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Fuse Review

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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.

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.

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.

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 Comments
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Posted by Mr_Misery

Good review. I'm getting it from Gamefly tomorrow so hopefully I'll like it.

Posted by Chtasm

Oh well.

Edited by sworen

Looks like I wasn't the only one disappointed by the change from the initial reveal trailer. I feel like I should delay in picking this up, and just focus on my backlog like I initially planned to do this summer. Good review though.

Posted by TheLegendOfMart

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

Posted by neoncion

I like Brad's reviews.

Posted by deskp

Did this game lose any and all eprsoanality by changing the art style?

It certainly seems extremely forgettable now.

Edited by OllyOxenFree

Yep an average game was pretty much what I was expecting.

Posted by JJBSterling

I've never even heard of this game.

Posted by SpicyRichter

Overstrike looked like more fun :(

Posted by Jazzycola

No surprise. I don't know if I've heard anything about this game since they announced it. I guess another EA Partners game shoved out with little effort behind letting people know what it is and when its coming out. At least EA is getting rid of the facade that they actually care about developers being independently successful (by stopping the EA Partners program).

Posted by TMBaker

I think I'll pass, if this were to come to PC then I may grab it on the cheap but I'm done buying console games till next gen...Halo 4 will be my last last-gen console game and a fitting one I think to. With FUSE It's a shame it went in the art direction it did and not stay as it initially was first shown as Overstrike. Also ORANGE!

Posted by JazGalaxy

With this name and these visuals, I can't even bring myself to read the article. It just looks so completely forgettable. The next time I hear the name "fuse", I guarantee you I won't remember what it is.

Posted by JazGalaxy

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

The INDUSTRY is stuck in 3 out of 5.

Posted by AngeTheDude

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

Posted by James_Hayward

well written review... and I agree about your concluding statement on the genre also... let's hope that the new generation and/or the Oculus Rift can revitalize it.

Posted by lizzard2

*wakes up from hibernation* Oh, how original a shooter game, wake me up in 14 days *hibernating*

Posted by MachoFantastico

I'd love to know if the change was directly Insomniac's choice or down to a publisher wanting something a little more like Call of Duty. Still baffles me why they went in this direction, the reveal trailer was great and it felt like an Insomniac game.

I worry for Fuse, doubt it'll sell particularly well.

Posted by Ravelle

I've never even heard of this game.

They showed a cinematic trailer some while ago, when exactly I can't recall but after that things went silent and most forgot about it.

Posted by Asurastrike

@thelegendofmart said:

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

The INDUSTRY is stuck in 3 out of 5.

Posted by Phished0ne

With this name and these visuals, I can't even bring myself to read the article. It just looks so completely forgettable. The next time I hear the name "fuse", I guarantee you I won't remember what it is.

Fuse? well its either a mediocre shooter, a beverage, or one of the last music video tv channels left. Somehow those all fit the name to me...

Edited by TheLegendOfMart

@jazgalaxy: They can't compete with the consumer expecting every game to be a $100m+ AAAAAAAAAAA title

Posted by BisonHero

Better than Haze, then?

Edited by ScreamingGhost

That's to bad, the original trailer had me very excited only to be let down by the art direction change. Its a bummer that the game didn't turn out better. Insomniac is usually stellar makes you wonder what happened during this production.

Posted by zudthespud

With this name and these visuals, I can't even bring myself to read the article. It just looks so completely forgettable. The next time I hear the name "fuse", I guarantee you I won't remember what it is.

While I read the review, I feel the same. Playing it this safe is a common way to fail.

Posted by TDot

Literally every time I see the title 'Fuse' in marketing or in a story I completely blank on what it is. It takes me a few moments after reading though the story for me to realize what it is and go "Oh!, not Overstrike" and then I get sad.

Edited by Lovecraft_Bro

Just go and buy Resistance 3 if you have a PS3. I got it yesterday it's super amazing, I regret not getting it earlier. How did they go from that to Fuze is beyond me.

