Published on March 21st, 2013 | by Kyle LeDuch0
Fuse – Hands On
The cover-based shooter sub-genre hasn’t exactly been a hive of creativity over the past few years. Sure there have been some notable entries that have tried to accomplish new things, like Vanquish and Binary Domain, but for every great release there tend to be efforts like Inversion which set expectations for the next cover shooter down to absolute zero. FUSE has definitely been a bit of victim of this recent trend, with many gamers dismissing Insomniac’s multi-platform debut as ‘characterless’ or ‘generic’, but frankly these ill-considered observations couldn’t be further from the truth.
Insomniac Games is actually trying to do new things with the humble cover shooter, by placing an emphasis on tactics, co-operative teamplay and protagonists that actually have a sense of humor. FUSE stars Overstrike 9, a team of four talkative mercenaries, each boasting their own special abilities and weapons with Insomniac’s trademark imaginative weapon design, as they attempt to take down a shadowy government organisation wielding advanced alien tech.
Interestingly, each of these characters and their abilities falls into traditional MMORPG character types, with the chunky Dalton functioning like an attention-drawing Tank bolstered with his shield projector weapon, leaving the sniper Jacob and assault class warrior Naya to flank enemies and take them out. The final inclusion is Izzy who despite being dubbed a Healer can neutralize enemy numbers en masse for a short time – in addition to replenishing a teammates’ HP. The tactical depth of these archetypes and their suitability to four-player online or local co-op is obvious, but to dial up FUSE’s attraction to those who love single-player, Insomniac has introduced the Leap mechanic.
During the campaign the four starring characters will always be in tandem, but in a twist you can switch between each one on the fly. So say you’re facing a giant mech boss as Dalton with your Magshield weapon drawing mass fire, but you can’t fire back. In this scenario you could switch to Naya who could use her cloaking device to head around the boss for a stealth kill or you could try and move Jacob into a position where he can utilize his electronic crossbow to maximum effect – while the AI holds the Tank in his important protective position.
This formula is unique in gaming, with only Gearbox’s Brothers in Arms series coming close, but FUSE’s shooting still feels enjoyable with a similarly satisfying weight to Resistance. Seeing giblets fly and heads popping off torsos is simply glee-enducing.
We got a hefty helping of how this high-octane strategy operates in the game’s Echelon mode, which is essentially a wave-based survival mode but with random, alternating objectives over 12 different stages. One moment you’ll be trying to take down a surprisingly nimble boss, while the next you’ll be trying to keep a VIP safe. During our hands-on we barely scraped through to the fifth stage on the Raven Facility map, and the difficulty at times was crushingly tough. The addition of random item drops in the guise of instantly tempting gold bars and money bags to buy new equipment helped to nullify the blow of sudden failure somewhat, as did the UI reminders regarding constant XP accumulation for kills. The fact that each character’s progression is persistent across the campaign and co-operative multiplayer is also a really nice touch.
FUSE feels like it’s forging new ground in the increasingly dull cover shooter arena, and with Insomniac embracing multi-platforms for the first time (thanks to their shedding of the Sony shackles) Xbox 360 owners will be able to find out why PS3 gamers have been praising the makers of the Resistance and Ratchet & Clank for all these years.