Giant Bomb Review

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Fuse Review

3
  • X360

Insomniac's trademark creative weaponry gives a little extra oomph to Fuse's otherwise by-the-numbers third-person shooting.

These things take ages to kill.
These things take ages to kill.

Insomniac's first multiplatform game in its post-Sony era comes in the form of Fuse, which used to be Overstrike, which used to be more humorous and stylized than the run-of-the-mill gritty, future-tech shooter it ultimately became. Fuse's bland art design and overall lack of personality are disappointing in the context of that initial reveal trailer, but under the hood it's still a generally well made third-person shooter with a clear emphasis on co-op and the imaginative weapons Insomniac is so good at dreaming up. But there are too few of those weapons, and a few too many irksome issues, to lift Fuse significantly above the many, many other cover-based shooters it's competing with.

The game casts you in the role of the four smartmouthed mercenary agents of Overstrike 9, who trot around the globe, hiding behind crates and shooting at faceless armored bad guys to satisfy the whims of their paying clients. In this case, you're hot on the trail of a for-profit terrorist outfit called Raven, who's in possession of the titular super-element, one of those pesky substances that behaves in whatever ways the plot--or the characters' unconventional weapons--need it to. Each of the characters have a single exotic "Xenotech" weapon taped to their arm. Group leader Dalton gets a "magshield" that you activate with the left trigger, which stops bullets and lets teammates shoot through it for extra damage. Naya has a warp rifle that lets you paint multiple targets and then set them all off in a really satisfying chain explosion. Jacob has the most broadly effective weapon with a crossbow that shoots a sort of energy dart that vaporizes enemies and is great for headshots. And redheaded Izzy has a rapid-fire rifle that crystalizes enemies for a few seconds when you pour shots into them, after which you can easily shatter them to pieces. These guys make limp little jabs at each other as the missions progress, but there's not a lot of life in the banter nor the storyline itself, the twists of which are easy to see coming a mile away.

You're free to play Fuse by yourself, during which you can quickly swap between characters to utilize their unique weapons and flank groups of enemies. For the first couple of missions, setting up warp chains or dropping a magshield to take cover behind is pretty interesting, but since each character is stuck with the same primary Xenotech weapon the entire game, the novelty wears off faster than it should. Each agent has a skill tree that you can put points into as you level up--and the way experience is doled out encourages you to use your weapons creatively, so you level faster--but the skill trees don't offer a meaningful level of customization. Instead, they really only offer you the choice between crit effects on your Xenotech weapons or increased damage on your regular ones, and aside from a few weapon-specific secondary abilities, each tree merely gives the same generic abilities to each agent.

Overstrike 9 has gotten a little too serious for its own good.
Overstrike 9 has gotten a little too serious for its own good.

Certain aspects of playing alone turn out to be irritatingly cumbersome. Most of the time, switching to another character puts you in a compromised position where you're out of range of the action, standing straight up in the middle of a firefight, or facing a wall while a bunch of guys are shooting you in the back. The AI characters will occasionally get in your way, jump onto a turret you're trying to use, or fail to revive you when you're down. Distributing skill points requires you to manually switch to the character in question, dig through the layers of menus to get to the skill tree, then back all the way out to the action and perform the whole process over again. It's a case of a few little things that add up to a big annoyance after a while.

Worse than those quirks, I just ended up feeling bored by the stretches of the campaign that I played through by myself. Aside from a few rudimentary climbing sequences, the entire game is one long linear sequence of large combat-oriented rooms laid out with numerous cover points and walkways. Most encounters give you a chance to knock out a stealth kill or two before the bullets start flying, but the only real choice you have is which cover or walkway you want to return fire from, and what kind of gun you want to do it with. There's so little to the storyline and such a lackluster attempt at humor on the characters' part, the endless shooting at enemies who usually sponge a ton of damage started to wear thin for me about two missions before the game was over.

