Reshape the battlefield – and the fate – of a broken nation in Fracture, the new IP from LucasArts and Day 1 Studios. "Groundbreaking" in more ways than one, this 2008 blockbuster utilizes technology only possible on the Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION3.
Amidst a backdrop of worldwide ecological and seismological chaos in the mid-2100s, the United States has been split in two by the "Great Flood". As a result of the polar ice cap melting, the Mississippi River has destroyed the central portion of the United States, causing an ill-equipped Federal Government to fail and literally cutting the country in half. These two halves are left to fend for themselves in the aftermath.
The East, now known as the Atlantic Alliance, symbolic of their union with Europe, puts its faith in surviving this new world in cybernetics, an established yet evolving technology now more than 150 years old. On the other side of the flooded continent, the Western states, now called the Republic of Pacifica and having allied with Asia, resort to solving their problems at the genetic level, effectively restructuring the DNA of its inhabitants – a method the Atlantic Alliance finds morally reprehensible.
By 2161, it only takes a hint of unauthorized military preparation in Pacifica for the newly restored president to order a strike in the heart of Pacifican territory - an outpost in the now dry San Francisco Bay. This strike leads to the unthinkable: an epic conflict with global implications fought on U.S. soil. As a soldier in this struggle, Mason Briggs uses explosive, terrain-deforming weaponry to change the face of battle: He not only destroys the land in his path, he outright transforms it to gain the strategic advantage in completely unscripted ways no game has ever seen. With such a devastating arsenal at hand, Briggs never leaves any battlefield the way he found it.
In addition to extraordinary weaponry that allows players to do things previously only imagined, each side of the conflict, Pacifica and the Atlantic Alliance, boast soldiers with powers beyond those of ordinary men. Genetic augmentations provide Pacifican forces with amazing abilities, while Atlantic Alliance soldiers like Briggs counter the threat with the more "traditional" method: cybernetics. The differing states of superhumanity result in balanced yet stylistically different combat tactics that have never been seen before.
Fracture First Look
LucasArts and Day 1 take the wraps off of their upcoming third-person shooter that gives you the ability to reshape the battlefield at will.
By Jason Ocampo, GameSpot Posted May 2, 2007 10:05 pm PT
LucasArts announced Fracture today during an event at its Presidio offices held to showcase the mid-2008 third-person action game for the very first time. Developed by Day 1 Studios, which also made the MechAssault games for Microsoft, Fracture portrays a futuristic American civil war, though instead of restaging the epic North/South conflict, this time it's West Coast and East Coast going at it.
There's a "ripped from the headlines" quality about the premise of Fracture's story, as it dabbles in current hot topics such as genetic engineering and global warming. Basically, about 100 years in the future, a bunch of East Coast scientists create the first genetically engineered humans, but something goes horribly awry (as these things tend to do) and the first generation of Humanity 2.0 dies terrible deaths. Outraged at science run amok, the Eastern states outlaw genetic engineering, which sends the scientists to the West Coast, where they're welcome. A few decades later, the East Coast attempts to completely outlaw genetic engineering nationwide, which causes the West Coast to secede from the union and trigger a civil war. On one side is the high-tech, cybernetic East Coast and its European allies, forming the Atlantic Alliance, while on the other side is the West Coast and its Asian allies, forming the Republic of Pacifica. Oh, and we should mention that global warming created a slew of natural disasters like earthquakes and floods that pretty much wiped out the Midwest, meaning West Coast and East Coast are physically divided by water. (Sorry, Ohio and Texas!)
The big feature in Fracture, and what it derives its name from, is that the future scientists have also figured out tectonic weaponry, which means that you have the ability to deform terrain in the game in real time. That's a fancy way of saying you can literally shape the battlefield as you play. You do this by tossing a variety of special grenades that can mold the land before your eyes. There are five practical purposes for this: protection, navigation, destruction, puzzle solving, and tactical advantage. For instance, if you're under fire, you can toss a tectonic grenade that causes the ground to rise and form a mound in front of you, creating instant cover and blocking the line of sight between you and the enemy. Or, if there's a chasm, you can toss a spike grenade to cause a stone pillar to form out of the ground, letting you cross. Another example is that if there's a building you need to enter but can't, you can toss subsonic grenades to cause the ground to sink, letting you "dig" beneath the walls and carve out a tunnel. And perhaps the most violent grenade is the vortex grenade, which causes a hole to erupt in the ground that sucks in everything near it, including people, and then spins as an energy whirlwind that builds up and explodes.
