Insomniac Games has just released their first game after leaving the loving embrace of Sony back in 2010. It has been in the works for quite some time and even changed names in the process. Ultimately, gamers are left with a game that fails to resonate with the audience it intends to. That doesn’t mean that FUSE is not a good game, in fact from a technical stand-point, the game is a very competent third-person shooter with strong co-op elements. The game also has a few awesome weapons that you’d likely see in a Ratchet and Clank game. Unfortunately, FUSE doesn’t capture the charm that Insomniac is known for. The characters just don’t do enough to make this game stand out in any meaningful way.
The story places you in the shoes of one of four agents of the Overstrike 9 team and you are sent into a top-secret, underground experimental weapons research facility. Just as you are investigating the facility, the Raven Corporation sends in an army of Para-military forces to capture the alien substance known as Fuse. This substance powers strange technology and subsequently your special weapons. The rest of the game is dedicated to your team’s efforts to stop the Raven Corporation from using Fuse to make their current weaponry even more powerful and allowing them to carry out their evil ambitions.
While the story is well-paced, it doesn’t do anything to break the mold set by the countless cover-shooters before it. The fault lies in what FUSE fails to innovate on and deliver, rather than poor execution. Sure, there are a few times you’ll chuckle when listening to the banter between the different members of the team. However, the story is extremely predictable and there are really no surprises or interesting twists that will keep you guessing. Again, this doesn’t mean that the game is unplayable by any stretch. It does mean that if you are looking for some semblance of an interesting story line, FUSE is not going to deliver that to you.
FUSE made a point to emphasize four player co-op and this certainly shows. You are free to play the single player campaign by yourself, if that is what you choose to do, and there is no sacrifice to do so. The game even allows you to swap between characters in your team, should you get bored of playing as the same class of character. This is a great addition since it allows you to take control of anyone on your team, should the game not control your team the way you’d like. It should be noted that the AI in this game is decent. Your team will cover you, use their special abilities to help you out and even deal damage to enemies. However, playing by yourself is not recommended. The game is a very linear adventure. You’ll run from one combat-oriented room to another, silently taking down a few enemies, then securing cover and shooting everyone else up. It is very formulaic and since the story provides little relief, it is not recommended to play the game alone.
If you want to know the best way to play this game; it is playing it with friends. The game allows up to four players to drop-in and drop-out of any given game. Players connecting to and disconnecting from your game is seamless and doesn’t interfere with your experience while playing. The co-op is very well designed and is one of the highlights of FUSE. There is so much to be said by playing with other people and being able to use strategy against your foes. The game also contains a horde mode which does add some post-game content and it gives you another opportunity to play with friends and challenge your skills against the best that the AI can throw at you. Though playing with friends make the overall experience better, it doesn’t completely alleviate the problems this game has.
What good would a third person shooter be without a cache of weapons to play with? Insomniac managed to include a few interesting weapons to play with, which also happen to be the weapons your character starts with. These Fuse weapons are a lot of fun to use whether you are playing as Dalton Brooks and you throw down a Mag Shield to provide cover for your team or you are playing as Naya Deveraux and you are using your Warp Rifle to create mini-black holes that damage all enemies close to it. The Fuse weapons are arguably the best part of the game, at least initially. The problem is that the weapons you are assigned to from the beginning of the game; only evolve once in the form of secondary unlockable modes. Essentially, you are stuck with the same guns from start to finish and these new gameplay mechanics get old, quickly. Most games solve this problem by allowing you to customize the guns, and by proxy your character, through a tech tree. Luckily, FUSE does utilize a tech tree by rewarding players for creative kills, accomplishing certain tasks and leveling up. However, FUSE’s tech tree is very limited. The tree mainly focuses on weapons damage and a few passive, health-based perks that is generically applied to all characters. Having the ability to change the way the Fuse weapons work, or just having more options to customize each individual character separately, would have gone a long way for this game.
All in all, FUSE is a mixed bag. You have a game that is built on a solid engine that provides a smooth gaming experience. This would have been a major plus assuming that all else was equal. Unfortunately, the story is almost an afterthought, seeing as how predictable and dull it ended up being. Also, the lack of character or weapon customization weighed heavily on the game, especially in the second half of the campaign. When you consider what this game looked like back when it was called Overstrike and featured wise-cracking characters and over-the-top action, this game is not what we expected. As we mentioned earlier, it doesn’t mean this is a bad game. It just means that you need to know that if you are basing a purchase on the E3 2011 trailer, things have changed and not necessarily for the better.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 3 version of FUSE developed by Insomniac Games, published by EA.