Fuse is substantially more entertaining with other people. Even though you don't have the freedom to switch around as much and enjoy all the characters' specific weaponry, playing with thinking human allies lets you actually set up intelligent combos and maneuvers that you can't pull off with the AI guys (though, aside from going for headshots with Jacob's crossbow, you're really just dumping bullets into enemies with the same old guns, sometimes through Dalton's shield). Many of the characters' unlockable secondary abilities become more satisfying to use in co-op as well. For instance, Izzy gets a throwable healing beacon that can resurrect downed allies. Playing solo, I tended to just throw that thing at my feet when the fighting got intense, but playing the tougher last couple of missions with friends, I got to feel like I was taking on a useful healing role by aiming the beacon at teammates who were down so I could bring them back remotely and get back to the fighting. Playing with a team actually lets you flank enemies, which is good since what feels like roughly half of Fuse's enemies--from riot shield-equipped infantry to big hulking robot suits with vulnerable fuel tanks on their backs--need to be shot from behind. Solo, it's hard to get those enemies to face anyone but the character you're playing, but in co-op you can actually sort of kite enemies around and draw their ire (or aggro, if you like) so others can get back there and do maximum damage.

If you're going to play Fuse, you definitely want to play it in co-op.
If you're going to play Fuse, you definitely want to play it in co-op.

Playing with friends was so much more entertaining for me that I'd go as far as to say it's the only way you should play the Fuse campaign. I actually found three players to be a nice sweet spot, since you get plenty of intelligent tactical potential but can still swap around a bit if you need to take on a different role for some reason. Co-op doesn't fully alleviate the tedium that sets in as you dump round after round into the especially resilient enemies later in the game, but it's a heck of a lot more interesting than plowing through it all alone. If you want more Fuse afterward, you can replay individual chapters to keep building up your agents. I didn't finish any one character's skill tree by the end of the story mode, and only bought three of the the incredibly expensive team perks that increase your experience intake, give you more time before bleeding out, and so on. So there's still plenty of post-game leveling-up to do, if that's your thing. The most rigorous fighting is to be had in Echelon, a wave-based survival mode with rotating objectives that you certainly want four good players for if you're going to tackle it seriously. Bringing leveled-up characters into this mode is a must, and you'll earn a bunch more experience for playing it. But Echelon is tough enough that it also exposes some of the most annoying things about the game's enemies, like the cloaked ones that are hard to see in a firefight and will disable you the second they touch you.

Fuse's gameplay has some good ideas, but they don't carry enough weight in what's otherwise a shooter campaign the like of which you've almost certainly seen before. And it's hard not to think back to the exciting first trailer from two years ago, since many of the shipping game's most outlandish aspects would have been more at home in that highly stylized, wisecracking version that never got made. Fighting in an undersea base and a space station? An exotic Asian assassin who turns out to be someone's ex-girlfriend? A sneering Russian who shoots himself up with Fuse and grows 10 stories tall? It feels like the off-the-wall good ideas Insomniac had for that sillier game have survived, but those ideas are a bit uncomfortably at odds with the serious look and tone of the game as it is now. Fuse plays pretty well, but with smoother execution and a more cohesive identity, it would have an easier time standing out in a genre that, as this generation of consoles comes to a close, is wearing out its welcome more and more.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
124 CommentsRefresh

Avatar image for undeadpool
Edited By Undeadpool

Focus Groups: They Are Scientifically Proven to Not Tell You What They Actually Want!

That's not an exaggeration, they're one of the most toxic things in the entertainment industry AND they're actually not effective at getting a product that has a widespread appeal out.

Avatar image for debrislide
Posted By debrislide

The original teaser aside, I think this game is really fun. Good old fashioned fun. Team A.I. is pretty good. Visuals are ok. Sure it could be #1 teaser trailer amazing. But I like games. It's better then 3 stars.

Avatar image for preacher
Posted By Preacher

Do you think that the problem with FUSE is the artistic presentation? What I mean to say is, if Insomniac had never released that first trailer and the only thing that you'd known about the game was what the game is now would it be better, worse or the same? Is the game a victim of over-zealous expectations, premature marketing, bad art direction, or just bad game design in general?

