Game Preview: Fracture Demo

The demo for Fracture came out on the PSN last Thursday. I’m a little late on this. I’m hoping to get faster at these. I’ve got like three or four articles backed up. But you don’t care about that. You want to hear about Fracture.

This is a demo, but its short, really short. It’s only a little longer than Heavenly Sword’s demo. There is a lot to go over in the demo. I’ll start with the most touted part of the game, the new environment changing weaponry. The main question that has been raised is, can this mechanic sustain an entire game? The detractors say it’s a bit too gimmicky and only one tool, while other cite Portal as a game that did that sort of thing well. After going through the demo a number of times, I say no. Not on its own. Portal was a masterpiece success not because of its mechanic, but how it used it and the world it formed around it. That and the game was only six hours long. I’ll explain what I mean.

The main weapon in Fracture is a machine gun with two extra functions. You can’t swap out this gun for one lying around. You have a second slot for that purpose. The extra functions are connected to the left and right trigger buttons (L1 and R1). When shot into the dirt one will raise the level of the ground, the other will cause it to lower. These allow for some basic puzzle solving of the run and gun variety. See a sewer pipe filled with dirt, shoot it out of the way by lower it. Can’t jump over a wall; raise the dirt in front of it to get some height. Raising the ground also can create a shield in an otherwise open section of the level. Doing it under an enemy throws them into the air. There are two sets of grenades that serve the same function. The lowering ones act as normal grenades in the absence of dirt. The only other landscape-using weapon in the game shown is something like a bomb tunneler. It travels under ground and blows up either when you hit the detonate button or it hits a wall.

Those are the functions and from what I’ve seen this is a clear example of the Portal Effect that went over in my previous article. The idea is that this is an end result and not a new source of design space. Portal as great as it was could not support new ideas or expand the concept further than it had. I believe that Fracture is the same way, though this maybe because the designer decided to go the shooter route. Really the two games take up the same kind of design space of exploring new ways to distort/change the landscape around the player.

In Fracture there are plenty of other weapons, rocket launcher, sticky grenade launcher, sniper rifle, machine gun. A few others are shown in the loading screen at the beginning, but are not in the game as shown. From other previews around the net there are even more guns that can terraform, but they didn’t show up here. Other than the gimmick there is really nothing else new here. The gimmick is fun, especially when they added real gravity physics to running up and down surfaces does give an additional sense of strategy of how you can use the landscaping tools, but honestly the way the shootouts are, I doubt you’ll have the time or the reason to use any of them. Now come the most dreaded part of this preview.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The character is also a gruff, grizzled supposedly brown haired marine in a suit of armor with regenerative shielding with a HUD that is explained as seen by the character through an ocular implant. The story is about fighting a general who was gone off and declared war or something. It’s your job to take him down, except he has an army at his back full of genetically enhanced soldiers. This is all we get from the demo, though I suspect that there isn’t much else there.

Overall the sound is good, the visuals are a little sub par and there are times when the game has to freeze for a second or two to load. Honestly this seems like another run of the mill shooter. The idea of terra formation and deformation sounds interesting, but did they have to put it into a shooter. That’s an idea that sounds like it could have been a great platformer or game based on exploration.

Fracture is a third person shooter by the developer Day 1 Studios set to be released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 7th.

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Eric Swain

A graduate of Boston University, majoring in English and Creative Writing and has spent significant time studying story structure and theory in the mediums of books, film and video games. His articles offer unique perspective on deep game development and design through his eclectic prose. you can find his critical analysis on www.thegamecritique.com.

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