Insomniac Games has been making great video games exclusively for Sony consoles for years, but that formula has now changed with Fuse. Once called Overstrike 9, Fuse is Insomniac’s first multiplatform game, and it’s a great coming out party for the former masters of the Playstation brand.
Fuse features 4 player co-op gameplay set in the third person shooter genre, and it shares the pop and shoot mechanic first made famous by the Gears of War franchise. It utilizes a unique cast of characters that all feature distinct power sets to help stem the tide against the rogue Raven military faction, which is trying to use Fuse technology to bring the world to its knees. Each team member brings a distinct personality to the table, and their abilities help shape the way you carve your path through the game’s 10 – 12 hour campaign.
The overall package is top-notch, and this new IP isn’t to be missed, so please continue on to the full review to see why you should plan on picking this title up before the 2013 gaming season is over.
Fuse is set in the not-so-distant future, and focuses on an alien technology by the same name. Back in 1940 the government recovered Fuse technology from an alien race, and locked it away for safe keeping. Unfortunately, a rogue military offshoot known as Raven becomes aware of Fuse and its powers, so they attack the military base that the government secreted away the goods in. This is where Overstrike 9 comes in, which is a team of four mercs under the guide of Oculus (think of him as Q from James Bond), who are charged with stopping Raven from using Fuse for its demented plans of world domination.
To the dismay of Oculus, Raven is able to thwart Overstrike 9’s attempt to stop them from stealing the Fuse technology, and this sets up the bulk of Fuse’s plot. The team, which is made up of four distinct individuals who all have different skill sets, gets sent on a wild goose chase to various locales on the planet Earth, which ultimately even takes them into space. Only you can ensure the success of Dalton, Jacob, Naya, and Izzy, as they track down the mysteries of Fuse and how it plays into Raven’s end game.
What makes Fuse so interesting is its focus on the cooperative aspect of nearly every facet of the game, which is highlighted by the Overstrike 9 cast, and their arsenal of Fuse enabled weapons.
Each member is completely different from the next in appearance, demeanor, and preferred method of killing bad guys. Dalton is the traditional tank character who sports an impressive magshield, which is a gun that absorbs enemy fire that can be shot back at them with devastating effects. Naya is more of a stealthy character with her Fuse ability to turn invisible, and she sports a singularity producing warp rifle that has an impressive area of effect. Izzy is the medic for the Overstrike 9 team, and her shattergun allows her to freeze enemies in crystals while also providing a method to heal her squad mates. The last O9 team member is Jacob, who plays the sniper role perfectly with his Fuse bolt firing arcshot weapon that can be detonated to liquify Raven goons.
Each character plays a major part in advancing the plot forward, and depending on which one you control, you will be treated to different mini-scenes and dialogue. The team chemistry in Fuse is paramount, and it definitely shapes the entire journey that this title will take gamers on.
The actual story of Fuse is nothing new to the video game landscape. It features the usual tropes in games of this genre: Terrorists, Michael Bay action set pieces, and a squad of nearly invincible war machines, but its focus on co-op helps to make it stand out from the pack. Insomniac did a great job of taking the tried and true plot devices of a terrorist group trying to take over the world scenario, and made them feel fresh with the emphasis on class based co-op teamwork.
You won’t walk away from this game feeling like you just had your mind blown by its story, but it serves as a solid platform to give the true star of Fuse its time in the spotlight, which is its gameplay.
Insomniac Games borrowed a few pages from Epic’s Gears of War handbook when it comes to the nuts and bolts of Fuse’s gameplay. This game features the same sort of intense cover-based shooter action that Epic pulled off in their Gears franchise, and the controls are almost as tight. For some reason Fuse requires you to intermix the “A” and “B” buttons to get in and out of cover where Gears relies on one. This made navigating certain sections of the game a little more frenetic than they should have been, but the cover controls are still some of the best in this style of video game.
Each of the game’s six main missions are broken down into three major sections. Each checkpoint sports a formidable test of your third person shooter skills, and at times you’ll wonder if there’s a faucet spilling out Raven baddies that someone needs to turn off, because Insomniac throws a massive amount of enemies at you during each new checkpoint.
Some time based missions help to break up the cover-based shoot outs, and Fuse does offer boss fights at the end of each main mission, but a majority of Fuse’s gameplay is rooted in the Gears of War style of pop and shoot gunfights, albeit with a Bulletstorm flare via the meta scoring game for killing Raven enemies creatively, or cooperatively.
Fuse may feel like Gears of War when it comes to its reliance on cover-based, pop-and-shoot-gameplay, but that’s where the similarities end. The excellent mix of character classes, and the abilities that each one offers, makes each gun fight a new arena to mix up your play style.
If you’re feeling like a Tommy Tough Guy you can leap (term IG coined for dynamically switching to AI controlled partners while playing solo) into Dalton’s shoes so you can fire up his magshield to show Raven that you mean business. If you’d rather sit back and snipe you can switch to Jacob. If you need some healing you can switch to Izzy, or if you just want to sneak around and stab bad guys in their faces, you can utilize Naya’s cloaking abilities.
The leap mechanic works perfectly when playing solo, and it provides a great way to experience each character without having to leave the game to select them. When playing alone the AI does a pretty darn good job at managing their own abilities, and helping to pick up fallen teammates. Very rarely did it feel like the AI controlled characters’ actions or non-actions resulted in a game over screen, which isn’t always the case in games of this nature. Your companions can be relied on, and they don’t really let you down until the very last boss, but even then the AI is better than most games that feature 4-player co-op with bot support.