LucasArts hopes that Fracture will be the opening chapter in a major new franchise for the company, which is striving to develop new intellectual properties while also focusing on its core franchises: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. It sees Fracture as having a rich story to tell. You'll play as Mason Briggs, a soldier in the Atlantic Alliance who is sent west to put down those Pacifican rebels. Briggs, a demolitions expert, will rely on his variety of special grenades, but will also have an arsenal of conventional weapons. The mix of conventional and tectonic warfare is the game's strength, as it should let you fight in ways that you haven't experienced before and provide plenty of replayability. The demonstration LucasArts held had Briggs in a fierce battle against Pacifican soldiers and Hydras, elite genetically engineered troops clad in exoskeleton armor and able to leap high into the air. The battlefield was a dried-out San Francisco Bay (not too far from LucasArts' offices, in fact), and the majestic Golden Gate Bridge was nearby, rising out of the dry earth. The action was fierce, but Briggs used his grenades in a number of ways to defeat the enemies. This included causing a giant mound to rise up next to a small cliff and then using weapons fire to carve out steps to climb up and reach a previously inaccessible spot.
Fracture is being developed for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, and Day 1 president Denny Thorley said that the company was "wringing" the advanced hardware on both systems for everything they've got. For instance, the game can use a dedicated core for physics, which is important considering all of the objects that move around when the ground gets deformed constantly. We should also expect some pretty sophisticated artificial intelligence, as the enemies have the same grenades that you do, which means they'll need to understand how to use terrain deformation to their advantage, as well. The visuals themselves are very sharp, and the game takes place entirely in third person, a decision made because it helps frame all the terrain deformation in context since your character is always onscreen.
LucasArts and Day 1 didn't get into too many details regarding multiplayer, but the game will certainly have it, especially considering the developer's track record. MechAssault was the key Xbox Live launch title, helping to establish Microsoft's popular online service, and Day 1 is eager to show off what it can do online with a game where you can reshape the battlefield at will. Though considering that the game is a year away from shipping, the companies are holding off on multiplayer details for now. And that pretty much sums up the current state of things regarding the rest of the game at this point. With at least a full year to go in development, we're going to have plenty of time in the coming months to learn more about Fracture.
We got our first look at LucasArts' Day 1 Studios-developed Fracture a few weeks ago when the game was unveiled at an event in San Francisco's Presidio. At the time we just got a top-level taste of what the upcoming game was going to offer, and a look at the terrain-deformation feature that will be central to its gameplay. We recently had the chance to get a closer look at the game, courtesy of a guided demo of a work-in-progress version of the Xbox 360 game at LucasArts' offices, which offered a better idea of what kind of action we can expect from the intriguing title.
Deforming the terrain is literally the name of the game in Fracture.
Our demo began with a recap of the game's extensive backstory, which follows humanity's rough future. Global warming, natural disasters, and disputes between nations concerning genetic engineering have left the world fractured, both figuratively and literally. Out of all that mess comes two major powers: the high-tech, cybernetic East Coast and its European allies, which form the Atlantic Alliance, and the West Coast and its Asian allies, which form the Republic of Pacifica. You'll be repping the Atlantic Alliance as Mason Briggs, a soldier in the AA army with a rough background. The demolitions expert grew up an orphan in the wastelands and eventually found himself in the army. Mason's hard upbringing comes in handy when he's sent to the West to get the Pacificans to simmer down and make nice.
Once the stage was set with the story and Mason's introduction, we were shown the second mission in the game, which follows Mason as he drops into a San Francisco Bay now dried out and converted into a military installation by the Pacificans. Unfortunately, the Pacificans aren't into settling down and backing away from a fight, which is bad for Mason and his team, but good for a demo level. The action was a mix of standard "run and gun" action along with some unique puzzle-solving using the terrain-deformation mechanic.
