Fracture - Demo Hands-on
24/09/2008 at 01:29
Opening with a fairly uninspired cut scene that could have been lifted from any action game you can care to think of (gruff superior officer, buzz cut, generi-sci-fi space marine in bulky armour adorned with useless lights etc.), Fracture could quite possibly be yet another uninspired third-person shooter upon first sight. But, as you'll already be more than well aware, it's not.
Covering the obligatory tutorial mission, the Fracture demo (now available on PSN and Xbox LIVE) throws your generic looking space marine geezer, Jet Brody (no, really) into a fenced-in training arena, holding your hand through the game's controls and the functions of your funky terra-forming gun. Fracture's control system immediately feels intuitive, mapping your earth-shifting weaponry to the left and right bumpers. A quick tap on the left lowers the ground into a crater whilst the right raises it into a mound that you can either use for cover or climb it to reach higher ground. Multiple presses increase the effects so you can burrow and build to your heart's content. Or so you'd think. Actually, you're limited to only three stages of increasing height or depth and you can only raise or collapse certain patches of dirt, which is a tad disappointing to say the least. Nevertheless, it's a neat mechanic that makes for some great strategic play, although its usage is persistently signposted leaving no room to formulate your own approach to Fracture's obstacles. We pray that this is only the case for the demo as this could really ruin the entire concept. In fact to even consider that this will carry on into the full experience is ludicrous, as the game would be rendered pointless and well...shit.
Further large-scale landscape gardening can be executed using Spike Grenades to form huge pillars of rock for reaching perilous heights although the blight of the ubiquitous invisible wall keeps you hemmed in should the desire to embark upon random exploration take you. In the demo, the Spike Grenade also demonstrates the scope for interacting with the environment and utilising the realistic physics. Sure, all you do is raise a large slab into a ramp, but it's still mildly impressive and indicative that at least some thought has gone into crafting the game.
Other grenades perform various other functions such as forming instant craters or just plain old blowing-stuff-up. There're a host of weapons introduced too, all twists on recognisable favourites. Rocket and grenade launchers, sniper rifles and so on - they're all here amongst a host of more inventive weaponry held back for the full game, such as the ALM-37 Deep Freeze (a freeze ray) and the Lodestone Rifle (a gravity gun that launches object attracting gravity balls).
Overall, our hands on time with Fracture is pleasant enough. The visuals are pleasingly crisp and shiny with little noticeable faults other than a nagging case of 'been here before, done that before' syndrome. Using your terrain deforming 'Entrencher' is great fun, inviting experimentation although there's little room to go wild fucking the terrain up on a whim, as patches of malleable dirt are sadly limited.
There certainly appears to be enough variety in the weaponry and the possible scenarios that Fracture the full game will throw your way should make for a compelling shooter with a uniquely strategic twist. On the basis of the demo however, Fracture's potential could quite easily be squandered by placing a (literally) groundbreaking gameplay mechanic within a tightly linear framework. We can only hope that Lucasarts has seen the sense to let players run riot with the landscaping action rather than funnelling us into more predictably restrictive territory.
For those too impatient to await a review considering a purchase, you can take some solace in the fact that if the single-player sucks, the multiplayer mode will almost definitely...ahem...rock.