Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Day 1 Studios
Release Date: October 7, 2008
Apocalypse scenarios are always great fodder for video game developers because they allow for complete and total premise freedom. After all, if the world as we know it has gone to hell in a handbasket, you don't have to worry about the trappings of reality. Simply go with what works and forget about the rest.
Fracture posits a future United States that is on the verge of collapse. A disaster has split the country into two, with the Alliance on one side and Pacifica on the other. The East Coast Alliance is generally considered to be the "good guys," and they've focused on technological advances in order to help keep civilization going. Pacifica (the evil West Coasters) has focused its efforts on genetic manipulation with the intention of creating mutants that are deadly in their own right.
With the two sides on the verge of civil war, the Alliance sends Jet Brody to Pacifica to attempt to calm things down. Of course, things go badly and the stuff hits the fan. Trapped behind enemy lines, Brody has to fight his way out. On the surface, it might sound like a typical FPS, but Fracture has one novel feature that sets it apart from the pack: the Entrencher.
The Entrencher is a weapon that can both raise and lower terrain, any terrain, in the world. With full freedom to deform the environment, your playbook suddenly has a lot more options. Surrounded by enemies? Quickly raise the ground for some cover. Want to get maximum use out of a grenade? Create a small valley to corral your foes and then blow them to kingdom come. Can't destroy that massive AA gun with your pistol? Raise the ground and crush it against the wall of its protective force shield.
As intriguing as the Entrencher is in single-player mode, using it in multiplayer is even more eye-opening. When everyone has their hands on one, the map can change shape at a moment's notice.
For example, in one of the capture the flag maps, the flags are protected by bases that resemble pyramid structures. There are entrances up top as well as below. The lower entrances can be completely covered by raising the earth in order to create a choke point. Or perhaps a guard lying in wait will leave one of the entrances seemingly exposed, only to raise it as an enemy is running past. When the earth meets the ceiling, anything in between is quickly crushed.
Another nifty trick with the Entrencher is the ability to use it as a makeshift rocket jump (only without the nasty health-draining side effects). By shooting the ground in front of you as you jump, it is possible to quickly hopscotch across the map. In the middle of a heated firefight, this is an invaluable skill to master.
CTF isn't the only multiplayer game mode in Fracture to make use of the Entrencher. It creates a new twist on an old classic when playing "king of the hill." Here, the Entrencher is used to raise the ground at a specific point on the map, and whoever can stand atop (and stay alive) earns points. The scoring point randomly moves about the map, keeping everyone on their toes.
In addition to the Entrencher, you can also carry a selection of standard weapons and grenades. Each character can carry up to two guns (pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle, etc.) and four grenades. The grenades can also affect the environment, though they are not as controlled as the Entrencher. A Halo-style rechargeable shield acts as your life bar, both in the single- and multiplayer game modes.
Getting into the multiplayer aspect of Fracture was an interesting experience because at the start, it seemed as if everyone simply wanted to play it like a game of Halo. There was plenty of shooting and killing, but not much in the way of using the Entrencher. After a bit of time had passed, you started to see players get creative and use the Entrencher to create cover on the fly or use it to raise an earthen bridge in order to cross a deadly river of radioactive water.
Once everyone got the hang of the Entrencher, the combat took on an entirely different feel. No longer was it simply a big frag-fest. We all started to think of the environment as both a weapon and as a tool. What had initially felt like small maps without many paths suddenly seemed a whole lot bigger. Don't want to try fighting your way through the front door? Just create a perch and rocket jump over the top. Can't get close enough without getting picked off? Raise a few mounds of dirt for instant cover.
It's easy to dismiss Fracture as just another "me too" sci-fi-inspired, third-person shooter, but once you spend a big of time with it, the game's innovative mechanic opens up a number of possibilities. Who needs a separate level editor when you can edit the world as you play?
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