Fracked Review – PlayStation VR

The PSVR system has been seeing a surprise surge in quality releases as of late, and not the least of which is Fracked, the stellar new first-person shooter (FPS) from the VR-exclusive developer nDreams.  Fracked isn’t your run-of-the-mill on-rails House of the Dead style light-gun shooter that we have become accustomed to in the VR realm – it’s a full-on, free-roaming, acrobat climbing, dynamite exploding, ski-slope escaping romp that is so awesomely immersive that you just might feel like throwing up.

Sadly, I’m not joking.

Fracked is the most awesome VR game that I simply cannot play for more than 30 minutes in a sitting, because on every occasion I end up with something along the lines of seasickness, which is a real bummer because it is such an amazing experience…the game – not the seasickness.

Fracked starts off by immediately instructing gamers that the intended way to play is in the sitting position. Sitting is an absolute must, as the game’s frenetic 360° action would surely result in more than a few accidents with standing gamers.  Fracked then has players link a PlayStation Move controller to each hand (two are required) and re-center the perspective using the Start button.

It’s right about there that the basic tutorial ends, as gamers are immediately throw into a white-knuckle ski run down the side of a mountain trying to keep ahead of an ensuing avalanche.  Having played a couple VR ski games in my time, Fracked delivers one of the better attempts at capturing the thrilling excitement sport – which comes into play more than once in the game.

Upon escaping the avalanche, gamers are thrust into the traditional FPS portion of the game – armed at first with a liberated pistol, and eventually a similarly liberated SMG, gamers traverse through mountaintop factory crawling with blue-faced baddies looking for a fight.  They aren’t the smartest of foes – they run right up on you like zombies looking for brains – but they aren’t the easiest to take down either, so each wave poses a difficult, yet exhilarating, challenge.

Making things even more frenetic is the reload mechanic that has gamers slamming magazines and cocking weapons upon each reload.  At first it all feels a bit wonky, but within minutes it becomes a rhythm of shooting, slamming, cocking, shooting, etc.

Movement is managed with the Move controllers, using the face buttons on whichever controller hand isn’t currently holding a gun; If the gun is in the left hand the right hand controls movement, if the gun is in the right hand the left controls movement.  Since guns are often switched from hand to hand to help fire around corners or from cover this contextual control scheme can get a bit hard to wrap your head around.  I found it best to keep the gun in the right hand for the most part and only use the left if I really needed to grab onto something to take cover or to grab a zip line.

And then there’s the climbing – and when I say climbing, I mean Uncharted-level scaling of sheer mountain walls and monkey-bar climbing over bottomless crevasses.  In fact, the climbing is so exciting and innovative that simply watching someone else play through a climbing sequence in Fracked is almost as enjoyable as actually playing it – as they stretch grasp above, below, beside, and behind themselves in what looks like some strange 80’s aerobics arm-workout routine.

But it all was too good apparently, because it was right about 20-30 mins in I started noticing the headset fogging up, the sweat began pouring down my face, and the strange feeling that I was spinning in my seat.  The headset came off and I could hardly walk straight to the bathroom to splash cold water on me.  That first time, I was wrecked for the night – feeling like the time I’d been on a charter fishing boat all day.  I thought I had caught a bug, until the next day when I tried the game again and it all happened again.  I then decided to experiment with my 16yr old son, I said nothing and let him play through, and at about the same spot in the game he suddenly yanked the headset off and said “something’s wrong – I don’t feel right”.  We tried again the next day with the same verdict.

That being said I probably made it through about an hour and a half of the 3-hour action and all queasiness aside, I was thoroughly impressed.  Fracked is an awesome package – it looks great with its cartoon-style graphics, solid voiceovers, and a great soundtrack.  I really wish I could play more of it, and I will over time – but I’d highly suggest gamers at least take a stab at the demo and see for themselves how cool Fracked is.

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