Our demo showed off some of the game's unique arsenal of firearms and grenades. Mason will be able to hold two weapons and four types of grenades. Each of the firearms has a primary and secondary firing mode that you'll want to familiarize yourself with in order to use your weapon as efficiently as possible. The shotgun, called the invader, will have a secondary fire option that shoots a round that can ricochet off walls. You'll also have the ability to detonate the round when you choose. The machine gun, called the bulldog, has a secondary fire mode that lets you chip away at terrain to modify the landscape, such as creating steps up a steep hill. A rocket launcher, called the bangalore, has a secondary fire option that lets you create a subterranean torpedo that you can detonate at will. Finally, the boulder gun is a combination vacuum/projectile weapon that lets you create a massive boulder by pulling in debris from the world. Once you shoot it, the projectile can plow down enemies and deform terrain, and then explode after a period of time.
That whole Tupac-versus-Biggie thing had nothing on this battle of East against West.
But given his demolitions background, Mason also throws himself a mean grenade. The game will feature four types that let you have all kinds of fun with the terrain in the game. Tectonic grenades will raise terrain and let you create cover or help you reach new areas. Subsonic grenades lower the terrain, allowing you to actually burrow in and around structures. Vortex grenades create a swirling ball of energy that pulls in any loose objects, including rocks, crates, and enemies, before exploding. Finally, spike grenades create a giant spike out of the earth, which you can use for cover, to ride up to new areas, or even solve puzzles. One part of the level we saw featured a puzzle that required you to use a spike grenade to raise an object up into its own force field to destroy it.
The arsenal was put to good use during the demo as Mason took out various Pacifican enemies. Reps on hand pointed out that Day 1 is working hard on the artificial intelligence in order to give players a real workout. The various enemies you'll face will come in different classes that will try to adapt to how you're playing to keep you from getting too comfortable.
The visuals in the game are shaping up well, with Day 1 Studios clearly having a good old time with the new hardware. The level we saw was roomy and very busy, with all manner of mayhem going on. The game's art style is taking form and works well with its story. We expect there'll be more than a few moments where you'll do a double take as you'll recognize a familiar landmark given a new postapocalyptic twist, as evidenced by the dried-out but recognizable San Francisco Bay in the level we saw. Mason and the other humanoids in the game were looking good, with a high level of detail and the beginnings of good animation. The environment looked sharp and, most importantly, deformed in crazy ways. Although the game was still very early, it was already running pretty smoothly overall, though there were the expected hitches and awkward camera bits. Lucas reps stated that the game is currently slated to support 720p, with higher resolutions under consideration. The audio, though far from final, offered a beefy assortment of effects to suck you into the experience. Weapon-fire and ambient chatter were headed in a good direction.
That's one heck of a pothole.
Based on what we saw, Fracture has a lot of potential above and beyond the game's interesting premise and Day 1 Studios' pedigree. The gameplay definitely offers a number of interesting possibilities. Though we'll admit to being disappointed at the game's lack of online co-op, we're still anxious to see what kind of multiplayer insanity Day 1 cooks up for the game's multiplayer. Look for more on Fracture in the months to come, including a live demo of the game next week at E3. Fracture is slated to ship for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2008.
Fracture Updated Impressions
We head to a climate-changed vision of the future torn apart by civil war to check out a few new terraforming guns.
By Shaun McInnis, GameSpot Posted May 30, 2008 9:24 am PT
When developers talk about destructible environments in their games, they most often mean destructible buildings. Sure, you might be able to knock down a tree or fling some rocks around, but more often than not you're undoing the work of a few dozen construction workers rather than going toe-to-toe with Mother Nature. Day 1 Studios is looking to do things a little differently with its game Fracture. The focus will be on your use of a collection of futuristic weaponry to create a swollen, twisted mess of the ground beneath you. We've seen a few of Fracture's terraforming guns already, but we were recently treated to a demo that included a new level and a fresh stockade of guns with which to display a spirited disregard for the Earth's floor.
