Fracked, the upcoming PSVR exclusive from developer nDreams, is now due to launch next month, and today we got our first hands-on time with the game thanks to a new demo that’s available today.
Fracked leans clearly into the shooter genre, but from our time with the demo it looks like nDreams is aiming to shake up the format with an interesting cover system, climbing, and some more novel thrills too.
The first thing you’ll experience in the demo is a relaxing downhill ski while being pursued by an avalanche. It’s somewhat surprising to see skiing in the game, as the rollercoaster-like motions aren’t generally comfortable in VR. Granted, in this case nDreams seems to have taken care with the specific implementation (using a ‘lean to steer’ system) which—at least so far—seems to be relatively comfortable.
After hitting the slopes, the demo introduces you pretty quickly to combat. You’ll find a semi-automatic pistol which, thanks to unlimited ammo, seems like it’ll be your go-to backup gun.
While Fracked is by no means aiming for realism, the game features simplified manual reloading that so far feels really good. There’s already a lot on your plate with the game’s locomotion (which has to overcome the lack of sticks on the PS Move controllers), so the simplified reloading fits in nicely. Rather than asking you to juggle mags, a new magazine will automatically float next to the gun and simply needs to be inserted before chambering the gun.
While I’ve seen similar systems in other VR games, the implementation here feels quite good. It manages to be easy to do without taking away the visceral feeling of manually reloading your weapon. This is surely helped by solid sound design, good hand poses and forgiving grip points. If you peer into the side of the magazine it will become transparent and show you how many rounds remain inside. Though unrealistic, it doesn’t feel out of place with the game’s comic-book look, and manages to be a useful detail to boot.
You’ll be doing more with your hands in Fracked than just pulling the trigger and reloading. The game uses a sort of grab-based cover system which allows you to grab any nearby cover to easily move yourself in small increments to peek around corners or over cover while leaving your other hand free to shoot. In practice it’s very natural and also works as an effective alternative to real crouching or a button-based crouch. It’s a simple and smart idea that I wouldn’t be surprised to see adopted elsewhere.
From the guns we’ve had a chance to use thus far, Fracked has a deliciously chunky feel to its combat, both in the reloading and the shooting. Although enemies can definitely tank a handful of shots, the animations, effects, and sounds help sell the action quite well.
Between the fighting Fracked mixes things up with climbing, zip-lining, and some one-off activities. Beyond skiing, another one-off we saw in the demo is controlling a crane to clear an inaccessible pathway. These kinds of things can be fun breaks from a constant run-and-gun, so we’re definitely hoping to see more peppered throughout the full game.
One thing that also stands out in the demo is Fracked’s colorful, well executed art style. From what we’ve seen so far, the studio has really nailed the comic-book look it’s after, and the game looks about as sharp as any game could look with the dated resolution of PSVR. Upon looking at footage from the demo, I’d say that the game looks better still in the headset.
While the demo definitely gave me a promising impression of Fracked, one thing that worries me a bit is comfort. The game has a handful of comfort options, but seems it will rely entirely on smooth locomotion with no teleport. Though there’s plenty of games in which smooth locomotion is perfectly comfortable for me, the Fracked demo got me a bit dizzy. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why, though I suspect that it may actually have more to do with a wonky ‘snap turn’ implementation that rotates the player quickly, instead of instantly, as it should. That may be an easy fix, and we’ve given the feedback directly to nDreams.
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If nothing else, Fracked looks filled with character all its own. The excellent art style, simplified but satisfying gunplay, and grab-based cover system leave a great impression that I hope lasts. As long as the full game can up the action with a compelling story and strong level design, Fracked could deliver a worthwhile experience.