The first thing I should say about Fuse is that I literally knew three things about it going in:
- It was made by Insomniac
- It was called Overstrike for a little bit
- The very first (no gameplay) teaser trailer was pretty good
My purchase of this game was the very definition of blind faith. I hoped it was good, and so I convinced myself it had to be. Sometimes taking blind leaps is a terrible idea. Other times, such as in this instance, it works out pretty well.
You see, one of the problems with Fuse is that I’m not sure it’s going to find an audience. This isn’t because it’s one of those weird avant garde twisty turny artsy fartsy games. Fuse is something halfway between basic third person shooter and really creative third person shooter, which seems like such an odd thing to say. On the surface, you’re looking at a squad based third person shooter. It’s a functionally efficient third person shooter. Ammo drops are for all of your weapons (even the cool fuse based weapons,) so you never have to struggle with finding special ammo for special weapons. There are a lot of enemies and a lot of chances for strategic fun and the boss encounters fall on the interesting side of the boss spectrum. The slight problem I had was with the cover system. It works well, but the main problem I had was sticking to cover I didn’t want to stick to and having issues with the cornering feature. If I wanted to go around a corner, the button often made me swap cover…and then proceeded to blow said cover. That sucks, because there is a bit of a stealth mechanic in this game that’s pretty interesting. It’s not 100% fleshed out, and they don’t always encourage it (because you wouldn’t get to use all your shiny toys,) but the times when I can go through a room without firing a bullet are some of my favorite moments. All-in-all, though, it’s an incredibly solid shooter.
Below the surface, you’re getting something a bit more hectic. The twists the game takes with the basic third person shooter format are pretty cool. The Xenotech weapons you get are (literally and figuratively) a blast to use. The Arcshot (which I took to using most) is a crossbow that burns enemies to death in several different, delightfully gruesome, ways. The Magshield is a close range “pistol” that absorbs enemy gunfire and launches it back at them. The Warp Rifle is a SMG that creates isolated black holes and singularities. The Shattergun can encase enemies in crystallized cocoons for…fun times, later.
While it is a joy to use these weapons on their own, most of their fun comes from strategically combining abilities together to make the largest spectacle of destruction imaginable. They throw so many enemies at you, and do it so often that there is never a dull moment. There’s always something stunning and explosive happening on the screen. All of this is combined with the score system, which nets you points for kills…and even more points for stylish kills using the Xenotech. This caused my friends and I to experiment with weapon combos to see how high of a score chain we could rack up.
Meanwhile, the leveling system offers a very basic RPG element to the mix. You can spend skill points to upgrade your abilities and weapons. It’s mostly there as an incentive, as the skill trees don’t vary that much character to character.
Still, there are some issues to be had here. The game is OK on its own. The first thing I did was try it out in single player, and it proves to be a decent game…if not occasionally frustrating and death filled (yay computer controlled characters.) The game truly shines when you have at least one other person along with you. Being able to strategize and have that companionship is what makes Fuse so great. It’s not quite standard if you play it alone, but it’s pretty darn close, and that’s a shame.
Another thing is that the story isn’t all that interesting. Well…that might be a little harsh. It *IS* interesting, but it’s something that we’ve all seen before. It’s about a group travelling across the world to stop an evil organization from destroying the world with something super dangerous. Now which movie and/or game am I describing? Exactly. The main draw here is definitely going to be the gameplay. There’s no doubt about that.
Initially, in a definite knee-jerk sort of action (apologies to my friend Kevin, who I hope reads this,) I described this game as something of a Borderlands-lite. It’s a four player romp that proves to be devilishly fun in it’s own unique way. Tonally and shooterishly (Is that a word? It is now.) it’s completely different, but I had the thought in my head that it could be just as fun. It is incredibly fun. Don’t let anything I say take that point away, because nothing I say can legitimately do that. The thing keeping it from reaching Borderlands level multiplayer greatness comes from the mission structure and how limited that is in comparison to Borderland’s crazy open world aspect and missions. There’s probably only so many times you can go through the same handful of missions in Fuse before you crave more. I also wish they would have taken more chances with the fuse in regards to your characters. One of the bosses injects himself with fuse and has crazy weird powers. If there was a scene (you get captured and put into prison briefly) where you were about to be experimented on with fuse and then got cut off suddenly, they could have opened up an entire world of awesome powers. They could have used that as an opportunity to improve the bare bones skill trees and made the characters (as far as abilities go) more varied and unique.
Getting back to the original point (there was totally one of those a few paragraphs up,) I’m afraid it’s not going to find an audience because of how close it came to not finding me. You saw that list at the beginning of the article. I’m a person who keeps up on games, and I mean KEEPS UP. Even if I don’t get every one (which seems to be a trend that’s falling away these days,) I’m still very much ingrained in the culture. That’s why a game like this, made by a developer like that, with a publisher like that not flying past my radar in a meaningful way is so worrying. Perhaps it was the name change mid-development, or perhaps it’s something else entirely. Maybe I’m just being stupid, but I learned my lesson with Mirror’s Edge. Not every EA game with a cool concept gets it’s chance in the sun. And it really is a cool concept that I hope they can expand on in the future.
Still, Insomniac has cracked out on it’s own like an Amish teen seeing the world for the first time. Its first game outside of the blanket of SCE is a great time that deserves your attention…provided you have some friends along for the ride.