Fragpunk Is Unique Enough to Stand Out in the Hero Shooter Pack

It’s all about variety.

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There are nearly a dozen “hero shooters” that have been revealed in the last few months; Star Wars Hunters, Marvel Rivals, Concord, Supervive, Valorant on consoles, and more. The genre has suddenly exploded, and it’s looking increasingly difficult to stand out among the crowd, especially with long-established games like Overwatch 2 still going. Out of all the hero shooters I’ve seen and played this year, Fragpunk feels like the one that might be distinct enough to turn into something special. Its card-based randomization is a thrilling idea that gives the game a unique identity, especially when paired with its pop-punk graffiti aesthetic. Fragpunk still needs a little polish, but in the flood of shooters this year, it’s one you need to keep on your radar.

Fragpunk’s central idea, and main mode, lies in its “Shard Card” system. Shard Cards are randomized effects that are applied between rounds, some of which are wacky or small changes, and others that drastically change things for your team or the enemy.

Each hero in Fragpunk has their own abilities that lean into an archetype, like Jaguar being a trap-heavy, more strategic character.

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In the main mode, two teams of five go against each other until one has won four rounds. These are blazingly fast matches that typically last only three to five minutes. That’s because there are two ways to win, either eliminate the entire enemy team or plant a bomb-type item and defend it until the timer goes down. More often than not the bomb is an afterthought because of the fast and furious player eliminations.

This lightning-fast pace is thrown for a loop by the card system, as after each round both teams get a random selection of three Shard Cards that can be voted on, and the winner implemented. These are truly the beating heart of Fragpunk’s identity, injecting a delirious dose of sheer luck into matches. One card might give the entire enemy team big heads making headshots easier, another might respawn your entire team as zombies when they’re eliminated, while another spawns a Grim Reaper behind an enemy when their health reaches half damaging anyone in a radius.

Shard Cards add unique flavor to each match, if your team can agree on which ones to use.

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These big cards are visual treats that drastically change things, but there are plenty of smaller effects as well. Some cards give characters more skill uses, add extra health, increase the number of pellets shotguns shoot, or add fog to the entire map.

There are 70 cards in Fragpunk currently, and that variety makes each and every round feel unique, forcing you to change your strategy or approach constantly. That’s exactly what makes Fragpunk so much fun, though, and really encourages that “one more match” mentality, when you know that one more round could be something different. It also arguably helps even the playing field a bit, as one team that’s being trounced might suddenly get a card that can tip the scales in their favor. That does create some questions as to the viability of Fragpunk’s competitive scene, but there are standard deathmatch modes without cards that can be used for that.

The wide variety of Shard Cards is fantastic in Fragpunk, and makes each round feel unique, like this card that gives your team katanas that can block bullets.

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While I absolutely love the Shard Card system, I do think the core mechanics of Fragpunk need a little extra elbow grease. The shooting in general feels good, but slower reloading weapons don’t feel as viable because of the speed of gameplay, and how small and tight maps are. There aren’t many great sniping vantage points or options. At the same time, the health system can feel a bit all over the map. Sometimes a single headshot from an assault rifle will annihilate you, while others it takes a few shots. I did play Fragpunk’s alpha, of course, so these are all issues that can be fine-tuned and ironed out as the game moves toward release.

The first time I booted up Fragpunk I played eight hours straight, something I almost never do for multiplayer games these days. For hours on end, I kept seeing new Shard Cards, while learning the ins and outs of each character. Fragpunk has the basics of hero shooters right, compelling characters who each feel visually and mechanically distinct. It’s a strong contender on that front alone, but layering in the card system makes the game feel so energetic and distinctive.

Fragpunk’s pop-punk graffiti art style makes the game bright and colorful, matching the intense speed of matches.

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Over the last few years, shooters have become a tough sell for me personally, everything has started feeling so homogenized and generic. So many hero shooters specifically are too focused on trying to emulate Overwatch that they can’t break out on their own. I don’t have that worry whatsoever with Fragpunk, and after just a weekend of playtime, it’s shot up my list of anticipated games. It’s the kind of shooter I could see myself not just playing, but sticking with for months, if the post-launch support is good. That’s really the key here, while the Shard Card system is incredible, if the team at Bad Guitar Studio can consistently keep the system updated with new cards and options, there’s more than enough reason to stick around.

It’s a tough time to be launching any kind of live-service multiplayer game, but Fragpunk’s gutsy take on the hero shooter feels like a move that could make it flourish.

Fragpunk is planned to release in 2025 on Xbox Series X|S and PC.

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