PSVR is in an interesting place these days. It’s the tail end of the device’s life, PSVR2 is on the horizon for next year, and Sony has a bit of a problem getting PS5s into the hands of gamers who want them. This presents a unique challenge for PSVR as without new software, headset owners have nothing to play and potential buyers might hold off until the new device arrives.
- Beautiful despite old hardware;
- Great gunplay;
- Slick cell-shaded style;
- Great soundtrack.
- Needs one or two more weapons;
- Story isn’t anything special;
- Could have launched with challenge or arcade modes.
Enter Fracked. Though we’re undoubtedly in the waning days of the PSVR1 it’s very nice to see Sony still committing resources to the device with exclusives. This will act as a nice bridge between devices so PSVR veterans have something new to play (and look forward to replaying on PSVR2) and anyone with a PS4 looking to get into VR has something to entice them over.
While a game like Hitman 3 didn’t translate well to the older hardware (expect it to be amazing on PSVR 2, though) Fracked hits a sweet spot for action, visuals, and making the absolute most out of PSVR’s limitations. Tracking is superb, interactions are straightforward, and combat is a distinct pleasure.
You play as a nameless employee of the Finchteq Corporation which has a mining operation in what I’m assuming is Alaska. The game starts off nicely with a ski chase against an avalanche and then right into some gunplay. The environments throughout Fracked shine as the developers rarely reuse assets, giving each section of the game an attention to detail that goes a long way.
It’s worth saying too how good the game looks, even on a headset that came out several years ago. Other PSVR games suffer from massive screen door effect, especially with draw distances, but Fracked with its Borderlands-esque cell-shading gives the game a surprising amount of visual pop. You won’t play Fracked and ever think, “gee, this could look better”.
Same goes for the gunplay with its streamlined reloading and superb haptics. Though you’ll only get two main weapons for the whole campaign, a pistol and SMG, spraying down enemies with fully automatic gunfire feels amazing. This is thanks to the finely tuned haptics, which goes to show the PSVR move wands have at least that advantage over other VR controllers.
Enemies come in a limited variety of what I can only describe as “crystal zombies”. You see, a strange purple alien crystal discovered beneath the fracking operation has turned most of the working stiffs at the Finchteq facility into an alien hive mind of gun-toting psychopaths. With varying degrees of deformity, the bad guys of Fracked look like a nasty cross between The Last of Us ‘shroom zombies and a disease that makes purple rock candy grow out of your face.
There are some heavy-type enemies but you’ll mainly be facing off against waves of grunts. This oddly enough never feels repetitive as the environments vary to make each gunfight feel fresh and challenging. You can also grab pieces of cover to pull yourself out of harm’s way to recover health or pop in a fresh mag. Though nothing revolutionary, Fracked’s gunplay is smooth, tight, and enjoyable throughout. I will say it could have used an extra main weapon or two but you can pick up limited use weapons like revolvers, shotguns, and grenade launchers.
Fracked’s story is your standard “save the world” type plot with a bit of an ecological spin to it. Thankfully it doesn’t browbeat you too much over the environment and Fracked, referring to hydraulic fracking, is just used as a clever name for the game rather than some commentary on the practice. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that hydraulic fracking is safe and actually low-impact on the environment. Burning the natural gas recovered from fracking, for instance, produces half the amount of carbon dioxide of oil and gasoline.
When you’re not blasting crystal zombies you’ll be hitting the slopes for some pretty awesome ski chases. Littered throughout the campaign are sections of you hitting some fresh powder and blasting skimobiles into fiery wrecks along the way. The ragdolls and physics here really shine as every enemy vehicle explodes into beautiful fireballs, catapulting their passengers skyward, as they somersault off of a thousand-foot high cliff.
Your protagonist speaks with a Texas drawl that’s easy on the ears and banter with a wisecracking helicopter pilot named Rosalez gives the game some levity between firefights. You’ll do a bit of base jumping and clinging to the skids of Rosalez’s chopper for some enjoyable set pieces, complete with appropriately timed slow-motion.
The Finchteq facilities are also littered with ziplines (for some reason) so escaping enemies and cinematically blasting down others add a nice touch to battles that might otherwise be a tad repetitive. If anything developer nDreams didn’t go far enough and I would have loved a grappling hook to zip around arenas or a minecart chase ala Temple of Doom.
There are some climbing sections but these are few and far between, serving only to break up the action. You are in store for some surprises I will say as you scale some of the facilities' treacherous locales. Just remember not to look down.
Though there aren’t any puzzles and the game’s light on exploration, Fracked amounts to a solid and enjoyable eight-hour campaign that’s pure ‘80s action movie fun. It was wise not to lean into that aesthetic too much and jam the game with neon colors, windbreakers, and totally tubular 80s lingo. The soundtrack is remarkably good and sufficiently synthed-out to give it a feel of being of the era.
I have hope we’ll be seeing more updates from nDreams in the form of challenge modes, DLC, new features, and new weapons. But even if none of that comes to pass Fracked is an enjoyable, if a bit brief, piece of blockbuster popcorn action fun.
Alexander Eriksen | Gamepressure.com