It was troubling a while ago when there were reports LucasArts had made some serious layoffs. Then the news Fracture would once again be delayed (it was due out much earlier this year initially) had me wondering if such a staple development house like LucasArts could actually make it through.
They clearly have, especially after the resounding success of the latest Star Wars opus, The Force Unleashed
. And the idea (apart from traditional Lucas properties Star Wars and Indy) they will no longer be looking at old franchises, focusing instead on new IP, means the old warhorse is still ready to dish it out.
It's a shame then, beyond the awesome Force Unleashed, the first of these "new IPs" is Fracture. It doesn't paint a clear picture of foresight and understanding for LucasArts and even point out, perhaps, that they just don't really know how to branch beyond their core stable.
Check it out: You play Jet Brody
(no, seriously), a soldier with the Atlantic Alliance in the year 2161. According the game's story, Global Warming had reached an irreversible point leaving the US (no real mention of the rest of world?!?!) with no choice but to develop terrain deforming technology to raise the East and West Coasts of the United States. Unfortunately this didn't help the central states, and eventually the US was split into two.
The two sides, Pacifican and Atlantic Alliance then took different evolutionary paths; the Pacificans deciding to focus on DNA augmentation, while the Atlantic Alliance preferred to develop cybernetics obviously leading to war between each side.
(Actually – this is from the game's manual, because it's so funny: "The Atlantic Alliance chose another path. Instead, they developed cybernetics to protect Americans from extinction.
" Why, oh why the rest of world appears to not
exist in the year 2161 is seriously beyond me, but I digress.)
The story is so ridiculous it's difficult to swallow, but what's even worse is just how seriously LucasArts have taken their narrative approach. The stuff here is funny. Really funny
. It's comedy material and I have no idea why they didn't just take the game down an over-the-top 'we're gonna make fun of all action and sci fi games' path, especially after giving the main character a name like Jet Brody
, but apparently they think this is poignant, which is the first of many of its overall flaws.
Fracture's most touted feature is the terrain deformation technology. It's the default weapon you have throughout the game. You can raise or lower any organic ground (so obviously not buildings, concrete or the like), which is then used to both create cover situations as well as solve fairly simple puzzles.
Beyond the default raise and lower functions, you'll also expand to be able to erect spikes (which can then be used to raise bridges, walkways or break through barricades etc), cause massive sink holes and even create a huge debris-riddled vortex that will suck in all nearby enemies and then spit them out like so much chewed bubble-gum. In fact, one of the best factors here comes in the form of the various weapons and grenades. Unfortunately, enemy design and AI alongside some questionable level-design, terrible pacing and an overall lack of desirable outcome (in that you want really care what's around the next corner or beyond your mission's completion), leave the one cool element of the game utterly lost.
I seriously haven't played a game that has frustrated me more through an inane plot compiled alongside archaic and derivative game-design since Haze, and if you read that review you'll know that means Fracture must really
What's equally annoying about this is it clearly means the team really have no idea what it is gamers want today. I know I can't clearly speak for the entire gaming community, but when you look at the landscape of stellar, stand-out titles and compare them to what Fracture is trying to offer, it's like the difference between being given the choice of living in a dank, wet cave or a modern Cribs-style mansion; Fracture offering the former (clearly).
Mission structure for the single-player campaign is made up largely of on-the-fly objectives, which does give a sensation of skirmish. But you never really care about the progression. Your enemies are faceless, repetitive clones, who have their aiming parameters turned all the way up to 11, while your own team-mate AI seems more like aesthetic background noise and animation – something in place to add to the sensation of war.
Add to this an oddly colourful palette for the dry, bleak future we're meant to be seeing and you just get a game that feels like it's all over the shop. So, leaving Jet Brody
at the door of the single-player campaign (he probably has a Superbowl to go and quarterback for anyway), all that's left to enjoy with Fracture is its multiplayer.
I've had a few rounds with this, and can honestly say I think it's far better than the single-player game, but again is riddled with issues. For one, map design just seems too scattered, and not overly conducive to being given weapons that change the environment. There's plenty of other cover to use, and the odd shapes produced when you do terrain deform just aren't the sort of places I'd hide on a battlefield in the first place (they look more like moguls on a skier riddles snowfield anyway).
The only really unique mode on offer too (given the touted tech), is called Excavation where you head to marked locations on the map, dig down until you see a glowing light and watch as a spike erects. Protect the spike and earn points this way (spikes can be destroyed by weapon fire). Again though, it's just not a robust or creative enough use of what LucasArts are using as their main draw here. Unfortunately, though better, like the single-player game, Fracture multiplayer offers nothing compelling to stick around, especially when there are so many better options available currently.
The end result is an uninspired, out-of-touch archaic product that fails to inspire, let-alone compel. I wouldn't even recommend a hiring of this game, unless you're in it for a laugh, and even then it gets over-bearing because of the serious nature of it all. I think the only thing Fracture will be remembered for is our protagonist's name. Long live Jet Brody