I played the demo in split screen co-op with my brother and it was fun, a more-fun-than-spec-op-the-line kind of gameplay; but of course everything-is-better-in-co-op™.

I can tell you right now I'll pick the game up for sure when it's priced agreeably to my expectations, which are now (post reviews) painted in bargain bin colors.

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Posted By Enigma_2099

Well, it's not like the market's flooded with FPS and TPS games...

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Posted By ninjalegend

I was hoping the gameplay would make this shine. What a bummer. I kind of like insomniac. I wish them all the luck staying afloat and finding their footing.

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Edited By GuardianKnux

This game seems like 3rd person Borderlands with only a handfull of guns, less humor, a super generic art-style, and no semi-open world. So... Borderlands but none of the things that make Borderlands cool.

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Edited By beepmachine

I'm just gonna go watch that Overstrike trailer again for old time's sake and forget this whole Fuse thing ever happened...

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Posted By seamus85

feels alot like a better playing bruteforce with cool guns

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Posted By RE_Player1

I feel so bad for Insomniac and Ted Price. Such a talented studio reduced to this shit. There is still time to turn back though and I hope their next game is great.

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Posted By AiurFlux

Boy, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the meetings around this game.

EA: That was good. The response at E3 was good. But gritty and futuristic is what is stagnating the market now. We'd like to do that. So we want you to scrap everything and start fresh losing all the wit, charm, uniqueness, and appeal of Overstrike for some generic piece of shit. WHADDAYA THINK GUYS?!

Insomniac Developer: *hangs head thinking "Why did we have to get involved with these stupid cunts"* You're the boss. But I th-

EA: Okay great. It's done. New game. Call it Fuse or some shitty one word name because our audience is stupid and they can't focus much beyond one word. Nice meeting. Really productive. I think we have another hit on our hands. Anyway, how you guys liking it here? Good. Of course. We're amazing.

ID: Ummm...

EA: Okay, amazing. I'll see you later. *walks out to the theme from the Ropers*

Loading Video...

Urgh. I so hope EA goes broke. They fucking stink.

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Edited By TheManWithNoPlan

I think I'll pass since I have plenty other games I'm interested in playing.

Avatar image for sweetz
Posted By Sweetz

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the retarded internet outrage to be rebuffed, but a stopped clock is right twice a day, I suppose.

Still, let's be realistic: this game would most likely have been a 3 if they never redesigned it. The same people worked on it, the same people are responsible for the part where you play it, which Brad obviously wasn't enthused about. It didn't magically become a mediocre game because they made it less funny.

Yeah, but at the same time, a little bit of charm and personality can go a long way. Look at Binary Domain; on pure mechanics alone it's a fairly mediocre cover based shooter. However, some genuinely likable characters and well acted characters (even if they are basically just 90s action movie stereotypes) kind of transform the game into something more endearing and more entertaining than it's gameplay alone serves - as Vinny and Patrick would attest. Similarly, Team Fortress 2 without the character quips and general silliness wouldn't be as good a game either.

Would a little more personality it make it a 5 star game, probably not - but it could push it to 4. An injection of color (in all meanings of the term) into a game can really enhance it's entertainment value more than you might give it credit for.

Avatar image for sweetz
Posted By Sweetz

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the retarded internet outrage to be rebuffed, but a stopped clock is right twice a day, I suppose.

Still, let's be realistic: this game would most likely have been a 3 if they never redesigned it. The same people worked on it, the same people are responsible for the part where you play it, which Brad obviously wasn't enthused about. It didn't magically become a mediocre game because they made it less funny.

Yeah, but at the same time, a little bit of charm and personality can go a long way. Look at Binary Domain; on pure mechanics alone it's a fairly mediocre cover based shooter. However, some genuinely likable characters and well acted characters (even if they are basically just 90s action movie stereotypes) kind of transform the game into something more endearing and more entertaining than it's gameplay alone serves - as Vinny and Patrick would attest. Similarly, Team Fortress 2 without the character quips and general silliness wouldn't be as good a game either.

