Fracked Review – Strong Fundamentals Missing Combat Evolution

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Fracked is the latest VR title from veteran VR studio nDreams, and a PSVR exclusive at that. The game has a lot going for it—good looks, a unique cover system, and strong fundamentals—but its combat and doesn’t evolve enough to really stick the landing.

STRIDE for Quest Details:

Gameplay

Fracked is a shooter at its core, but peppers in some skiing, climbing, and light puzzles which help break up the pace.

The game has strong fundamentals. Guns feel responsive and satisfying to shoot and reload. Art direction is great. A unique cover system—where you can grab nearby cover to easily peek your head around corners—works really well. And nDreams has done a commendable job with movement controls (considering PS Move lacks a thumbstick).

But while Fracked starts out strong, there isn’t enough variety to the combat to carry it through to the end of the game, especially as the ending sequence plays out like a wave shooter.

There’s really only three enemies in the game, and you’ll meet all of them within the first hour or so. There’s the basic soldier guys, the kamikaze guys, and the heavy guys.

The first two are fun enough to shoot at, but the heavy guys are more annoying than exhilarating to fight as they function mostly as a bullet sponge, by way of knocking them down with mines (that they place at their own feet) before you can unload on their weak spot.

A big clue that Fracked’s combat loop is missing something is that all enemies are visibly outlined, essentially giving the player x-ray vision to see where they are through walls and behind cover. Without this it would be really hard to figure out where the enemies are because they reposition frequently and quickly, and often feel like they’re coming out of the woodwork. While spatial audio could be a solution, I felt like the audio channel was often too crowded with music and other less important sounds for it to be a reliable positional indicator.

While Fracked has a handful of weapons, there’s really only two ‘core’ weapons—the pistol and the SMG—which you can have permanently equipped. The three other guns—shotgun, revolver, and mortar—are treated as ‘power weapons’ which you can find during certain encounters with very limited ammo.

This division between ‘core’ and ‘power’ weapons might not feel so restrictive if not for the way that the power weapons and handled from an inventory standpoint. Unlike your pistol and SMG which can be stowed in your inventory, the power weapons can only be held. If you use your hands for anything else, you’ll drop the power weapon on the ground and (if you’re playing in the recommended seated position) you won’t be able to pick it up again.

This led to several frustrating moments where I went to climb a ladder only to watch the gun I just found drop out of my hand into an unretrievable position on the ground. Not to mention being forced to waste something like the powerful single-shot mortar on a single weak enemy because they ran up to attack me but the game doesn’t allow you to stow the weapon to save for a more opportune moment.

Fracked attempts to break up its combat sequences with a handful of other activities, most of which work well. There’s skiing, climbing, and some light puzzling, but combat still makes up the bulk of the gameplay and it just doesn’t see enough evolution over the course of the game to keep it interesting by the end, which is capped off by an exceedingly mundane boss fight.

As far as story is concerned, Fracked sets up an interesting premise but it fails to develop its world and characters, and often left me wondering what I was doing and why. It’s the kind of story where the main villain comes out at the end and you’re saying “who is this guy again?” The ending sequence goes a bit off the rails with some kind of sci-fi twist that doesn’t feel sufficiently explained. The very very end—like the last scene—actually made me say out loud, “whaaat?” in disbelief that it was actually the end of the game.

Fracked is also a rather short game, clocking in at just three hours—even after I had a handful of frustrating checkpoint resets from enemies that snuck up and killed me from behind before I could react.

Immersion

Fracked is a great looking game. nDreams nailed the visual style, which not only gives the game a distinct look, but also fits great with the antiquated resolution of PSVR.

There’s not much to the game in terms of environmental interaction, except for scripted climbing sequences, and the occasional zip line, but Fracked does a good job of not showing you things that look like they should be interactive but aren’t (which helps hide the interactive limitations).

I found that the game’s cover system works very well as an immersive alternative to simply using a thumbstick to move in and out of cover. Instead of doing that, you can grab the edge of any cover and then use your hand to peek out of the cover. It feels natural in the midst of combat, and the vast majority of cover that I expected to be able to grab was in fact grabbable.

nDreams found a great balance between gun interactivity and simplicity. Both the pistol and SMG are reloaded by ejecting the magazine, inserting a new one, and then charging the weapon. The gestures for doing this are forgiving while still feeling satisfying. I can hardly remember a time where I messed up a reload, which let me focus on the action. Reloading feels so good in the game that it’s a shame the three other guns (the power weapons) don’t actually have their own reload sequences because they disappear after a single magazine.

Although the guns stick to your hands, I didn’t feel like this was out of place for Fracked, especially considering that PS Move lacks a dedicated grab trigger. Even though they’re attached to your hands, I appreciated that you could hand a gun from one hand to another, which made the cover system more flexible.

Comfort

Fracked makes a handful of comfort missteps that I couldn’t overcome without cranking up the peripheral blinders to their maximum setting (which felt very imposing).

Fracked doesn’t seem to mind forcibly moving the player’s view at times. But this can lead to discomfort, especially when its rotation. The instances of rotating the player’s view seem minimal—like during some climbing sequences when you round a corner—but I found them to be uncomfortable enough over time that I couldn’t play the game comfortably for more than 30 minutes at a time before cranking up the blinders. You can reduce the rotation while climbing by disabling ‘Climb Mode’ in the accessibility options, but this doesn’t prevent all scripted rotation in the game.

I was surprised to find that the game’s skiing sequences actually seemed quite comfortable; I think this was helped by the fact that you steer the skiis by tilting your head from side to side.

One small technical issue that likely has a big impact on comfort is the game’s snap-turn implementation. Instead of a proper instantaneous snap-turn, each snap is actually just a very fast rotation. This means that each time you turn you can still see the entire world turning around you, along with all the vection this creates. I was frankly a bit surprised to see this mistake in a game from a studio with such deep experience in VR.

Fracked isn’t a game that I would recommend to people who consider themselves fairly sensitive to VR motion sickness. While a sensitive player may find comfort by cranking up the peripheral blinders they bring a hefty blow to immersion.

Fracked Comfort Settings – August 16th, 2021

Turning

Artificial turning
Smooth-turn
Adjustable speed
Snap-turn
Adjustable increments

Movement

Artificial movement
Smooth-move
Adjustable speed
Teleport-move
Blinders
Adjustable strength
Head-based
Controller-based
Swappable movement hand

Posture

Standing mode not explicit
Seated mode
Artificial crouch
Real crouch

Accessibility

Subtitles
Languages English, Italian, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese
Alternate audio
Adjustable difficulty
Two hands required
Real crouch required
Hearing required
Adjustable player height

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