One of the smoothest PlayStation VR games I’ve ever played, and that’s saying something
It feels like ages since I’ve toyed with my PlayStation VR setup, much less tried out something new for it, but long story short — after finally charging my Move controllers (like I always seem to need to) and getting cozy — I’m glad I made the effort for Fracked.
This is a game that feels expertly tailored to the platform, and when we’re talking about tech like PSVR that’s hanging in there as best it can, it’s no small feat. Aside from the action-movie-esque premise, which in gameplay terms boils down to fast-shooting fun without longwinded expository fluff, my favorite part of Fracked is that it just works.
I didn’t encounter a single control-related issue or hiccup, which must be a first.
Fracked (PlayStation VR [Reviewed on a PS4 Pro])
Released: August 20, 2021
It’s not too important to know the story setup, which involves infiltrating a mountain mining base, and putting a stop to an otherworldly invasion — the important bit is that it’s overrun with bad dudes who don’t bleed red, and they’re a whole lot of fun to fight.
Fracked never sits still, whether you’re hanging onto the side of your buddy’s helicopter, zipping in between trees and dodging snowmobile goons while skiing, or ziplining over a chasm with a gun in your free hand. While you could sum it up as a cover-based FPS, and there is a big emphasis on a pretty novel cover system, that’s not the whole picture.
When I think of “cover,” I tend to think “slow.” In Fracked, there’s more of a frantic arcade-shooter vibe — almost like TimeSplitters, albeit with a limited pistol and SMG arsenal. (Aside from some limited-use power weapons like a grenade launcher and revolver, that’s really it.) You’ll sometimes want to grab onto the corner of a wall, or a box, or whatever’s lying around to take a breather; you’ll physically pull yourself down with one hand while the other still has your gun ready to go. This flows super well, and once you’ve gotten used to the controls, you’ll be able to zip around and pop a squat without thinking. I can’t believe I didn’t have any issues with my arms going out of bounds or my hands glitching.
The player movement feels effortless, which is particularly impressive given that nDreams pulled it off with two PlayStation Move controllers in a seated setup. In short, one Move is for your gun and quick turns, and the other Move is used for walking/running and grabbing surfaces to pop in and out of cover. If you’re not entirely convinced or are worried about nausea, I’d recommend the demo for Fracked. There are several comfort settings, too.
Admittedly, midway through, I was sprinting around like a madman, popping off shots before the corrupted miners could fully retaliate. This isn’t necessarily the best way to play, and if you’re surrounded, you’ll likely get taken out, but I appreciate that Fracked let me be risky if and when I wanted to be. Why would you ever slink down into cover? Reloading your gun is a two-step physical action, and until you’re proficient with it, it’s better to do it in cover. The AI gets to a point where it doesn’t miss all that much, and to regenerate health, you’ll need to find a safe spot and not take any more hits for a bit.
I won’t go on and on about the combat other than to say I like the way it encourages you to move around as much as possible, whether it’s to pick up enemy-dropped ammo, get the jump on a foe, or avoid being flanked by reinforcements. You can see enemy outlines (to a point) as they’re shuffling around, which I dig from a playability standpoint. Some of them chase after you and explode, and some are like mini-bosses that have to be put into a vulnerable state with well-timed shots at the mines they scatter around the arena.
Aside from the run-and-gunning, there’s quite a bit of climbing in Fracked, with cool moments where you’re snaking your way around precarious scaffolding in all directions, or scurrying across power lines before they zap you with a pattern-based surge. Except for some moments with ladders that are, well, ladders, the one-hand-at-a-time climbing mixes things up as much as possible. In a lot of video games, climbing — even in VR — can be so routine it becomes boring. Fracked has the right mix of physicality and creative obstacle-course routes. Thankfully, you aren’t just mindlessly heading up every time.
As for the skiing, it’s probably the most nuanced from a control perspective in that if you lean too hard, you can take turns much sharper than you might’ve intended. There are a few of these setpieces — enough where it’s enjoyable without overstaying its welcome.
Once you’re an hour or so into Fracked and you’ve seen the main beats, you can tell where the remaining two hours will probably go, and it doesn’t throw any zany curveballs.
I think I would’ve liked another primary weapon and another unique enemy variant to spice it up a little more. At the same time, I appreciate how streamlined everything is — I only felt unnecessarily bogged down once, and that was right at the literal end during a drawn-out boss skirmish. Every other step of the way, this game was go go go.
The snappy pacing, not-overly-comedic tone, and engaging run-and-duck shootouts are all high points. I also have to commend the readable art direction, which looks surprisingly crisp for a PlayStation VR game (at least on a PS4 Pro), and the soundtrack, which kept me on my toes and subconsciously nudged me along until I finished Fracked in one sitting.
My main takeaway, though: I can’t believe Fracked has a dual-Move control scheme that is this reliable and this much fun. It’s making the absolute most of this hardware.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]