Would a little more personality it make it a 5 star game, probably not - but it could push it to 4. An injection of color (in all meanings of the term) into a game can really enhance it's entertainment value more than you might give it credit for.

Avatar image for jazz_lafayette
Posted By Jazz_Lafayette

Here's a question for whoever feels they have relevant experience to answer: should I get this game or Syndicate? They seem to scratch a similar itch.

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Posted By Haruko

Ladies and Gentleman EA'd to death really needs to be a trope on this site because Jesus they're doing it a lot.

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Posted By ITSSEXYTIME

@warlordpayne: I liked Deadlocked, although All for One was pretty bad.

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Posted By Rapid

Played the demo, seemed decent and enjoyed it. But I felt like Fuse has so much lost potential. From a gameplay perspective it is the game they showed in original E3 OverStrike trailer. However, yeah the personality, and presentation lack what I was hoping for. The Fuse weapons from what I saw are cool but I don't think Insomniac went far enough in terms of the level of creativity and craziness in the weapons as compared to that of the Rachet and Clank games (specifically thinking about Up Your Arsenal). Seems that each character in Overstrike 9 gets one unique weapon and that's it, all the other weapons are pretty standard weapons that can be found in any other 3rd person shooter. I think another problem is that the character seem more bland now they are still wearing the standard camo suit. In the E3 trailer each member of Overstrike had a distinct character look, the exaggerate cartoon-like style helped to enforce the fact that each character was distinct. Now, with Fuse they just look like military personnel and have seem to have lost that uniqueness.

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Posted By Dasdude

This has gone exactly as I had forseen....

Avatar image for tourgen
Edited By tourgen

aaawwwm man what happened? Overstrike was looking pretty good. The big robot fights still sound pretty fun.

looks like someone soaked it in fun-bleach before release. Nice and sterile guys, good work.

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Posted By ShinjiEx

Should of been marketed as a $30 download title...

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Edited By zentheninja

@kylebsure: I just look at that video and think, "What the hell happened?"

Avatar image for angethedude
Posted By AngeTheDude

@ndart said:

@angethedude said:

Sounds like another game that was focus-grouped to death.

This is literally what happened, there was an interview some time ago where someone who worked for Insomniac stated that their 12 year old focus group testers thought it was a game for their little brother - hence the change in style. Just in case it wasn't already obvious that alienating your existing audience in favour of trying to steal the CoD one (who don't care about your game anyway) has become the new norm.

A 12-year-old's opinion shouldn't be valid on anything except for toys. What a shame.

Avatar image for gabha
Posted By gabha

Another studio thay got EA'd

Avatar image for travan
Posted By Travan

@cretaceous_bob: Srsly tho. A globetrotting coop campaign with TF2-style art direction and humor seems hard to fuck up, especially with shooters so homogenized of late. Kinda wish Brad had taken off a star for the sheer boneheadedness.

Avatar image for warlordpayne
Posted By WarlordPayne

First disappointing game from Insomniac is the first game that EA publishes for them, Who would have guessed?

I'm guessing you never played Ratchet: Deadlocked or Resistance 2? Cause both of those games were pretty terrible.

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Edited By MiniPato

@brad said:

Co-op doesn't fully alleviate the tedium that sets in as you dump round after round into the especially resilient enemies later in the game

This is the problem I've had with the Resistance series. The enemies are bullet spongy as hell. In the context of a co-op game, it makes sense to make your enemies resilient. But they went overboard with how much damage enemies took in Resistance 2 co-op. Again it made sense cause there was an 8 player co-op mode, but sitting in one spot while 8 people are unloading minigun rounds into a goliath chimera for 5 minutes is not my definition of fun. Even the regular grunt enemies took an absurd amount of abuse.

Sounds like this is the case in Fuse as well.

