[13 October 2008]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
FRACTURE 2 ½ stars PUBLISHER: LucasArts SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360, also for Sony PlayStation 3 PRICE: $59.99 AGE RATING: Teen
Sometimes a good, dumb action game is just what the doctor ordered. Take these two.
First up: “Fracture.” It’s nothing earthshaking, but it has a few neat twists. The game is designed around terrain deformation: Players’ weapons, grenades and a special instant-grading tool can make the land bulge and sink at will to create cover or disrupt fortifications.
The story is a futuristic tale of East vs. West - that is, what’s left of the Eastern and Western United States after severe global warming has left much of the center of the nation submerged. The terrain-altering technology that’s key to the game play was originally developed to hold back the oceans. But now it’s being used for less constructive purposes.
The crux of the matter is the Western region’s focus on genetic engineering that the Atlantic Alliance has outlawed. The Pacificans, as the Westerners are now called, have seceded from the union, and now a war is beginning.
Players take on the role of a nearly generic soldier, Jet, in the Atlantic forces. Jet has at his disposal a shielded armor suit and the Entrencher, a neat tool that allows him to create small hills or sinkholes nearly anyplace the ground is clear, allowing him to create impromptu cover or climb to out-of-reach places as needed.
Much of his arsenal also affects the ground. He has some grenades that create holes and bulges as well as booms, and others that raise a spire of rock that can move or destroy obstacles, or serve as a steppingstone.
He has a selection of guns, one of the neatest of which is a rocket launcher that sends its rounds underground to be detonated by the player at any time. There are other interesting weapons as well.
The action itself is merely average, with imprecise aiming helped along by a generous auto-aim, and occasional camera problems that make moving around a pain.
But the graphics - especially the Earth-morphing, physics and explosion effects - are quite nice, and the voice acting is good even when the actors are spouting cliches.
MERCENARIES 2: WORLD IN FLAMES 3 stars PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360, also for Sony PlayStation 3, PS2, PC PRICE: $59.99 ($39.99 to $59.99 for other versions) AGE RATING: Teen
“Mercenaries 2: World in Flames” is, funnily enough, the sequel to a game published by LucasArts a few years ago. Electronic Arts picked up this installment.
Each of the three protagonists - the practically psychotic Swede, Mattias Nilsson; the hearty Chris Jacobs; and the swift Jennifer Mui - has an innate trait, such as Mui’s speed. Together with their logistics officer, Fiona, and anyone they can recruit to their cause, they form a private military corporation, working for the moment in Venezuela.
In the first mission, they play a key part in a coup. After that, they’re double-crossed by the coup’s instigators.
These guys don’t forgive. They want payback - and a payday - and they’ll work with anyone to get it. Players can take on solo jobs or cooperate with an online buddy, “Crackdown”-style.
The game plays a lot like the original - sometimes too much, as the enemies are still as dumb as bricks. But it still has that fusion of big-boom action with “Grand Theft Auto”-style open-world and vehicle-jacking game play – it’s just not as fresh this time around.
But they have some new tricks. The mercs can now take over occupied vehicles, which opens interesting avenues when encountering tanks or helicopters. And they can still use the money they earn on jobs to call in vehicle and supply drops, or high-explosive air support.
Oh, and everything can be blown up.
This isn’t the best-looking game around, but it’s serviceable, and the explosions look great.
The bombastic music is also fine, if overly played, but the phrases the mercs yell out as they go about their dirty work start repeating far too soon.