A freshly wrecked military base doubles as your whistle-stop tour of Fuse's high-concept weaponry.
In one room, scientist bits decorate walls and ceilings, impaled by the same deadly melanite crystals they were researching minutes earlier. In another, a turret that glows like the sun spins wildly out of control and burns the last surviving technicians to cinders. Across the way, a solid wall warps and shimmers like liquid metal, impervious to damage. And just when you thought it couldn't get weirder, a black hole tears a corridor apart. As a shop floor demonstration, you won't find more effective.
Throughout this co-op cover-shooter's campaign, you'll sample the lot. Each of the four characters who make up misfit special agent squad Overstrike 9 claims one of these abilities. Mouthy mercenary Dalton Brooks wields the Mag Shield - a pistol conjuring football-net-sized defences which can be fired through by teammates; intelligence broker Isabelle Sinclair uses her Shattergun to crystallize; stealthy assassin Naya Deveraux harnesses black holes with the Warp Rifle, and fiery detective Jacob Kimble sets people aflame with a scoped Arcshot crossbow. Their mission? To stop the evil Raven corporation harnessing alien matter called Fuse - the very substance fuelling the weapons you'll pitch against them. That base was Raven's doing.
Whether offline with bots, online with buddies, matchmaking with strangers or in local co-op, players will pool the collective ferocity of an unknown quantity, earning points for skill trees and developing the destruction. Soon Dalton can plant shields, Isabelle can throw medkits for teammates, Naya can cloak, and Jacob can re-ignite fired bolts. Each agent may have only one weapon (along with the two conventional firearms like shotguns and pistols), but it evolves level to level. Depth over breadth.
This means Overstrike's interplay evolves, too. Use Isabelle's Shattergun, for instance, to ensnare enemies in slick black spines of sharp crystals, then ramp up the score multipliers by burning them in bunches with Jacob's Arcshot. Or block a choke point with black holes from Deveraux's Warp Rifle, then lob grenades in. Team perks also spread bonuses around, like health and damage buffs. At times it's positively manic.
While foes are mostly fodder for the screen-filling effects of your combined powers, it's the specialized ones which really flex Fuse's teamwork muscle. Swarms of bug-like drones need halting with Dalton's Mag Shield then taken out at once with its secondary function's force push. Riot-shielded SWAT teams and hulking mechs, meanwhile, are only vulnerable at the rear, so one squad mate will need to act the bait while the rest flank them. Though far from fresh, Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank heritage shines in ludicrous chains of destruction.
Tasks within levels read like a checklist of tired ideas, a compilation album of the generation's tropes we can't wait to leave behind.
Soon, however, you begin to spy the deep-rooted dearth of ideas. There are elevator bits, bits where you have to hold out while elevators arrive, valve-turning bits, charge-planting bits, turret bits, bits involving picking something up in one place and putting it down in another place. Even seemingly unique bits, upon closer inspection, have been pinched from other games; a hallucinogenic boss battle with a giant villain lifts Batman: AA's Scarecrow sequence almost wholesale. Tasks within levels read like a checklist of tired ideas, a compilation album of the generation's tropes we can't wait to leave behind.
Oh, and before we go further, we need to mention that Fuse doesn't look like the official bullshots we've been given. No, it looks more like this shot we took ourselves using capture equipment.
Half-hearted platforming could have elevated fights, but instead it's simply a way to get from A to B. Stealth is also undeveloped, seeing you try and incapacitate a room of guards with their backs turned before dunderheaded AI companions inevitably spark the shootout. They don't help here, acting the Serious Sam to your Sam Fisher, but they're fine in combat, and you can switch between each one using the select button.
From a tired campaign to something with bite, the wave-based Echelon mode dubbed 'co-petitive' by Insomniac could prove its saving grace. Over 12 rounds, one of six parameters randomly triggers. The best is Critical Drop, wherein a haul of heavy weapons and ammo lands somewhere in the map, and you need to collect them before the enemy destroys it all. Like with the campaign, though, playing with humans is a must.
That's if they stick around. It's hard to imagine anyone will remember Fuse in a week or two, and ultimately its biggest failing can be inferred from an interview Insomniac's Brian Allgeier gave to IGN last year: "We would focus test the game in front of a lot of gamers, and get their opinion. These are people that regularly play PlayStation 3 and Xbox games. We started to discover that everyone thought this was a game for their younger brother. We would hear this from 12-year-olds. So we decided that we needed to make a game that had an older appeal."
Somewhere along the way, Insomniac confused the word 'older' with the word 'generic'.
Fuse is like four dull cover-shooters transposed on top of each other. Juicily inventive firearms aside, there's a lack of ideas here, and while nothing's particularly wrong, there's certainly not much right.
- Bombastic weapons and busy battlefields
- Echelon mode offers a spin on Gears' Horde formula
- The most generic-looking game imaginable
- Tired sub-objectives designed to waste time
- A large number of environments are boring military complexes