Posted by JazGalaxy

@jazgalaxy: They can't compete with the consumer expecting every game to be a $100m+ AAAAAAAAAAA title

I don't, personally. I'd rather have an ounce of originality rather than a boring "aaaaaaaa" title. Cut all the crap I don't care about, like movie star voice actors, ridiculous cut scenes, and "epic story" that's really just a parade of screenwriting cliche's and you can cut modern game budgets by 75%.

Posted by kerse

I figured as much after playing the demo, just seemed really boring to me. Kinda disappointing after how exciting that initial reveal was.

Edited by Cold_Wolven

Played the demo and wasn't too thrilled, I can see this game wearing out its welcome after 3 hours. Also playing solo is really cumbersome so I might have to pass until a serious price drop happens. I feel that Insomniac should focus less on darker toned shooters as I don't think they're very good at it.

Posted by Chris2KLee

I think Insomniac should finally realize that "serious and gritty" just isn't their bag. I had the same problems with the Resistance series, the characters were utterly forgettable and the levels were way too linear.

Stripping the game of it's sillier style was surely a mistake, and I bet it probably threw off the design team.

Posted by rmanthorp

@thelegendofmart said:

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

The INDUSTRY is stuck in 3 out of 5.

:O

Moderator
Posted by Hunter5024

I was hoping that all of the negative talk surrounding this game since its change would turn out to be unwarranted, and maybe this game would end up being an awesome surprise. I suppose that was not the case. Maybe the quick look will change my mind.

Posted by KyleBsure

I remember seeing a CG trailer for a game called OVERSTRIKE that looked really promising.

I really wanted to play that game.

I can't say the same for FUSE.

Edited by Lovecraft_Bro

@chris2klee: I disagree. Resistance surely was out of their comfort zone in 1 and 2, but in R3 they owned it. Fuze is just neither here nor there. In every aspect it seems.

Posted by manbot47

I'd like to think Overstrike would have been a better game but this still seems like a very competent, if bland, game. I'll give it a shot

Posted by Humanity

@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.

:O

You won't get that sort of social commentary anywhere else folks!

Posted by mlarrabee

@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.

Good. About time everything stopped being 7.5 out of 10.

Posted by devilzrule27

That first paragraph was all I needed to read. Insomniac sucked all the "life" out of the game when they changed the style of it. Instead of focusing on what has become their bread and butter, interesting characters and humorous story telling, they went as generic as could be. Real shame that Insomniac has really seemed to have lost their way.

Edited by selfconfessedcynic

@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.

:O

Oh snap.

(sadly, I agree - hopefully The Last Of Us delivers)

Posted by jaks

The development of this game confused the hell out of me. It looked pretty promising and then someone who signs paychecks at Insomniac must have gone "SWEET BUTTERED JESUS WE NEED TO TAKE ALL THE CHARISMA OUT OF THIS GAME AND REPLACE IT WITH THE COLOR BROWN" And Fuse was born.

Edited by SaturdayNightSpecials

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.

Posted by Nekroskop

Another potentially good game(Overstrike) shot down by EA and reworked into a bland mass(Fuse). Such a shame....

Posted by Tobyus

I witnessed when my friend played the demo. And it didnt seem all that interesting at all. Boring idea, pretty predictable weapons and functions.

And the way Brad is reviewing this, how he felt, i kinda get the idea this is not a game to really go for.

Seem to get pretty tired fast, UNLESS you play Co-Op. But i have no friends, haha.

Posted by NDart

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.

Posted by Sweep

You should buy more wards.

Moderator
Posted by MEATBALL

Insomniac was never a good developer.

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

Posted by AlexanderSheen

God damnit, every time I see the name Fuse the first thing I think about is R.U.S.E.

Posted by Fistfulofmetal

Now that this is out of the way, we can get to more DOTA.

Posted by geirr

Oh they ran the game through the bland machine, pity.

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