Fracked is a bombastic PSVR shooter. Its influences, from Borderlands to Blood and Truth, are clear from the offset, but they’re blended together into something that’s altogether quite different. You don’t often get into shootouts whilst skiing in games, nor do their storylines usually revolve around fracking, but Fracked does both of these things with style.
It begins with a nice, relatively relaxing skiing session. I say relatively, because you’re racing against an avalanche for your life… but at least you’re not being shot at as you get used to the skiing controls. You tilt your head to the left and right to steer, which works well enough even if it does feel a little inaccurate.
Once you’ve outpaced the avalanche you get a quick tutorial on how your pistol and taking cover works before your first shootout. The guns work pretty much how you would expect – just point and shoot – but reloading is a little more involved. First you tap the move button, then grab the outline of a magazine that’s conveniently next to the gun, push it into place, and pull back the slide. It’s a streamlined, more arcade system than in other games, but it works very well to keep you in the moment. You can see the ammo remaining in your magazine by looking at the side of the gun too, which is a nice touch.
The cover system is even better, allowing you to use one hand to grab cover and then manoeuvre yourself behind it using that hand. Then you can quickly pop up to take some shots and drop back behind whenever needed. This sytem works incredibly well to really make you feel like you’re taking cover against things, rather than just crouching behind and shooting around obstacles. It works on walls, platforms, chest high walls and boxes, all of it, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t see it in other VR games in the future.
It isn’t quite perfect, as it’s not always easy to tell if a limb or your posterior is sticking out from behind cover for enemies to fill with new holes and you occasionally grab cover when trying to reload, but these are easy to avoid once you get used to the system. You can also put your head through cover sometimes, but again, just… don’t put your head through solid objects? That’s good advice for life, really.
Using this cover system, your trusty pistol, and an SMG you’ll be running around and flanking enemies left and right. It plays like a 90s shooter, right down to the suspicious feeling that enemy waves will keep spawning until you reach a certain point. It’s an awful lot of fun, particularly once you acquire the SMG as the pistol is a little under-powered. A tap of triangle will switch between these two weapons, with the SMG requiring ammo that can be picked up about the levels, while the pistol has infinite ammo as a fallback.
Aiming is remarkably consistent for a PSVR game too, with very awkward wiggling of your head or hands whilst aiming, other than when I specifically tried to block the headset to see what happened.
The other guns in the game work like powerups, the revolver can be fired six times before it disappears into nothing, though it can shoot through walls which is very cool, whilst the grenade launcher can be fired only once. It would be nice if there was a wider selection of permanent guns, especially since this way means you have to return to the guns and pick them up when you need them.
Of course, shooting without a reason is just silly. Fracked has you stranded in a fracking facility in the mountains. This particular facility has even more risks than usual associated with it, what with the strange crystals sticking out of enemies and the mad bastard that runs the place. Naturally you’re tasked with shutting the place down, which involves an awful lot of shooting enemies, a surprisingly amount of skiing, and a lot of climbing. Whilst the storyline itself isn’t particularly remarkable, it’s not too bad and it’s enough to keep you playing without getting in the way.
Since you’re out in the mountains you can expect some stunning views and the game’s graphic novel inspired cel-shaded art style, which is a little reminiscent of Borderlands, is more than up to the task. While textures can be blurry in places, the aesthetic means that it doesn’t really matter; it looks fantastic either way. Even when you do stop for a moment and have a look around, the overall look of the game is excellent. Then there’s the music, all heavy guitars and thumping bass, it works particularly well in combat to get you in a shooty mood.
As well as the weapon variety being a bit disappointing, the enemies also aren’t particularly diverse. There’s just four types: machine gunners, shotgunners, suiciders that run at you with a blood-curdling scream, and big ones. The big enemies are a nightmare, twice the height of the other enemies and their only weak spot being the giant metal backpack they’re carrying that seems to power their absurdly accurate cannon. Flanking is the name of the game, but even when done efficiently it takes an awful lot of ammo to take these enemies down. This enemy pops up multiple times throughout the game, it’s basically a recurring boss and it got to the point where I got annoyed that it was there when I saw it. It just isn’t as fun to fight a giant with one weak point whilst also fighting off a legion of normal enemies.
The game is also a bit short. I finished all eight chapters in two sittings, and I would guess the runtime comes to around 3-4 hours including deaths. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it doesn’t really have much replay value either outside of dashing through the experiencing again. A horde mode would have been a nice addition, especially since much of the game reverts to a kind of horde mode a lot of the time.