The true gem in Fuse’s gameplay is rooted in the drop-in drop-out co-op play. This game was built to be played by four human gamers, and while the AI suffices for solo runs, having a team of 4 human controlled characters is the way to go. With a solid team in place, the Overstrike 9 squad becomes an unstoppable force of class-based awesomeness. Strategy becomes key, especially during the later stages in the game that feature hulking mech-like enemy types that can take more punishment than a rest stop’s toilet.
Fuse can get quite difficult playing alone, so if you want to feel like a futuristic squad of alien weapon wielding Rambos, you should definitely make sure to talk three of your friends into buying the game with you. The AI is competent, but Fuse is a much more rewarding and fun experience when played with other real people.
In addition to a great campaign mode, Fuse also offers a multiplayer game type called Echelon that is just as solid. Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer came to mind while playing in the Echelon game type, because it features the same style of alternating objective-based gameplay, that plays out over twelve waves of ever increasing difficult enemy types.
One wave may require you to hold an objective, while another may command you to take out a specific target. This change of pace helps to keep each match of Echelon feeling fresh, but that’s not the best part about this mode.
Echelon matches can be used to farm Fuse credits and experience points to help level up the Overstrike 9 team. All of the XP and credits your earn in multiplayer transfer over to the game’s campaign. Considering that each of the four characters all have four levels of skills to be unlocked and upgraded, Echelon provides a great arena to accomplish this so your fight in the campaign can be a little more fair.
This concept is one that should be used more often in shooter based games, because it provides a great reason to keep playing Fuse even when you don’t feel like investing hours of your time into playing the fairly long campaign. Echelon definitely adds to this game’s already high replayability factor, and the ability to earn XP across both game modes will keep die hard fans going for many weeks after they complete the campaign for the first time.
Insomniac took great care with the extra development time they needed to get Fuse to market, because its visuals are a thing of beauty. This game sports high caliber graphics that compete with some of the best looking games of this generation. Halo 4 gets mentioned as one of the most revolutionary looking games to come out before the next-generation of consoles, but Fuse should also be in that conversation.
It sports an almost cartoon-like appearance, but don’t mistake that comparison for it being kid friendly. Fuse offers an insane amount of animated violence that renders wonderfully each time you use your Xenotech (Fuse enabled weapons) to obliterate the Raven forces. Body explosions, throat slashes, and face stabs all look graceful due to Fuse’s excellent frame rate, and lack of screen tearing.
Each of the six main missions feature unique landscapes that are visually distinct from the rest. Early missions have you fighting your way through tight corridors with dark color palettes, while later missions open things up with some natural vistas and outdoor gun battles. You’ll even get to fight in space before the credits roll, so Fuse definitely keeps its environments fresh to avoid visual burn out.
What’s most impressive about Fuse’s graphics is its attention to detail on the character animations. Each character features a distinct look and feel, which helps to further separate it from the Gears of War comparison, which is a game that mainly features a cast of steroid eating man-gorillas. Overstrike 9 is comprised of both men and women, big and small, from all different races. It was nice to see such variety in the character design, because sometimes in games of this nature the characters all look cut from the same piece of digital cloth.
Just like its visual design, Fuse sports a masterful collection of sounds to help bring it to life. Boris Salchow’s soundtrack is one that gamers won’t soon forget. Its deep brass sounds and frantic pace help to add to the alien mystique of the Fuse technology, and the fast paced, action packed gameplay. Salchow instantly captures the attention of your ears as soon as the menu loads with its booming horn that sounds like an alien ship hailing an invading vessel.
The actual sound design of the weapons and characters is also high quality. Each Xenotech weapon has a unique sound profile that further helps to distinguish them from the other weapons of mass destruction, and the voice cast all gave fine performances to help flesh out the personality of each Overstrike 9 team member. This paired with the high-end visuals provided a fantastic gaming experience that just isn’t offered in each and every game these days.
Without a doubt Fuse proves that Insomniac Games can make great gaming experiences on any platform. Its focus on class-based co-op gameplay helps to set it apart from the other pop and shoot games that have been featured during this generation of console gaming. The Overstrike 9 team provides a variety in character design not usually seen in games of this nature, and each member is brought to life through Fuse’s excellent graphics, and high quality voice acting. Playing with friends is at the heart of Fuse’s mantra, but it also works quite well when played alone thanks to the competent AI.
The cover controls could have been a little simpler if Insomniac “borrowed” the exact control scheme from the Gears of War franchise, but this is only a minor complaint in a sea of positive aspects that this game has going for it.
Its multiplayer mode, and the ability to carry progress over from it into the campaign, give this game a high replay value that will keep gamers coming back for more Fuse enabled action. With the way the achievements and trophies are setup this is a good thing, because they’re built for multiple playthroughs to encourage new strategies and styles.
Fuse truly is a can’t miss gaming experience in 2013, and it’s definitely a new IP that deserves the attention of the gaming public. One can only hope that its lack of a promotional campaign doesn’t cause it to suffer in the sales charts, because this is a franchise that deserves to keep going after its debut game.
Without a doubt Fuse earns a very respectable 9.5 out of 10 Buddhas. Now get out there and convince three of your friends to buy it with you, because it will definitely provide more than a few nights of quality gaming entertainment during the summer of 2013.
[schema type=”review” name=”Fuse Game | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Class based co-op, Gameplay, Visuals and Sound | The Not so Awesome: Cover controls” rev_name=”Fuse” rev_body=”Fuse is the first multiplatform video game from Insomniac Games, and they definitely don’t disappoint with it. Its class based frenetic pop and shoot gameplay is very addicting, and its all brought to you in a high-quality presentation. This is definitely a new IP that gamers should add to their 2013 to-do lists. (This review used the Xbox 360 version of Fuse)” author=”Matt Heywood” pubdate=”2013-05-28″ user_review=”9.5″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]
The reviewer received a review copy of the game from the publisher for review purposes on the Xbox 360 platform.
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