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Edited By Xristophoros

This game looks like it was designed as a budget title, yet it is selling for a full $60. I can't find a single reason why anyone would pay the full price for such an uninspired, lackluster experience. Insomniac is a very capable developer but this looks as though they didn't even try. Either that or the production was severely limited by the budget and resources available. I predict this game will sell terribly and will be in the bargain bins in no time. Here's hoping Insomniac learns from this disappointment and goes on to develop a unique, fresh IP on next gen consoles.

Avatar image for nicked
Posted By Nicked

Seems like an interesting game to review in the context of next gen coming soon and the change in art style. Reveals a lot about what a game in 2013 has to be, in the sense that Fuse seems really well made, but there's a sort of reverse gestalt going on where it's worse than the sum of its parts. I.e. what's there is solid, but ultimately not unique enough.

I also think Brad's review indicates that we now demand decent stories in games. After Uncharted 2, Walking Dead, BioShock Infinite, etc., I think we no longer begrudgingly accept that game stories are "bad" and that that's just the way it is. Game writing is now held to much higher standards.

Avatar image for bisonhero
Posted By BisonHero

@quantical said:

@bisonhero said:

@saturdaynightspecials said:

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the retarded internet outrage to be rebuffed, but a stopped clock is right twice a day, I suppose.

Still, let's be realistic: this game would most likely have been a 3 if they never redesigned it. The same people worked on it, the same people are responsible for the part where you play it, which Brad obviously wasn't enthused about. It didn't magically become a mediocre game because they made it less funny.

Yeah, I'm pretty much on the same page.

It sounds like at the end of the day, regardless of art style, Insomniac didn't have any super interesting ideas behind "guy who has weird force field" and "other guy with crossbow" and "sneaky ladies". Still, it went from possibly being a so-so playing game with a funny, cartoony aesthetic to carry you to the end, to instead being a so-so playing game that is also fairly bland and disappointing in the visuals/writing side as well.

So yeah, the art style change was probably a net loss in terms of any reviewers seeing anything clever or original in the style/writing, but realistically the game was probably going to have mediocre gameplay regardless.

Like Borderlands 2 then.

Yeah, Borderlands is definitely a series where the gameplay has never been great, but it gets by on its humour and ridiculousness. Ironically, if Fuse were a loot game like Borderlands, Brad might've given it a higher score because he seems incapable of disliking a loot game he is presented with.

Avatar image for quantical
Posted By Quantical

@saturdaynightspecials said:

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the retarded internet outrage to be rebuffed, but a stopped clock is right twice a day, I suppose.

Still, let's be realistic: this game would most likely have been a 3 if they never redesigned it. The same people worked on it, the same people are responsible for the part where you play it, which Brad obviously wasn't enthused about. It didn't magically become a mediocre game because they made it less funny.

Yeah, I'm pretty much on the same page.

It sounds like at the end of the day, regardless of art style, Insomniac didn't have any super interesting ideas behind "guy who has weird force field" and "other guy with crossbow" and "sneaky ladies". Still, it went from possibly being a so-so playing game with a funny, cartoony aesthetic to carry you to the end, to instead being a so-so playing game that is also fairly bland and disappointing in the visuals/writing side as well.

So yeah, the art style change was probably a net loss in terms of any reviewers seeing anything clever or original in the style/writing, but realistically the game was probably going to have mediocre gameplay regardless.

Like Borderlands 2 then.

Avatar image for bisonhero
Posted By BisonHero

@saturdaynightspecials said:

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the retarded internet outrage to be rebuffed, but a stopped clock is right twice a day, I suppose.

Still, let's be realistic: this game would most likely have been a 3 if they never redesigned it. The same people worked on it, the same people are responsible for the part where you play it, which Brad obviously wasn't enthused about. It didn't magically become a mediocre game because they made it less funny.

Yeah, I'm pretty much on the same page.

It sounds like at the end of the day, regardless of art style, Insomniac didn't have any super interesting ideas behind "guy who has weird force field" and "other guy with crossbow" and "sneaky ladies". Still, it went from possibly being a so-so playing game with a funny, cartoony aesthetic to carry you to the end, to instead being a so-so playing game that is also fairly bland and disappointing in the visuals/writing side as well.

