Insomniac Games set out to provide a unique multiplayer experience with Fuse. Instead, the developer fell victim to the typical videogame tropes and made Fuse far too similar to other well-known triple-A titles.
Fuse does have some elements that differentiate the game from anything else on the market. It is in those elements that the game excels. An interesting set of weapons specific to each character improve as players progress through the game and the ability to switch between playable characters at any moment allow gamers to take advantage of those unique skills.
Unfortunately, the uniqueness is few and far between. Fuse’s story has flashes of depth but lacks enough development to engage players in the characters’ background. Gamers will mostly find themselves ducking behind cover and shooting at increasingly large waves of the same enemies. The game encourages cooperative play and the poor A.I. for computer-controller characters almost makes it necessary.
Fuse follows the story of the four agents known as Overstrike 9, which is why the game was titled Overstrike when it was announced at E3 2011. The team is made up of Dalton Brooks (voiced by Brian Bloom – a great name), Naya Deveraux, Jacob Kimble and Izzy Sinclair. Overstrike 9 is hired to prevent the Raven Corporation from gaining control of the alien substance known as fuse.
Of course, things are not that simple. Each character is dealing with an internal struggle that is revealed while progressing through the game. Naya once worked for Raven with her father, Jacob is a well-known detective whose violent past eats away at his conscience, Dalton is much more reformed than his previous self while Izzy is a bright scientific mind fighting her own rebellious attitude.
Regrettably, Fuse fails to develop these stories and the game’s meager plot quickly turns into cutscenes tying each gun battle together. Players will yearn to get sucked into the background of Ovestrike 9 only to be disappointed by the lack of a plot altogether.
The game is a cover-based third-person shooter reminiscent of Gears of War and Mass Effect. That is just about where the similarities end. While the controls in Fuse are simple and straightforward, the game offers distinct weaponry and abilities that encourage co-op play.
Although players will find themselves in the routine of finding cover and shooting, the experience is made entertaining by the weapons unique to each character. Dalton possess an energy shield known as the Mag Shield, Jacob has an Arcshot crossbow, Izzy can temporarily crystallize opponents with her Shattergun and Naya is equipped with the Warp Rifle that creates small black holes and the ability to cloak herself. Playing cooperatively allows gamers to skillfully take advantage of each characters’ abilities. For instance, Dalton can set up a mobile shield for Naya as she follows close behind and destroys groups of enemies.
However, Insomniac did not want to put too much power in players’ hands right away. In order for weapons to reach their full potential, players must earn points and advance through the character’s skill tree. The system lets players spend their points to improve attributes such as health, aim and weapons. While Jacob’s Arcshot starts off as a simple crossbow with fire arrows, it eventually gains the ability to detonate explosions in the area where it is shot.
These skills are disappointingly used on repetitive groups of enemies and predictable bosses. Boss battles follow the worn out formula of firing away at a weak spot and ducking behind cover when the enemy fires back. This makes fighting the game’s important opponents a chore. The real challenge in taking down enemies comes from facing more of them rather than taking on larger ones.
The campaign can be played solo with the members of Overstrike 9 following behind. However, the game is much more fun when played with friends. A.I. squad members fail to offer much assistance and using the characters’ unique abilities together makes surviving much easier. Players can quickly drop in and out of co-op play to help friends throughout difficult sequences. But if playing alone is the only option, Fuse features a Leap button that allows players to jump between playable characters on the fly.
In addition to the campaign, Fuse offers the horde-style Echelon Mode. The game mode pits Overstrike 9 against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Echelon is a bare-bones game mode that is nearly impossible to play without members of the team who have leveled up high.
When Fuse was first announced as Overstrike, it appeared the game would have an interesting art style. That turned out to be reworked when the game was updated to its current status. It is unfortunate as the game features bland graphics and environments. Locations are mostly made up of square-shaped objects, which is not up to par with modern graphics. While playing, the main screens packs so much information – including ammo, enemy health and locations of teammates – it becomes a distraction.
The game does have pleasing sound effects, especially when using character-specific weapons. Gamers will be able to hear appropriate sounds when Dalton is putting up a shield or Naya warps enemies through black holes. It can be a cluster of noise when a lot of action floods the screen but players will quickly begin to recognize weapon sounds.
Fuse is a solid first entry to a franchise with unique elements that can serve as a solid foundation to build on. Players are left wanting more from Fuse. The skill tree system and distinct characters are not enough to overcome the underdeveloped plot and repetitive enemies. Despite its flaws, Fuse is an entertaining experience for groups of four players.