When it comes to offering gamers control over their environment, nothing quite compares to the amount of power being put into the player’s hands in Day 1 Studio’s Fracture. Published by LucasArts, Fracture will give gamers a tremendous amount of impact on the terrain around them, by allowing it to be manipulated in real time in a way only comparable to the level editors found in other games. We were recently given a live demo of Fracture, and believe us when we tell you that this ability to shape terrain is by no means a cheap gimmick.
Just a little recap on the story, in a not too unrealistic future, increasing environmental disasters have caused the United States to be literally split in half by the shifting of tectonic plates. This division goes much deeper than the Earth’s crust; however, as two warring alliances have emerged from the disaster: the Republic of the Pacific and the Atlantic Alliance. You will play as Jet Brody, a soldier serving in the Atlantic Alliance. Our demo began with Brody, and a few other Atlantic troops being deployed in a high mountainside somewhere in San Francisco in order to seek out and destroy an enemy weapons cache.
Making our way into a canyon, the developers demonstrated that the terrain deformation featured in the game won’t just apply to the ground, as they shot at the walls of the canyon sending huge boulders toppling onto the enemies below. We were then introduced to the Entrencher gun, which has the ability to either raise or lower a circular section of ground. It’s also worth mentioning that the terrain alteration that occurs in the game is physics based, so if you jump while the ground underneath you pops up it can give you good boost to reach higher areas.
Raising the ground makes for some excellent cover if you happen to be out in the open, and sinking it is perfect for going underneath obstacles, or taking the terrain away from an enemy’s feet to give you the high ground. The developers did make it clear that the AI won’t just be standing there in awe at your landscaping abilities, and will know how to react to changes in the terrain around them. Another great weapon shown was the vortex grenade, which creates an impressive cyclone that pulls in any objects around it. You do have to be careful of these flying objects, as the demo player ended up taking a freight container to the head and had to restart the section. Interestingly, when we approached the same area, the cyclone grenade had an entirely different effect, sending debris hurdling into different directions than the last time.
A few other weapons shown were the torpedo gun, which fires a round that travels underground and can be detonated at will, and the black widow, which shoots out a series of sticky mines that can then be exploded in the order they were fired. The underground torpedo will be able to travel underneath structures, so you can fire it from behind cover as well as bypassing the enemy’s cover. Another innovative use of the Black Widow we were told was to fire a few of its mines onto a barrel and then sent the deadly package rolling towards an enemy.
It’s also apparent that Day 1 is planning on integrating terrain deformation into some interesting puzzle scenarios. At one point, in order to allow Brody to walk across a series of platforms, a spike grenade had to be thrown to raise spires to act as columns and connect pieces of a walkway. Finally, we were shown the genetically engineered leaping Hydra enemy. Since the Pacific forces prefer genetic modification to high tech weaponry, expect to see more genetically enhanced soldiers in the future.
Unfortunately, Day 1 didn’t have much to say about multiplayer, other than that terrain deformation will be fully present, and make for a variety of unique game types based around the functionality. They explained that classic modes will also be present, but with some twists involving the terrain weaponry. For instance, in capture the flag, in order to successfully infiltrate the enemy base manipulation of the terrain on their turf will have to occur. We’re still not sure how the terrain deforming weapons will be balanced in the multiplayer mode, as a number of players creating a constantly shifting landscape could get to be a little hectic.
The build we saw definitely appeared sharper than the previously released videos, and Brody’s new look is an improvement as well. The developers pointed out some creative ways that the weapons can be used in conjunction with the deformation system, such as using the Entrencher for a super jump, or riding the outer edge of a vortex grenade blast to slingshot yourself. If Fracture ends up providing the kind of free form physics based gameplay as promised, it could make for some good replay value, as no scenario will always play out exactly the same.
Fracture is set to release this summer on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3