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This joyfully dynamic third person shooter has absorbing action and a storyline where the East/West coast rivalry reaches new heights...and lows.

PlayStation 3 Review: Fracture

LucasArts creates some terrific game physics in this terrain-changing new third-person shooter set in the 22nd century. East coast/West coast tensions reach a new level as Pacificans seek to separate from the United States. Players have Jet Brody, a talented officer in the Atlantic Alliance, a group seeking to quell the Pacificans' “rebellion.” Epic environmental catastrophes physically split the U.S.A. in two with “two distinct paths of evolution” — genetics and cybernetics.

This game strives to be a different third-person shooter where the hook isn’t just a gimmick. Players can raise and lower the terrain — a decent mechanic to distinguish this game from similar games where you can even control the environmental sound volume in the options. The storyline mainly focuses on Brody and his family background which also involves his superior Colonel Roy Lawrence. General Nathan Sheridan has some family issues as Mariko Tokuyama also factors into the storyline as a gifted researcher. The medium length single-player campaign contains more than ten levels with three difficulties.

The weapons come fast and furious starting with the standard entrencher, which is attached on Brody’s arm and lowers or raises the terrain. This weapon combines with four different types of grenades to produce the game’s featured mechanics, prompting players to notice their physical surroundings much more than normal. Once players master these mechanics they can create some entertaining scenarios to dispatch enemies and objects. Other weapons like the nifty subterranean torpedo launcher (detonated upon reaching target or by player command), multiple sticky grenade launcher, and Pacifican explosive rhino really pack a punch. Players can use their melee punches against close range enemies with normal strength shields.  You can carry two weapons at a time and use “dragon’s breath” turrets to really tear up the land.

The terrain physics create a lot of emotion in motion. Players can move/jump off terrain levels while firing the entrencher; just make sure there are no static objects (steel ceilings, etc.) overhead while performing these often acrobatic moves. Certain areas prompt players to raise the terrain with corresponding arrow icons, so the freedom to shape your own environments becomes very appealing (more curves and ramp formations in possible future installments including more vehicles would be an exciting, risky game element).

The game could be better if developers allowed more than one progression tactic beyond just the terrain-changing physics. For example, one bridge-related progression point is only achieved through rearranging the terrain (lowering a rock pillar located in the middle) even though jumping off objects to reach said bridge — physically possible in other situations — is not allowed here. Multiple solutions (at least two) would allow more freedom and quicker, more rewarding progression. Using environments with multiple solutions in the multiplayer mode would also reward players as they use their extra knowledge to their strategic advantage against other players.

Health issues directly relate to the terrain mechanic as well. For example, if Brody stays in open areas, then his health goes down quickly. Solution: raise the terrain for a shield, then the health shield recharges while in cover and avoiding fire. Enemies will often shoot from far distances with surprising accuracy, plus they constantly destroy cover. “Sandwich” techniques — using terrain to slam enemies into hard objects — can make the wait-in-cover tactic more entertaining, though enemies won’t always gravitate towards you. Finding a sweet spot where you can pick off targets at will (think Grand Theft Auto III and beyond) is always an entertaining goal, yet the challenging baddies often force different, more short-term player strategies.

The multiplayer modes include quick or custom matches with leader boards for bragging rights. Game types include the standard free for all, team free for all, Capture the Flag, one-flag CTF, Kingmaker and team Kingmaker, plus the multi-defending Break-In (team Kingmaker variation), and balancing-act Excavation where teams increase their spike count while destroying the enemy’s tally.

Multiplayers may likely find less time to mess with terrain with everyone attacking you, plus players don’t get any command options. Terrain changing also gives your position away, so unless you have a group with you, it’s better to quickly find a spot and stay on the offense using the always effective elevated position strategy, especially when using the rocket launchers. It really helps to know the map to have any chance with a coordinated attack, otherwise the gameplay slips back into the familiar shoot ‘em up theme. When everyone in the immediate area is on level ground and your team is coordinated, classic trenching options can be quite effective for concentrated offensive fire and consequently breaking up large enemy groups. Coordinated perimeter formations pointing towards the center in high ground environments also work very well.

It all makes for a stimulating game full of high production values (voice talent, music, etc.) and replay value. Players must invest to find success. The creativity of manipulating terrain on the fly and discovering enemy tactics requires constant effort, which yields entertaining rewards. Future elements like proximity terrain changing grenades and holographic camouflage covers over large craters could open up this title even more into a wide ranging game series where players can ultimately force enemies to change/adapt their formations and tactics. Maybe the likely sequel will take place on the border of the actual land division, with some water-related settings (a few island spots, underwater rock formations, etc.) and stealth gameplay where players can spy/recon for both sides.

Fracture is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for animated blood, mild language and violence. This game can also be found on Xbox 360.


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