Fracture is a third person shooter released in 2008. The main hook of this game is Terrain Deformation, or 'TD' for short. Just about every weapon, and even every type of grenade, has the capability to deform the environment in some way. Think back to the original promise of Red Faction, and you will get the idea.
The game starts you with the Entrencher, an infinite ammo (with a cooldown) weapon that lets you raise or lower terrain to create small hills or valleys. The maximum height or depth is maybe 1.5x the height of a character. The expectation is that you will be able to use this tool throughout the entire game to create cover, throw enemies into hazards, or solve puzzles.
The game also has a unique set of weapons, although most of them map onto your standard fare. There's the submachine guns, the shotgun, the single-shot rifle, the sniper rifle, and the rocket launcher. In addition to this are a couple of weapons which burrow underground and explode near targets, or a sticky grenade launcher. The most unique weapons are the freeze gun, which is pretty much the only way to make melee useful, and the Lodestone, which does not actually damage an enemy in itself, but creates a point of gravity and everything within a few meters is drawn in. If that point happens to be in a hazard, or an enemy happens to be followed in by explosive barrels or heavy crates, well, that's their problem.
The story revolves around global climate change, a civil war in the United States, and the fight between freedom and governmental regulations, along with genetic enhancements versus cybernetics. This all sounds like a fascinating backdrop for great storytelling.
Unfortunately, most of these promises are never delivered on. Using the Entrencher to create cover works for quick "I need to recover my health" situations, but the cover never lasts. Just as all of your weapons deform the terrain, so do the enemy's. This leads to a situation where terrain is being raised and lowered, debris is flying everywhere, and the ground is constantly shaking. The graphics and framerate hold up surprisingly well under all of this mayhem, but somewhere in here you need to be able to aim and hit targets. The other problem with cover is that, well, if an enemy can't see you, it will start to lob grenades. They will lob a lot of grenades. This game is quite guilty of the "grenade rain" problem that plagues FPS games in this time frame. The grenades will rarely kill you, but they will leave you in cover for far too long as you try to recover health again and again, or you will pop up and be nailed by the pinpoint accuracy of an enemy that you may not even be able to see due to the fixed 3rd person perspective.
There are other mechanical and AI flaws as well. AI will not see you unless you are in a certain distance, even if you can shoot them with one of your rifles. This is even true when they have the same rifle and could hit you. Close in, and well, the AI will either take cover far better than you can with the game's controls, or will run in erratic patterns that make them hard to track and shoot. Far more enemies had to be taken down once they stopped moving than while they were moving to and fro, unless they were running straight into a piece of terrain that they got caught on. And as for taking enemies down, only the weakest of enemies can be taken down with a headshot. Every other level of troop can take a lot of shots. A LOT. The term "bullet sponge" will come to mind frequently throughout the game. You could try to run to cover, but frequently you will find yourself either crouched or zoomed in, and trying to run will not take you out of this position. Worse, the camera angle becomes fixed when you run, leading to situations where you actually cannot see where you are going unless you were already looking at your destination. Strafing is almost out of the question.
Checkpointing in this game is terrible. There are times where defeating a single enemy may trigger it, or you may chew through an entire squadron of 20-30 men before you get a checkpoint. Some of these overwhelming scenes may require you to spend 5 minutes picking through enemies one by one before you get killed and have to start over again. This quibble aside, the real problem is when you checkpoint in the middle of a battle. More than once a checkpoint saved in a spot where, if your weapon was not fired immediately after the load, you would be killed by the enemy that had saved in front of you.
The story falls flat as well. Starting out with your character trying to arrest a rebel leader and showing some promise, the game quickly devolves into an extremely linear quest to turn on or off shields, raise or lower bridges, or run from point A to point B. There are very few cut scenes which advance the story, and even fewer of these cut scenes touch on the greater conflict that this game's universe is set in, despite grandiose statements during gameplay such as "We're trying to save the world," without even addressing why one side in this battle may be morally better or not. The cutscenes could be replaced by any sci-fi storyline you desire, and it probably wouldn't come across as incongrous. The other offense the story commits is that, outside the framing of trying to arrest the rebel leader, the entire game's plot feels like it would have been one or two missions in a more popular sci-fi shooter such as Gears of War or Halo.
The game has one other mode, "Weapons Testing", which is a sandboxy playground with objects, platforms, and a collection of weapons that grows as you uncover the game's collectibles. This mode actually lets you try out any tactics you may want with an infinitely restockable arsenal and spots to stand in to summon enemies. However, there are no "infinite ammo" or "infinite health" options, so if a trick you're trying to pull off doesn't work, be prepared to be punished for it.
Multiplayer is completely dead, with this review written in 2013 for a game published in 2008. However, there is a single mode which cannot be found in other games here called Excavation. In this mode, your goal is to tunnel down to the lowest height possible at certain control points to raise a spire of rock, and then defend this spire from enemy gunfire. It's an interesting concept, and the only one to actually use the TD mechanics of the game to any great effect.
Achievements wise, this game has some pretty standard goals, such as 25 or 50 kills with every weapon, finishing the game on the hardest difficulty (good luck), and collectibles. There are a few interesting achievements for using the TD mechanics to get interesting kills, such as pushing an enemy into a shield or crashing them into a wall. The real flaw is the multiplayer achievements, which only involve getting wins and the extreme grind of 1500 games played. Even if multiplayer were still alive today this would be a goal that requires a larger amount of time than a mediocre shooter such as this deserves.
In summary, this game had some neat ideas but every single one of them falls flat. The game's difficulty is ramped up by turning enemies into bullet sponges, making headshots ineffective, and using grenade rain. The story is bland and fails to meet any of the expectations of a game with such a unique backstory. There is very little to recommend here that cannot be found in other games.
(The reviewer played this game in 2013, with a single playthrough on Hardcore setting and 4 hours spent exploring multiplayer and its mechanics.)