I have a lot of great memories of playing video games, but just like my social life a lot of it is completely forgettable. However, unlike my social life, Fracture (available for the PS3 and Xbox360) actually had a chance to be something great. You see, Fracture is a classic example of trying to do way too much and winding up with nothing.
When I first heard of its development I was praying for another unique action/puzzle game that could rival Portal’s portals for greatness, but that fantasy was quickly pushed aside for shiny graphics and driving levels that gave me Halo flashbacks.
Fracture moved even further away from Portal by being a 3rd person shooter published by (George) LucasArts. It drops you into the body of Jet Brody (I will just leave that one alone and let you insert your own joke here) who is a member of the American military during a dystopic version of the future.
Anyone else notice that the future always seems to be a dystopia in video games?
Anyhow, in this future the States have been divided into two groups over the question of what is better for humanity: technological enhancement or genetic engineering? At the same time global warming has run amuck, creating a physical barrier in the form of a giant body of water that conveniently divides these two groups. In the end, the Divided States of America eventually declare themselves to be two separate nations, and a war breaks out.
At this point I can only guess that the people of the future believe airplanes, boats, bridges, telephones, and the internet are beneath them somehow. It is the only explanation I can figure out for water causing the isolation/separation of these two nation states. This is actually the type of multi-nation disaster that even I would expect to bring people closer together; and I lost my faith in my fellow man years ago. However, in the end it does work well to drive the story forward, so I suggest that we just accept that it happened and move on.
Especially, when there are far more important things to sink our teeth into.
To start off with the AI seems to be a bit forgetful at times. At least I hope that is it; if not I think I have the right to feel a little hurt considering they seem to forget about me the second I am out of direct eye contact. This actually happens a lot during the game, but the most bizarre instance happened when I decided to charge an enemy position on one of the levels. It was basically 5 enemy AIs hidden behind a row of waist high walls. They were taking cover behind it on one side, so I decided to take cover behind it on the other just for kicks. At this point I was a quarter of a meter away from them, and for some reason the second that I crouched down (and was out of direct eye contact) they stopped firing. They then began to walk around casually and a few of them even tried to walk off like they didn’t have a care in the world. It wasn’t until I began to fire again that they remembered I was there.
That was also one of the few times that I actually fired my gun. The guns of Fracture are either underpowered or extremely limited when it comes to ammo. So more often than not I would just use a melee attack. I actually found it to be easier because:
The enemies are all the exact same frustrating colour as the background, so it is usually impossible to tell what is dirt and what is a bad guy until you are right on top of them anyways; and
It is usually faster to just run up to the enemy and smack them in the face until they lay down.
The only gun I found useful was a grenade launcher that fired remote-detonated land mines. It allowed me to blanket some area with mines, lure the enemy AI in, and then blow up an entire section of the map (and a few of the bad guys with it).
However, these are all minor annoyances when compared to the truly aggravating fact that Fracture’s terrain controlling abilities were extremely underutilized. I said it before, but this game really reminded me of Portal in a way. Portal is a great game that many have argued could be the greatest game ever created. It focused on its core game play of action/puzzling, and it found a place in our hearts forever because of it. It proved a game can be short and unique and still become the greatest game ever published. Fractured on the other hand made a very unique terrain manipulation program, and then almost completely obscured it with unnecessary combat and pointless driving levels. I don’t know if Fractured would have rivalled Portal if it focused on its core hook of terrain manipulation, but it would have been a far greater game if it was simply a terrain based puzzler.
One small note; at this point I wanted to write a quick paragraph on Fracture’s multiplayer, but I couldn’t find anyone on it during the three separate times (across the 2 separate week nights) that I tried to play it.
In the end, I think Fracture is way too short to buy. It could have also been a far better game, but a few production choices turned it into a completely average 3rd person shooter that I will never think about again after I have finished this review. If you really need to play a game and this is the only thing you can find to rent then I guess you could go ahead and play it. I mean it will successfully kill off a few hours of your life, but just keep in mind that watching paint dry can also fulfill that function.
On an unrelated note the Resident Evil 5 demo is now out for the PS3 and Xbox360.