“Fracture” is a feature in search of a videogame. LucasFilm division LucasArts’ latest attempt to establish a new intellectual property beyond Star Wars and Indiana Jones takes one compelling innovation — weapons that can raise or lower the terrain — and plugs it into a standard “Halo-esque” sci-fi shooter with no other original ideas. Add an embarrassing script that feels like it was pulled from the bottom of a studio’s slush pile and the result is a game that’s merely competent — and has little chance of succeeding against the holiday season’s big action games or establishing the franchise LucasArts desires.
The protagonist’s name — Jet Brody — is the first indication one is starting down a path that’s cheesy even by the standards of LucasFilm, the company that brought us Jar Jar Binks and atomic bomb-proof refrigerators. “Fracture” takes place in the year 2163 in a United States split in two, both physically and politically, between the Atlantic Alliance, which believes in cybernetic enhancements, and Pacifica, which has put its faith in genetic engineering. For no discernible reasons. “Fracture” posits that the cyberneticists are the good guys and puts players in control of Brody, who finds himself on the front lines of the battle to stop nefarious Pacifica Gen. Nathan Sheridan.
Even those interested in technology and genetics will find the story woefully underdeveloped and groan at cliches like the wizened black general who gives Jet advice and Sheridan’s beautiful research subject who telepathically begs to be rescued (though she later provides the game’s biggest laugh by explaining it’s not telepathy but subsonic communication, “like dolphins or bats.”).
Early reactions by the videogame press were largely positive, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Experienced action gamers are in for a thrill when they first get their hands on “Fracture’s” ultimate weapon –the “entrencher.” Not only is it exciting to raise the ground and crush enemies against a cave’s ceiling or create a sinkhole in which it’s easy to pick them off, but traditional firefights gain a new strategic angle when one can literally alter topography. “Fracture’s” multiplayer modes, most of which are knockoffs of similar games, are exciting at first for the same reasons.
Beyond that one ability though, “Fracture” is just a standard shooter that ranges from average to occasionally terrible. Players have to mow down hundreds of anonymous enemies who often aren’t smart enough to move when they’re being shot. Level designs range from bland caves to bland hallways to bland open fields. Boss fights and a vehicle level are particularly uninspired, with the latter offering one ravine jumping sequence so poorly designed that many players will likely give up rather than struggle to advance.
It’s particularly disappointing that “Fracture” is lacking in puzzles that take unique advantage of its weaponry. Besides a few simple challenges like raising broken bridges or tunneling under walls, skilled gamers could complete “Fracture” just by using Brody’s guns.
Technically, “Fracture” is nearly flawless, with top notch graphics quality and few glitches or slowdowns. The musical score, however, is just as bombastic and grating as the plot.