Fuse is a third person squad based shooter developed by Insomniac Games and published by EA. Fuse is to be released on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on the 28th of May. Insomniac Games are well known for their previous franchise, the wildly successful Ratchett and Clank games, as well as the original Spyro games, before it got all Skylander-y.
Not counting Outernauts, the Facebook game inspired by the Pokémon franchise, Fuse is Insomniacs first new IP in seven years, since the first Resistance game.
The demo for Fuse happens to be available on the Playstation Store for Playstation Plus subscribers.
Fuse is “living matter” (read: magical maguffin) which was “recovered from an L-6 classified event” in the early 20th Century (yes this is literally all the explanation you’re going to get), which is very clever and makes your weapons super good. A ‘rogue military contractor’ (because we’ve never heard that one before) has stolen it and is (apparently) doing or going to do bad things. First of all, as a nerd, I want to call Insomniac out on something, here’s a quote from the cinematic at the beginning of the demo:
“Raven [the rogue military contractor] is in possession of technology light years ahead of the rest of the world. And they wouldn’t have stolen it without a plan.”
Light years, as I’m sure we’re all aware, is a measure of distance and not time.
In Fuse, you take control of one member of a four man squad, each with a different ‘Fuse weapon’, all of which have different effects and secondary fire modes. Although quite how the Fuse-weapons give you a secondary fire is not made clear, which is especially confusing when you consider that the secondary ‘fire’ modes include, a shield, invisibility and a healing field.
That being said all of the weapons feel very different to use, force you to play differently and are nicely varied. However, the characters feel quite empty, they seem to be entirely defined by their weapons, although this is only based on a demo which doesn’t even span a whole level. So the characters may end up being more defined in the full game, although there were a few of the stereotypical wisecracks that put me off.
In addition to a unique weapon, each character, or Agent, as the game calls them, has a skill tree, which you can put points into as you level up. Experience points are gained in the normal way, by killing enemies and completing objectives, with bonus experience if you kill them using your Fuse ability. The skill trees are nothing which we haven’t seen before. A combination of generic skills to boost your utility (grenade upgrades, health upgrades) and unique skills boosting the effectiveness of your Fuse weapon and it’s ability. Overall, the skill trees give you a useful amount of control over the specialisation of your characters, although quite how far that can be taken remains to be seen, and will only be fully explored once we have access to a full playthrough of the game.
The demo level starts you off with a short cutscene showing you and your squad on what is possibly the worlds most unsafe cable-car on a snowy mountain. You watch as the cable-car disintergrates around you and the characters leap to safety (just barely of course) on a convenient mountain ledge. The problem with this for me is that it’s delivered entirely without context. Later in the demo level, the characters remark “So that’s what happened to the Strike Teams…” yet we have no mention of any strike teams, or any context for the level at all.
This was a problem which occurred throughout the demo. I found myself constantly confused as to exactly what was happening and why it was relevant. This isn’t helped by Insomniac taking a chunk of gameplay out of the center of the demo. After you complete an objective, you get a loading screen telling you that you’re not allowed to play the next bit, so they’re just going to fast-forward you to the bit afterwards.
Fuse also implements a Leap system, which allows you to switch which Agent you are currently controlling if you’re playing the game alone, although, on Playstation at least, this feels awkward, and not something which could easily be accomplished in the heat of battle. Playing alone though, is clearly not what Fuse is intended for. The multiplayer is very accessible, and enhances the gameplay experience even when you’re not playing with your friends, and you’re without a headset.
Fuse feels like it’s channeling the old Conflict games, specifically, Conflict: Desert Storm, and this is by no means a bad thing although, whether emulating a game released 11 years ago is something to be aspired to is debatable. Regardless, I can imagine that Fuse is vastly improved when played with a group of friends, although that should be true of any multiplayer game.
The aesthetic of Fuse is pulled off with reasonable competence. Whilst the near-future sci-fi setting is one which has received rather a lot of attention in recent years, Fuse seems to combine the usual tropes in an interesting enough way without them seeming entirely lifted from other franchises. Expect to see a lot of full-face helmets, armoured fighting suits with big guns, vehicles reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and thousands more references from other sci-fi franchises, each of whom stole those elements from earlier franchises.
Overall, I’d like to say that Fuse seems to be really breaking new ground in the squad-based, third-person shooter genre. Unfortunately, that’s a lie. This game isn’t terrible, it won’t offend the senses when you play it. If you’ve got a few friends with it, it should even be fun, for a while. But Fuse doesn’t do anything special. At points, it feels as though not enough thought has been put into its creation. Fuse, the ‘living matter’ is just another name for magic and there really is no excuse for not knowing what a light year is. Fuse brings together elements which have been part of third-person and squad based shooters for a long time, and manages to do them all adequately, but excel in none.
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