So yeah, the art style change was probably a net loss in terms of any reviewers seeing anything clever or original in the style/writing, but realistically the game was probably going to have mediocre gameplay regardless.

Avatar image for benu302000
Posted By benu302000

Calculating in the "Brad-Star", this is actually a 2, by my own personal system. YMMV.

Not disparaging Brad's reviews. He just tends to be more forgiving of games than I do.

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Posted By Cybexx

Its kind of interesting that style-wise this game had the complete opposite trajectory as Borderlands.

Avatar image for pixeldemon
Posted By Pixeldemon

I hate to be "that guy" but if this were on PC I would probably give it a shot. I played the demo on 360 and found the low frame rate and muddy graphics to be intolerable.

Avatar image for murdoc_
Posted By Murdoc_

@bisonhero: That is so weird, I was just thinking the name and the aesthetics of this game reminded me of Haze.

Even the fact we'll all forget that this game existed in 2 years is very Haze like.

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Posted By RonGalaxy

It's nice to see EA is still the best at crippling beloved game developers

Avatar image for gaspower
Posted By GaspoweR

They should have stuck with their guns...this game ended up being this year's Syndicate (and I like Syndicate btw) considering how little marketing it has gotten and plus the more serious tone and artstyle just made it look samey now. :(

Avatar image for impartialgecko
Posted By impartialgecko

@meatball said:
@bigjeffrey said:

Insomniac was never a good developer.

You are insane. Ratchet 2 & 3 are amongst the PS2's very best.

This. Ratchet 3 and even A Crack in Time are two of the best games on their respective Sony platforms.

Avatar image for cretaceous_bob
Edited By Cretaceous_Bob

Wow it's a good thing they took an interesting trailer and didn't make a game out of it and instead gave us a game indistinguishable from all others.

Avatar image for yodasdarkside
Edited By Yodasdarkside

This review is about what I expected from playing the demo. Was looking forward to it, but will give it a miss. Shame, because at launch when there's a chance of getting in on it with other people will be the only time anyone's playing it. FUSE is unlikely to find a second life as a budget/pre-owned title.

Avatar image for brendan
Posted By Brendan

@snakepond: If you look at his previous reviews you'll see that your complaint is invalid.

Avatar image for krakn3dfx
Edited By Krakn3Dfx

Might grab it for the coop at some point, but not for $60. This reeks of a $40 title,if that.

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Posted By LikeaSsur

This game was doomed as soon as the style changed. Too bad. Hopefully Insomniac learns from this.

Avatar image for little_socrates
Edited By Little_Socrates

@jazgalaxy said:

@thelegendofmart said:

I think Brads keyboard has a stuck 3 out of 5 button.

The INDUSTRY is stuck in 3 out of 5.

Also, Brad's most recent reviews before this are for Dead Island Riptide (2/5), StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (5/5), and Tomb Raider (4/5). Yeah, he gave Dead Space 3 a (3/5), but that was four games and three full months ago. And his two reviews before that were Devil May Cry (5/5) and Far Cry 3 (5/5), so you seem sorely mistaken.

(If Brad's ever been stuck on a review score, it was 4/5 in the Dead Island/Rage summer/holiday season, and even that was hyperbolic.)

Avatar image for andorski
Edited By Andorski

Put it on Steam for sale and I would buy it.

Avatar image for mrfluke
Posted By mrfluke

yep

Avatar image for coakroach
Edited By coakroach

Shame, I was hoping for a pleasant surprise.

Hope Insomniac doesn't become another headstone in the EA developer graveyard... but this doesn't bode well for them

Avatar image for snail
Edited By Snail

Yeah it never looked like it would definitely be awesome, at all. Still, it seems that if I'm looking for a fun co-op title this might very well fit the bill.

Avatar image for kennybaese
Posted By kennybaese

That's really too bad. I still might pick this up at some point for funsies when it drops in price a bit, but I really liked what the game initially looked to be.