The Southwest level features a rainy, storm-threatened genetic research facitlity. And lots of guns.
In the sci-fi world of Fracture, the year is 2161 and global climate change has become a very real factor. So real, in fact, that mass flooding has created a rift between the Eastern and Western United States. Each side has taken to using new technology to gain the upper hand in a civil war with one another. The Pacificans use genetic modification as their upgrade of choice, whereas the Atlantic Alliance has gone the relatively more restrained route of cybernetic enhancement. As Jet Brody, you belong to the latter faction. The demo that we saw placed Brody deep in enemy territory: a rain-drenched Pacifican research facility hidden among the mesas of the American Southwest.
The first gun that we saw, the entrencher, was fairly straightforward: aim, shoot, and a brand-new mound of earth pops up before you. The interesting thing about this weapon is the strategic capability that it offers. You might use it to create some cover for yourself, rob a group of enemies of their balance, or mimic those enterprising soldiers in Team Fortress 2 by doing your own version of the rocket jump called the terrain jump. While standing behind your mound of earth, you can switch to a standard machine gun to chip away at the ground and create a customized sight line to take out nearby Pacificans. But be warned: These enemies aren't quite sitting ducks. In the demo, we noticed that the AI was quick to adapt to the ebb and flow of the terrain.
This particular gun has other strategic uses. At one point Jet Brody found himself in the middle of a puzzle that prompted him to destroy two generators that were connected by an energy bridge. When he destroyed the first one, the reaction caused a power failure that took out the bridge. Rather than make a feeble attempt at jumping across the gap, Jet instead used his terraforming gun to raise a pile of earth right below the emergency-backup switch down on the ground. This triggered the switch, which restored power and let Jet cross over to complete the puzzle.
The next weapon we saw was the spike grenade. This one has a particularly interesting application. Rather than cause a curved mound of dirt to pop up, this one is used to lift a narrow column of earth far higher into the air. At one point Jet used this to make it up to a second-floor balcony rather than take the stairs, but it has its defensive purposes as well. The level shown in the demo featured enemies called Pacifican creepers, which are giant spiders that can cut through the ground like sharks through a wave. You can tell where they are by the small bump cruising along the ground, which gives you a fairly good idea of when they'll pop up to say hello in their own special way. Taking them on head-to-head would be a fool's errand, so Jet used the spike grenade to create a safety perch for himself 20 feet in the air, on which he safely sniped away the creepers that infested this part of the level.
A short moment later, Jet found himself a bit of hardware called the ALM-37. This gun introduces the element of temperature to the goings-on by giving you the ability to freeze the ground and any Pacificans unlucky enough to be caught in its way. Frozen enemies follow the usual route of turning to ice sculptures that can be shattered with a well-placed melee attack, but using the ALM-37 on the ground can be helpful as well. Frozen terrain is less susceptible to transformation, so if you're in a bad way and need to keep your cover, you'll do well to freeze the mound of earth you're hiding behind so it doesn't get taken out by a pesky Pacifican.
The entrencher is a great way to create some impromptu cover--or just knock your enemies off their feet.
These were our favorite guns from the demo, but they don't make up the entirety of Jet's arsenal. One of the others shown was a vortex gun that creates a tornado to suck up anything within range, including you. When it reaches critical mass, it flings its contents every which way. Another gun, the black widow, lets you shoot six grenades and trigger their explosions whenever you like. Maybe not as thrilling as wreaking havoc on the floor with an entrencher, but certainly a good way to set up a booby trap.
As fun as the weapons look, they're only complemented by a presentation that teems with cinematic charm. The visuals look good, with lots of sci-fi flourishes and a frame rate that manages to keep up with the constant deformation. But the real star looks like it will be the soundtrack, which is being composed by Michael Giacchino. His name may not ring a bell, but his portfolio of Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and Lost certainly might.
Fracture looks like it has the makings of a fun little shooter. The big question now is how it will play. The demo was hands-off for us, which just makes us all the more eager to see if the weapons feel as good as they look. Hopefully we'll get that chance before long. Fracture has been slotted for release later this year.