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Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
There's an sour irony in the fact that you'll spend most of your time in Fracture moving earth and rock around, because if there was ever a game that buried its best ideas under a mountain of rubble, this is it.
The strongest concept in the game is its technical USP and the only thing that gives this third-person action game any real sense of identity. The feature in question is terrain deformation; Brody, your hideously generic, armour-clad, futuristic super-soldier is packing a weapon - the Entrencher - that enables him to raise and lower small sections of the landscape at will. Need cover? Zap the ground and form a handy hummock to hide behind. Shields running low? Blast a hole or trench where you can rest and lick your wounds for a second. The Entrencher is a pretty useful tool and one you'll find yourself employing it to create ramps over barriers, tunnels under gates and even scatter foes with a well-aimed blast. Watching the landscape ripple and deform as you fire is about as close as Fracture gets to a wow moment.
OK, so the grenades are pretty cool too. Two simply create bigger piles and divots while blasting enemies to kingdom come, but another forms instant pillars of rock that can raise metal platforms or lift chunks of broken bridge into the air. The final effort unleashes a nasty little mini-cyclone that sucks in your foes then spits them out to their doom. Watching all this work, the scenery deforming before your eyes is the sort of impressive, showcase stuff that would have had us gasping when the Xbox 360 first arrived. These days the novelty lasts, well, crumbs, for about an hour at least.
And once that hour has gone you're left with a competent but thoroughly unexciting third-person action game. I'm not sure how or why it happened, but at some point somebody involved in the development of Fracture clearly felt that it could do with looking a bit more like Gears of War, with possibly a spot of Halo 3 thrown in for good measure. Well, if that's what they wanted, that's what they got, but the end result feels derivative and depressingly bland.
Frankly, the storytelling is so perfunctory that it's hard to even remember what I've experienced of the plot, but the actual premise isn't all that bad. A few hundred years in the future America is in the midst of an economic and environmental crisis, ending in a schism between the Western US states of Pacifica and the Eastern states of Atlantica. The Atlantica boys, including our hero, have adopted high-technology and cybernetic implants. The Pacificans have gone in for genetic mutation. To cut things short it all kicks off and you're off to San Francisco to sort the renegade Pacificans out. There are some twists and turns and characters introduced, but if you want a game with the grim urgency of Gears or the epic sci-fi feel of Halo 3 this isn't it. It's not even as atmospheric as this year's Turok.