Preview: Fracked – A Blockbuster Movie in VR Form

British virtual reality (VR) developer nDreams has been on top form of late thanks to titles including Phantom: Covert Ops (2020)and location-based entertainment (LBE) experience Far Cry VR. Its latest project Fracked looks to continue that success, providing players with an action-packed thrill ride where you can run and gun through elaborate levels designed for verticality, exclusive to PlayStation VR.

Fracked has the usual action-hero dynamic where you’re trying to save the world from some interdimensional aliens. So cue plenty of dramatic set pieces like skiing down a mountainside trying to outrun an avalanche or ziplining across a building whilst peppering enemies with gunfire. All fairly standard stuff but nDreams has made some interesting design choices, especially where the PlayStation Move controller is concerned.

Firstly, Fracked can only be played using Move as the gameplay style just wouldn’t suit a DualShock 4 or PlayStation Aim controller. Move is necessary when VR videogames require physical actions like climbing ladders or reloading a weapon and there’s plenty of that in Fracked. In fact, mechanics like the reloading work provide a nice balance between realism and automation. There’s no ammo belt to worry about, simply eject the magazine, push in the next and cock the weapon. The process is smooth enough so that even in the heat of battle it doesn’t feel bloated and awkward.

Locomotion and PlayStation Move haven’t always been a match made in heaven, and that’s certainly so when a fast-paced shooter requires you to be seated. However, Fracked isn’t slow and lumbering like others in this field, being able to easily move around environments (without teleportation), taking cover and planning your next move. This is aided in a couple of ways. As you are seated and there’s no crouch button all you do is grab whatever cover you’re behind to pop up, take a few shots then duck back down. A very simple yet intuitive mechanic. The other are those ziplines mentioned. Fracked has plenty of places to climb yet it’s the ziplines that provide extra dynamic flavour to the experience, quickly traversing areas to get the drop on enemies.

There first few areas also showcase a nice level of pacing, offering an instant challenge in normal mode without being too overwhelming. Fracked also has a nice visual flavour to it, kinda reminiscent of Borderlands 2 VR and that cel-shaded art style. nDreams has achieved a fitting balance between realism and comic book aesthetics, vivid with its colour palette use yet you still feel like you’re in an abandoned mining town.

Even though the demo only lasts around 30 minutes the most important factor shined through, Fracked was enjoyable to play. You’ll easily go through the demo several times over ahead of the official launch in August, testing how much freedom you really have when tackling set pieces.

From first inspection, it certainly seems nDreams is going all out to make Fracked the action blockbuster of the summer. It is up against some stiff competition from the likes of Vertigo Games’ After the Fall but Fracked has all the ingredients for an engaging experience. Considering nDreams’ previous VR escapades Fracked is its boldest, hopefully managing to maintain this exciting gameplay throughout the campaign for a truly solid adventure.    

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