Fracked Review: A Shooter With Brains, Brawn And Brevity

Fracked offers a thrilling blockbuster campaign for PSVR… while it lasts. More in our Fracked review!

The metaphor might be overused but Fracked really is a rollercoaster ride. It’s a brilliant, explosive campaign that scales to great heights with its arena-based firefights before plummeting downhill in breakneck skiing segments. And then, before you know it, it’s over.

Most players familiar with VR shooters will get maybe three hours of gameplay out of Fracked’s eight-level campaign. Usually, I try to refrain from making a game’s length an issue in VR reviews if anything for the sake of not sounding like a broken record, but here it really is a sticking point. You’ll be having enough fun in Fracked that you won’t really want it to stop, but it isn’t long before it runs out of slope.

Let’s first focus on what works here, though, because there’s quite a lot of it. In its best moments, Fracked is a winning mix of brains and brawn with meaty first-person combat, set to the backdrop of a remote mountain facility, that offers hot-footed gunplay finely tuned to PSVR. It’s rare to play a game that feels like it was really tailor-made for Sony’s platform and its cumbersome Move controllers, but the smart use of your off-hand as a virtual joystick and a streamlined reloading system keep Fracked’s focus on the action, and not fighting a control scheme.

Fracked Review – The Facts

What is it?: A fast-paced VR shooter with a single-player campaign that mixes gunplay with skiing and more.
Platforms: PSVR
Release Date: Out now
Price: $29.99 (10% discount for PS Plus pre-orders)

As a result, Fracked pulls off some of the more agile VR combat we’ve seen whilst retaining immersion and intensity. Its weapons, meanwhile, are butchy and erratic, trading out precision fire for spray and pray chaos. nDreams does a great job of removing the fuss from the experience – taking cover is simply a matter of grabbing the edge of an object and then using your hand to lean in and out of harm’s way. We have seen this in other games but it’s expertly applied here, allowing you to carve a path through enemies before hunkering down on the floor to recharge health.

Most of the game’s big encounters take place in wide-open, multi-faceted environments with objectives that often ask you to hold out for a certain amount of time as the enemies pour in. The game is essentially an arena shooter and, while it doesn’t do a great job of disguising that, it does have some of the right ingredients to pile on the pressure with enemy types that screech as they sprint towards you in hopes of blowing themselves up or tougher, armored foes that first need to be knocked down so you can blast their power source.

Skiing, meanwhile, works well with hands-free controls, allowing you to return fire as you race snowmobiles and weave between guard posts. It can take some getting used to and never really gives you full control but, like so many other elements of the game, it offers a strong foundation to potentially build off of in the future and one of the most platform’s most incredible spectacles where items tumble past you and vehicles explode in the background. The same goes for some of the platforming segments which graduate from the Nathan Drake school of ‘How to Climb When Everything’s Coming Off the Wall’.

There are hiccups in this formula, though. Some of the enemy AI struggles to find a path towards you, which is made apparent in one particular fight that asks you to get one brute to stand in a certain location. They really wrestle to comprehend how to reach you, turning what should be one of the game’s climactic encounters into a mess, and that’s far from the game’s only bug. You also get limited-use special weapons like magnums, shotguns and grenade launchers which are indeed helpful but also take ages to disappear after being used, leaving you exposed to enemy gunfire without a means of attacking.

Fortunately, these moments are anomalies; most of Fracked’s action is polished, frantic, and fitting proof that you can serve up fast-paced action in VR and still have it feel native to the platform. Sealing the deal is the game’s fantastic art style and great soundtrack, which feels like playing through the pages of a comic book. Kudos to whoever had the idea to show the actual bullets inside a weapon clip as a clever way of keeping count of your ammo in VR.

Fracked Review – Comfort

Fracked is a smooth locomotion-only shooter, and a fast-paced one at that. There are vignetting options but, overall, expect the speed of the action to take its toll if you’re not yet used to VR gaming.

Ultimately, though, the sheer quality of Fracked’s campaign makes the sting of its shortness hurt all the more. True, nDreams’ last game, Phantom: Covert Ops, was a similar length, but the slower stealth pacing and evolving gameplay ideas helped round it out in a satisfactory way. It’s not just that Fracked isn’t very long, it’s that it doesn’t have enough space to really flesh out its own concepts. This culminates in a final level that’s throwing the same three enemy types at you that you encountered in its first 30 minutes. The short levels and uneventful story, meanwhile, leave things unfinished when the credits roll and the game needed more environments, more enemy types, other weapon types and more of its inventive setpieces to really come together as a whole package, but it never pulls it off.

You can tackle the campaign once more in a permadeath mode (the option for which gives you your first indication about how long the game is) and collect coins hidden in levels, though the latter is really only for trophies.

Fracked Review – Final Impressions

Fracked is a blast to play, even if it isn’t quite the massive shooter epic to round out the PSVR era. By all means, its arena-based action is polished and thrilling, offering refined fast-paced action with intense combat setpieces. But the game’s simply over far too soon, never getting a chance to really expand on its core elements and deliver the rich experience its mechanics deserve. Fracked starts off at a sprint and never really lets up, but the finish line is far closer than it should have been.

For more on how we arrived at this rating, read our review guidelines. What did you make of our Fracked review? Let us know in the comments below!

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