Fuse review: “bro code” violation

Insomniac Games is a company that’s not afraid to take risks. In 1996, they released their first game called Disruptor. While the game was a typical first-person shooter, the player was able to acquire “psionics.” These “psionics” enabled players to use powers, which included: draining, healing, shocking, and creating a force field. Ever since then, Insomniac has become known for their “over the top” weapons/powers. Their newest game, Fuse, continues this trend. The question is… should you deploy your mag shield and charge head-first into the fight, or should you turn invisible and run away from this game?

Story

Fuse’s story is nothing too exciting. You play as a small independent contracting team called Overstrike 9. You’re team is sent in to take care of a specific situation dealing with a powerful substance called fuse. Fuse is a military grade compound that’s used to make futuristic weaponry. However, when injected, it makes the user into a super solider. Of course, the mission goes haywire and the team is forced to track down a rouge operative who plans to use the fuse for his own benefits.

If the story sounds a little cliché, that’s because it is. There are never any exciting moments throughout, and you don’t really know what’s going on sometimes. I also didn’t care about any of the characters in the story. That being said, the story is there to help push players along from one chapter to the next. Don’t expect too long of a journey though. There are six chapters total in Fuse, each taking about an hour, hour and a half to complete.

Gameplay

Fuse is a third person cover based shooter. In the game you are able to play as one of four characters, each having their own unique weapon and skill set. Each one of the characters really feels/plays differently, and you are advised to continuously switch between the four to tackle a specific situation.

The first one of these soldiers is Dalton. As the “fearless” leader of the group, Dalton is equipped with (my favorite) the mag shield. The mag shield creates a shield that repels enemy projectiles. While the shield works primarily as mobile cover for Dalton and teammates in close proximity, the weapon can be upgraded to drop stationary shields. The shield can also be triggered to create a mag shield blast, which can be used to destroy nearby enemies. Dalton is who I spent the majority of my time playing as throughout the campaign (4-player online, see below).

The second Overstrike 9 operative is Jacob. He is equipped with the arc shot, a powerful scoped crossbow that fires Fuse-augmented mercury bolts. These bolts can be lodged in both enemies and the environment, and later can be detonated to incinerate enemies caught in the blast. If you need damage dealt quickly, bring in Jacob and the arc shot.

The next member of this band of misfits is Izzy. Izzy’s equipped with the shattergun, which fires melanite rounds full of Fuse at targets and encases them in crystal, which can be shattered by melee attacks or further gunfire. Izzy also serves as the medic of the team. She can deploy (a life saving) med beacon that can heal teammates within its radius and revive downed allies.

Rounding out the team is Naya. Naya serves as the stealth assassin of the team and can cloak herself in order to move about unseen and dispatch enemies. She carries with her the warp rifle, which fires anti-matter rounds laced with Fuse to create singularities that create wormholes and devour enemies. These wormholes form when a target is killed and can set off a warpchain of multiple singularities if the blast hits another enemy that has been painted by anti-matter rounds. She’s pretty cool.

In order to be successful, you’re going to have to work together and use all four characters weapons in tandem, strategically. One of my group’s favorite combos was having Izzy crystalize an enemy and then having Dalton go in and bash it to pieces…. teamwork. Interestingly enough, there’s also a lot of platforming in the game as well, something I was not expecting. Be ready to traverse a lot of walls during your time with Fuse.

The game is meant to be played cooperatively with (up to) four players. I hoped online with three of my buddies and we played through the campaign. The game can also be played split-screen, which is a nice addition. However, if multiplayer is not your cup of tea, have no fear; playing the game solo is a viable option. If you decide to tackle the game alone, you can use the LEAP feature to switch between characters. This is as simple as holding the “back” button and pressing A, B, X, or Y to switch between characters. The LEAP feature is handy and is easy to use. The LEAP feature also is available if you’re playing the game online with a friend. You both can switch characters at any time.

