Fuse is another effort on the part of Insomniac games to throw off the shackles put upon them by producing high quality franchises like PlayStation exclusives Ratchet & Clank and Spyro the Dragon-games that may have been aimed in the vague direction of the younger end of the gamer demographic but had quality gameplay that meant they hit a much wider audience. The FPS Resistance trilogy was their first foray into the ‘grown up’ games market and now they seem to have taken a good look at Gears of War and Army of Two and thought; “we can do better than that”...
The influence of Epic’s Xbox 360 juggernaut Gears of War is clear; the muscle-bound leader-apparent Dalton Brooks looks like he could have walked straight out of Gears, the way the characters sprint is identical to Gear’s “roadie run” and a couple of the settings were so reminiscent of locations in various Gears games that I almost did a double-take. You can revive downed team mates in the same way as Gears, and dramatic events/objectives can be focused on by pressing ‘Y’. But make no mistake, Fuse has plenty of its own original ideas, not least the ability to switch or “leap” between characters and Insomniac’s trademark; highly imaginative and fun to use weapons-a thing that elevates the Ratchet & Clank games above all the other platform shooters.
The game is set in a recognizable near future and follows a team of four misfit agents who are collectively known as “Overstrike 9,” a unit whose mission is to stop the evil Raven Corporation from gaining access to and weaponising an alien substance called Fuse.
Fuse’s gameplay is far too repetitive...
As well as “normal” munitions-firing one-handed and two-handed weapons of various types (Harbinger sniper rifle, Savager assault rifle, Prowler shotgun, Dragonfly submachine gun, Guardian sidearm pistol and frag grenades), early in the game each of the four Overstrike team members is endowed with their own unique Xenotech weapon; Dalton has the Magshield, which is basically a Fuse-enhanced portable fluid shield that will absorb a huge amount of incoming munitions (you can even see the incoming bullets impacting on the other side of the Magshield.) This is deployed by holding the left trigger, and can momentarily used as an offensive weapon by reversing the polarity (right trigger) which forces all trapped projectiles outwards in a blast wave of excess Fuse, killing any enemies in the near vicinity! The shield is one-way, so also has the effect of enhancing your team’s Xenotech weapons and imbuing standard projectile rounds with Fuse and thus making them more powerful if fired at an enemy through the shield. This makes Dalton a vital member of the team as he can suck up so much damage and the Magshield an extremely offensive defensive weapon. Once the skill is unlocked you can also drop a “Deployable Shield” so Dalton can use traditional weapons and do more than just be the team’s “tank”.
Jacob Kimble is the sniper in the squad and is given the Arcshot crossbow; this fires high-velocity bolts that literally melt enemies on contact, and once the ‘Charged Bolts’ skill is unlocked you can chain multiple enemies together and then fire a single charged shot with ’RB’ to ignite all the enemies in the chain!
Izzy’s Shattergun uses melanite augmented with Fuse to encase enemies in a living crystal. They can then be shattered into a million pieces with additional rounds or with an ordinary projectile weapon or melee attack. An upgrade becomes available so Izzy can crystallize multiple enemies simultaneously. When unlocked, Izzy can also throw a Med Beacon like a “friendly hand grenade” to revive a team mate remotely, or just deploy it near the group to activate an area of healing effect.
Naya’s Warp Rifle combines anti-matter with Fuse to create singularities (wormholes that the enemy gets sucked into). You can ‘paint’ several enemies with the weapon then kill one, setting off a spectacular and deadly chain reaction. Naya can also use an invisible cloak for a limited time to stealth kill and flank certain enemies.
As I mentioned earlier if any of the agents take too much damage they aren’t just killed outright, they are first knocked down, and have a bleed-out time in which you can revive them (or they can revive you.) As with just about everything else in the game the bleed out time is upgradeable, as is the time that it takes you to revive a downed team mate. Another idea borrowed from Gears is the “Hold ‘Y’ to look” in the right direction when some action-event is happening, it’s quite a clever feature as it means the game doesn’t have to cut away to yet another cut scene, and makes almost sure you’ll see whatever drama is occurring.
Fuse has full split-screen or online co-op, with AI taking control of non-player characters. This mode seems reasonably popular, so even if you don’t have any friends playing the game you’ll have no problem teaming up with randoms online. All the pickups (XP and cash) are shared so you don’t need to worry about pick-up hoggers. The only problem when trying to progress through levels online can be the co-op “muster” points where all players have to go to in order to continue, just getting some non-headset wearing so-called co-op partners there can be a chore as some people seem to need to search every single nook and cranny of a map, three times. In addition to the campaign co-op Echelon is basically Fuse’s version of Gears of War’s Horde mode, where you and the team face wave after wave of increasingly tough enemies, while completing set objectives. Just like Gears’ Horde mode, Halo’s Spartan Ops/Firefight, and BlOps’s Zombies, Echelon is dangerously addictive, and could see you spending a lot more time on it than playing the campaign solo or co-op.
On the downside, Fuse can feel very repetitive, particularly if you stick to the same character, so switching (“leaping”) regularly is a good idea, although this is obviously only possible if playing solo or playing co-op with less than 4 players. When soloing you’ll find Leaping vital at some points (particularly during the final boss battle) as the AI, although mostly helpful, won’t always use or deploy the agents’ tools in the best way, so you may find yourself switching to Dalton to erect a shield, or to Izzy to heal someone remotely, to Naya to stealth kill an enemy, or to Jacob to take out annoying and dangerous enemy snipers with his powerful scope and charge bolts. Some of the enemies’ weapons also seem designed to irritate and suck credibility from the game; tethers that do no more than stop you from moving for a while as you struggle to free yourself, and mortars that hit you even if there’s something overhead that would clearly block the shot.
Insomniac Games seem to want you to play the game through 2 or 3 times and play a lot of Echelon to earn enough XP to unlock everything. This isn’t unusual for them as they did the same thing with the Ratchet & Clank games–either vainly and/or naively seeming to think that us gamers have nothing else to play and want to play nothing else for the next few weeks/months. This’d be fine if I felt that playing the game for weeks, finding all the collectibles and ranking all four characters and their weapons/abilities up to the max would be a satisfying experience and I’d got my money’s worth out of Fuse, but I don’t think I would; Fuse’s gameplay is far too repetitive to keep me absorbed for that length of time, and I’d be surprised if everyone else didn’t feel the same. The constant switching to the upgrade screen to see where best to spend your XP is also far too frequent a necessary occurrence, and although some of the upgrades are cool and indeed vital, this also becomes a chore.
Fuse is a decent enough game, but from the people who brought us the imaginative Ratchet & Clank games I was justifiably expecting a LOT more. As I said, as good-looking and fun as it is to play, the game soon gets repetitive and the final boss battle feels like it was designed and coded late on a Friday afternoon. It’s a weak, predictable, tedious, premature yet spectacular end to what could have been a very good game.