Since its inception, Insomniac Games have developed some of the most notable franchises within the PlayStation universe. Spyro, Ratchet & Clank and the Resistance series have all made their mark on the Sony scene. Now, Insomniac are branching out into what they hope will be a new franchise in third-person shooter Fuse. This time they will also be branching out into the Xbox 360. Rocket Chainsaw managed to play the first few chapters as well as get a taste of the multiplayer, and the results were delightfully explosive.
At its core, Fuse is a third person shooter underlined by co-op action, whether or not you play with others or by yourself. The action is set against the backdrop of a world where the alien substance Fuse can be used and abused – it’s a form of powerful energy that can be weaponized and the unsavoury Raven Corporation want to acquire it to this end. Standing in their way is Overstrike Nine, a team of four combat specialists by the names of Dalton, Jacob, Izzy and Naya, that you control at will. Each team member has various shady aspects of their past which unfold as they take the fight to the Raven Corporation before they take control of fuse for good.
Your team members each have their own weapons with unique abilities, and the combination of them together is vital to your success. Dalton is the biggest of your characters and can thus be thought of as the wall of the group. To this end, his special fuse-powered weapon creates a shield that will protect all of the characters from enemy fire. You can discard the shield by firing his weapon, which then creates a force blast that knocks out all of the other enemy characters. Jacob, meanwhile, wields a pitch-perfect crossbow that has the added benefit of sticking enemies to walls and lighting them on fire. Compared with all of the other weapons, Jacob’s crossbow has less ammo but is far better in attempting stealthy kills. The scientist of the team, Izzy, is given a gun that turns enemies into crystals, which can then be shattered by a shot from her own gun or someone else’s. Rounding out the group’s arsenal is Naya’s warp gun, which creates black holes that then combust and suck enemies inside. If you hit multiple enemies with the gun you can set off a chain reaction that will see explosions that take out enemies within the blast field. It’s difficult to pin down a favourite weapon at this stage as each has their own level of creativity and fun attached to using them – you’d be surprised how much glee can be obtained turning enemies into geodes or skewering the many zany jetpack mooks with a flaming crossbow.
Beyond providing ammo for your weapons, we were able to see first-hand how fuse could be used in other ways. Throughout the game there are reactors and other devices which are powered by a fuse-infused core. Removing the cores and carrying them around creates a small energy field that gives infinite ammunition to your team’s fuse weapons when within its boundary. This can especially come in handy when fighting large groups of enemies that block your progress. However, fuse cores are very unstable – they can only be active for a limited time and will explode unless you are able to put them inside a fuse-powered machine and continue the mission. Likewise, if they take too many bullets from enemy guns or your own they will explode and cause you to fail the mission. It’s an interesting duality at play within the game and ties in well with its overall theme of the use and abuse of the alien substance. On top of this, it also causes you to think a little bit more about your actions – it may be possible for a character to make a run for a reactor to place a core inside again to prevent it from exploding, though other times it may be better to keep it in play for as long as possible due to its infinite ammo properties.
Just as there is a level of strategy in using fuse, so too must thought be taken when playing as each individual character. Switching from character to character and devoting different amounts of time to them will result in different levels of progression. You can use this to upgrade their weapons and abilities in different ways – bigger ammo limits, quicker reviving times and more. It’s a welcome feature that adds a bit more depth into a game which already gives you a bit more strategy than the average shooter. On top of this, the ability upgrades that you obtain in the standard story mission mode will also carry over into the online multiplayer modes of Fuse, with none other than Insomniac CEO Ted Price guiding us through personally and being our player two.
We fought alongside Ted in two of the multiplayer arenas in Echelon mode, progressively fighting several waves of AI enemies. Along the way, we could still switch between the four main characters in our quest and acquire money and experience points which could also carry through to the story mode. Besides fighting against the normal grunts, we also encountered several of the game’s minibosses in our quest for securing weapons caches. After defeating a miniboss, we also got access to their primary weapons – a flamethrower for the red mecha enemy that just loved to burn us up inside and outside, as well as the Berserker’s giant machine gun. As a local co-op skirmish, the Echelon mode of Fuse was a real delight – fighting alongside and reviving Ted in the face of some crazy enemy skirmishes was unbelievably fun.
Beyond being a joy to play, we found Fuse to have excellent presentation qualities. All of the characters and environments appeared to be rendered superbly, but the star of the game has to be the different effects of your fuse weapons. Each weapon’s individuality is represented in fine detail, leaving no room for doubt as to just who on your team has killed which enemy in any given moment. It really does help to set Fuse apart from many shooters which use more standard bullets and enemy liquidation tactics. The creativity of the fuse weapons used by your team also carries over into the various bosses that you meet, who use fuse in their own dastardly but creative ways.
Overall, our time with Fuse was well-spent and much enjoyed. Its combination of unique weapons and refined co-op gameplay in every sense of the concept should be looked forward to by anyone seeking a bit of a different shooter from a company with a very respectable gaming pedigree. You can start pulling enemies into mini black holes from the end of the month, when Fuse is released in Australia. Rocket Chainsaw would like to thank EA and Ted for taking the time to show us through the game.