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Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Lucas Arts
Developer: Day 1 Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; (2 - 12 Online)
Genre: Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

I tend to like the shooter genre (both first and third person), but it is rare for me to find a game that truly gets me excited to play it, since they are typically all alike, or the main differences come in multiplayer, which I am not very good at, and thus I don't typically enjoy my experience online since it leads to dozens more deaths than kills.

Fracture, on the other hand, grabbed my attention a couple of years ago when I first saw some gameplay video at E3. It has all the earmarks of a third person shooter, but with the ability to manipulate the ground comes a whole series of possibilities.

Let me start with saying that Fracture looks like the type of game you would expect to see with today's hardware. Between your character model, enemy soldiers and the war-torn nation, this game is definitely not lacking in visual prowess. One of the smaller details about the game that I really enjoy are the ground effects whenever you use one of your terrain-deforming weapons. Your basic abilities will cause a bubble of earth to rise about eight feet in the air, or sink the earth into a nice sized crater. But the effects really shine when using weapons that go under the ground. A good example is the ST-4 which launches a torpedo under the ground. As it travels, it leaves a ripple effect in its wake, much like water. While anything that can manipulate the environment in these ways probably won't have this smooth liquid-like feel in real life, it is still a nice visual effect that works really well.

Sound isn't bad either. The game's dialogue flows and your character keeps quiet while on the battlefield (except when spoken to, of course), so you won't have a lot of random banter that could result in repetitive comments. Another plus when it comes to audio is the music. It really gets you moving and sets the action-paced mood just right. Attempting to play the game with the music turned down would just leave the scene feeling very different.


Fracture takes place a hundred and fifty years in the future, when a threat of global warming led to the development of technology that can reshape the ground in order to save the coastlines. Unfortunately, the central section of the USA was lost to the ocean and the country became divided. This division wasn't just a physical change of the map either. The Western half invested in developing biological technology and enhancing humans through the use of genetic research. Meanwhile, the Eastern side developed more traditional technology, but when the President declared that altering human DNA is illegal, a civil war broke out and thus you play a single East Coast super soldier who is sent into the Pacifican's capital in San Francisco to try and capture their leader, General Nathan Sheridan.

When I first learned the game's story, I was afraid I would experience a tale where I got preached to about global warming, or even about going too far with genetic manipulation, and while the game touches on these subjects lightly, you never get the feeling you are being preached to - which is always great.

As I said before, Fracture takes your standard shooter, and with the ability to change the land, gives you a powerful tool that really becomes more than just a gimmick. Instead of allowing you to raise or lower the ground in certain areas, or only when the game wants you to do it, you can take any open patch of dirt and make yourself some cover, or open up a doorway if it is buried, or sink your enemies lower so you have the higher ground, or squeeze them into the ceiling by raising the ground under their feet. The possibilities really are pretty staggering and it does change the gameplay experience dramatically.

I have to say, I did enjoy the single player experience quite a lot. I've found that, more times than not, shooter developers tend to focus more on the multiplayer experience and stick a single player campaign on there for little more than training, and that mode typically feels very tacked on. Such is not the case with Fracture. One of the nicer touches was the fact that I rarely felt like I was playing through individual levels. The game's missions flow smoothly from one to the next, and you never really have to stop and wait for a loading screen unless the two missions are separated by a cinematic. But considering the number of missions the game is divided into, there are far more smooth transitions than between-level videos.

Though I have to say, I would have preferred just a bit more variety in the enemy troops. You have your standard grunt, your tougher shotgun trooper, your high-jumping rocket launcher, the really fast guys and the huge brutes that shoot sticky balls of goo that explode. Besides a few variations on these themes and some bosses, that's pretty much all you will be facing.

In order to facilitate the terrain deformation abilities, you have a wide range of weapons (both Atlantican and Pacifican) that do more than simply deal damage. Some hide underground, while some stick to whatever they hit (be it person, place or thing), while others create a gravitational pull that either throws anything that isn't nailed down in a single direction, or scoops it up into a massive vortex where it will be beaten to death and tossed out in a massive explosion.

Multiplayer is another area where Fracture's core terrain deformation mechanic really shines. Standard games like Capture the Flag really change when you can raise the ground to block doorways, or seed your flag's location with a grenade that is ready to blow as soon as someone comes after it. Besides the Capture the Flag game, Fracture also features both team and single Free For All and King of the Hill style games, as well as a new game mode called Excavation.

In Excavation, teams try to claim various control points around the map by digging down as far as possible. Once they claim an area, a rock-spike appears making it a little harder for the other team to reclaim it.

The last mode that Fracture features is the Weapons Testing level. This self-contained world is a desert area that will eventually have each type of weapon and upgrade available for you to pick up and play with (as well as a few other extra features). At first, you simply have a couple of guns and a playground to have fun in, but as you play through the campaign and collect purple Data Chips, you will unlock everything else. I enjoyed this because it is so rare to be given this kind of sandbox to play with new technology and features like this. This is the type of thing I wish I had available in games like Star Wars: Force Unleashed so that I could play with DMM and Euphoria.


Fracture's single player campaign really focuses on getting you used to using terrain deformation. If you just run into a room and treat it like a standard shooter, most likely, your shields will go down quickly and you won't last very long. Instead, you use your tools to build your own cover and make your way through the hordes of Pacificans at your own pace.

The game has three difficulty settings: Casual, Standard and Hardcode, and there is a noticeable difference in the enemy A.I. in each of these settings. I found the troops of the easier settings were more willing to hold back and wait for your attack, or were easy to lose track of you by simply hiding behind a wall, while Hardcore troops were much more aggressive. On the Standard setting, I was able to run through the single player campaign in about 15 hours, and while a lot of people might claim that is short, it didn't feel like that while in the game itself.

Multiplayer is also a very different experience. Usually, I downright suck at online games like this. I rarely rack up any kills, never win a match and only occasionally find myself on the winning team. Consequently, I don't participate as much as I probably should, and thus I don't develop the required skills as quickly as I should. In Fracture, though, I found the experience much more balanced for average players. I don't know if that's just because the terrain deformation mechanic is still new and all of those hardcore gamers are still trying to figure it out, or if it does really help to level the playing field, but at this point anyway, the game is much more accessible to the normal player out there.

Game Mechanics:

Fracture's core mechanic is, of course, terrain deformation, and in order to make that feature more than simply a gimmick, the developers at Day 1 Studios really worked to make it highly accessible and usable. Your primary means of reshaping the level comes from a devise called the Entrencher. By tapping (RB), you raise the ground in your sights, while (LB) lowers it. You will also get upgrades like a double jump that causes a swell of ground to appear under you, or a ground-punch that sends a shockwave out around you.

The other objects that help you change the land are your weapons. I already mentioned the torpedo launcher, but you also have a grenade launcher that can gouge massive trenches in the ground, gun turrets that lowers the land, a gun that creates a ball of rock that goes after your opponents and a gun that pulls people and rocks towards the point of impact.

Fracture also features four types of hand-thrown grenades that will raise the ground, lower it, create a column of rock or a swirling vortex that kills pretty much anything that gets sucked in. It really is interesting to see how these different weapons and abilities reshape the levels and by having them so freely available, terrain deformation really becomes a whole new system that is just fun to play with.

I highly recommend this game. It's a ton of fun, and if you have any inclination towards shooters, you should definitely look into this title. At the very least, download the demo just so you can get a feel for how terrain deformation works.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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