Throughout the game you will be collecting experience. Whether it’s by killing enemies or collecting hidden canisters; you’ll use this experience to level up your characters (up to level 25). Each character has a skill tree tailored to their specific abilities. Once your characters reach level five, they’ll be able to get their secondary ability. (ex. med beacon for Izzy)

However, when I was playing solo I found it cumbersome maintaining the skill trees of my other characters. Often times (while I was mainly controlling Dalton), I didn’t even know that my characters had leveled up. Then, I would have to LEAP into each character separately, pause the game, and assign skill points one-by-one. It was a pain in the neck.

The game also offers the ability to assign team perks. These are bought with credits that you find laying around throughout the game. While a novel idea, our team was only able to afford two of them throughout the whole game, and they’re not too useful.

One of the things I didn’t like about Fuse was that the game shows it’s hand too quickly. After the second chapter you’ve basically seen all that the game has to offer. Instead of quality from chapter three on, it’s quantity. Instead of having new types of bad guys, the game just throws more and more waves of old ones at you. So much so, that on the final mission it felt obnoxious, and the people I was playing with just wanted the game to be finished.

One thing I liked about Fuse is that it’s a pretty difficult game. The last few games I’ve been playing have all been way too easy on their default difficulty settings. Fuse’s normal mode is one tough cookie. I was “downed” multiple times throughout the game. Thankfully, we had a great Izzy (medic) that kept the team healthy. We did have one or two “wipes” though. Thankfully, the check pointing system in the game is great.

The game also has an Echelon multiplayer mode. This is just a fancy name for what amounts to a “horde” mode. In this mode, players will fend off waves of increasingly difficult enemies, and see how long they are able to survive. There are 12 waves in all. This might not seem like a lot, but trust me, it’s plenty. On wave six your team will fight a mini-boss, and on the final wave you’ll go up against one of the games main bosses. Hopefully it’s not the cheap, final boss. The waves are randomly generated and any experience gained in this mode counts towards your level progression. There is some incentive to play Echelon mode, but for me it was a one-and-done thing.

Presentation

Fuse is a good-looking game. The character models are decently done, and the enemy design (while generic) has some flare. Environments are where the graphics really shine. Throughout the game you’ll travel the globe embarking on missions to different areas. Each one of these environments looks nice, and has it’s own feel. I played the game on an Xbox 360, but what I saw of the PS3 version was equally as nice.

The music of the game was nothing special though. At times when there was intense action happening on screen, I wanted a little more “oomph” out of the score. I guess I’ve just been spoiled after playing games like Metro: Last Light and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon which have incredible music.

I did run into a few bugs throughout my time with Fuse. One of these was during a prison section of the game when I didn’t have a gun. Whenever I would take cover, my character just held up his hand like he was holding an invisible gun (see below). This didn’t effect gameplay at all, but I found it kind of jarring. Also, during some of the platforming sections of the game, when I attempted to make a jump, the game had other ideas and I fell to my death.

The most egregious of these bugs came after a huge double mini-boss fight. The game was having a “hand to ear” Gears of War loading type situation. During these moments, you’re not allowed to LEAP or use weapons, and I was stuck in this mode forever. I continually walked slowly and wasn’t allowed to shoot, until enemies came and killed me. It was ugly.

Overall

Fuse is a competent third person shooter and a decent game. However, I don’t think there’s enough value to warrant a purchase. The campaign’s story is flat and can be completed within seven hours. The combat (even with each characters unique weapons) is mundane, stale, and repetitious.

With that said, I still think Fuse deserves a shot. If you have three other buddies that want to spend an afternoon playing through the campaign together, I would definitely say give the game a rent…Just do it soon before Microsoft starts charging you.

7/10

_______

A copy of Fuse was given to us by Electronic Arts for review; I played the game on the Xbox 360. It took me about 7 hours to complete the game on normal. I played the campaign both in multiplayer and single player. I put some mag shields up, threw many med-beacons, and wasn’t afraid of any cats.