Most action gamers are used to environments that remain static, no matter how much havoc you cause but Fracture brings something new to the table: its "terrain deformation" concept let's you change the very ground you, and most importantly, your opponents are standing on. It might sound like a gimmick but it actually pays off in a tangible way; it's just too bad that the rest of the game isn't as forward-thinking.
Civil War II
Messing around with the in-game terrain in Fracture is accomplished using the Entrencher, an intuitive tool that's dirt simple to use: point it at a patch of mud and launch beams that raise or lower the ground.
The effect is unnerving because I've taken the solidity of game levels for granted all these years; watching solid ground that used to be immutable suddenly shift and change like so much plastercine is, at first, a little odd. To its credit, however, Fracture never treats terrain deformation like a mere gimmick - it actively affects nearly every aspect of gameplay, turning otherwise plain vanilla firefights into moderately intense engagements.
When I first started playing Fracture, I got my ass shot up regularly until I stopped trying to dodge bullets and hide behind existing cover, and started creating my own when I required it. Need a place to catch your breath and let your shields recharge? Put a wall of earth between you and incoming fire. Running low on ammo in a tight space? Crush your foes against the ceiling, then scoop up their weapons. And why wait for enemy heads to pop out from behind cover when you can catapult them above it with the violent birth of a well-placed hill? The freedom to develop your own collection of tactical tricks serves the game well for at least several hours.
The land might start out flat in most places, but it'll be a bulging and pitted battleground by the time you're done with it.
What causes Fracture to stumble over the long haul is its unwillingness to till fresh soil elsewhere. While many areas feature physics puzzles, usually centered on nudging key objects into or out of place, most are simply variations on familiar conventions. The more I played the game, the more I found my enthusiasm slowly dwindling. The surprisingly polished graphics and ability to reshape terrain aside, there wasn't much there to enliven the rather uninspired missions which were populated by equally dull opponents. Other minor problems, like enemies who can take three shots to the head and still keep on ticking, contribute to the problem.
Thankfully, the game's online modes give Fracture a second life. It features fairly standard variations on deathmatch, capture the flag, and control point camping, but the fact that all players can alter the terrain at will allows for some creative possibilities. Defensive play in particular is practically reinvented: Instead of simply waiting for opponents to invade, you can construct elaborate hills and valleys around key assets, make sections of the world impassable, or catapult yourself across the map in moments.
One of the tricks to surviving is avoiding artificial surfaces that you can't manipulate for cover. Stay where you can conjure up cover at a moment's notice.
Head in the sand
And really, it's the online mode where the game's true potential lies. I can't wait to see what devious tactics online opponents come up with using the Entrencher. The single-player campaign is serviceable but its lackluster missions and staid enemy encounters-even the final boss fight is sort of disappointing-ultimately conspire to leave you feeling flat. But despite its faults, the terrain deformation and unique online twist is distinctive enough that it's worth playing, even if won't exactly alter the foundations of gaming forever.