as possible, while it may seem easy, it's far from it. Excavation is a gametype in which you have to "excavate" five points on a map and hold them for a short time to raise your team's spike - the trick is, these spikes can be destroyed so it ends up being a balancing act between attacking and defending your team's established spikes. I had no trouble with getting into a game as the servers seemed to be working well and the games were full to the brim with 12 players; 6 being the maximum amount of players per team, with not much lag at all. One major gripe with the multiplayer games is that you start off with a God-awful gun, so ultimately the first 30 seconds of the match you'll spend sprinting to find a better gun because if you don’t, you are in for a match of misery. Getting my face rubbed into the terrain that I had just deformed was not my idea of a good time. I spent the first couple matches wanting to break my controller because I didn’t find the right gun right off the bat. Eventually it got much better and the matches became competitive.
The achievements for Fracture are typical (surprise!). A smattering of story-based mixed with weapon achievements make for an easy 800-900 points. After playing for only a couple hours I had already achieved 300 points fairly effortlessly. While there are 12 multiplayer achievements, none of them will leave you pulling your hair out. If you enjoy the game online, you will eventually get them all. The nicest thing of all is that you can begin games with only two people. So get a buddy and knock all the online ones out as soon as you can!
I know I was harsh on this game and even to poor Jet and whilst it wasn’t the best FPS by any means, I admire LucasArts for taking a risk and trying to create a more dynamic gameplay experience. You just can’t overlook the fact that even if your character died, you just didn't care. The only thing it seemed like I was fighting for, was to save the planet once again from evildoers. I was extremely hooked after reading the back-story and expected big things which Fracture failed to deliver.
It seemed like the music either didn’t fit the mood or wasn’t even there for parts of the game. Even when I was paying attention to the audio, I didn't particularly enjoy it. Coupled with the lack of emotion in the voice-acting means that Fracture doesn’t score higher here.
Bland environments that really evoke no emotion or thought leads to Fracture’s downfall. Buildings that look generic and seem to have no distinguishing features leaves me wondering if they could have done something more.
Controls were responsive enough to give this a decent score. I just wish the damn enemies wouldn’t take entire clips before they fell. Also, if you screw up on deforming the terrain, good luck trying to fix it. You are better off a lot of the time starting over from scratch.
You know, this one really hurts because they brought a lot of controversial topics to the table and really didn’t exploit it. Now, I don’t know that by the year 2189 the U.S. will be split in half by a massive body of water due to global warming or whether or not we will genetically modify ourselves to the point of being a machine but the potential was there for such great things. I just felt so much more could have been done…so much more.
Just your run-of-the-mill achievements. No surprises and no secrets either. The only ones that might get tedious are the complete 500 and 1500 multiplayer games. Fortunately, you can do these with your buddy in a week if you set aside an hour every day. All others should be a piece of cake.
I really thought this was going to be an awesome game. I mean, I was really smiling when I put this into the tray. That smile eventually turned into a neutral look as I plodded through the predictable levels. In the end, I just wanted the act to be over so I could play something else. Not good for a game that had so much potential. Like I said before, I really do applaud LucasArts for trying something new, but is it really new if you just add one new element to a game? I just felt a lot of things were borrowed from other games when they really didn’t need to be. I just hope Fracture isn’t foreshadowing the future for our grandkids and later generations.