Fuse Got Right
- + A real blast with friends
- + Slick weapon design and gameplay
- + Looks good
Fuse Got Wrong
- - Story lacks emotional weight
- - Competent but forgettable when played alone
Fuse won’t set the world on fire, but it’s still one of the better co-op experiences you’ll play this year. Sure, it’s drenched in your run-of-the-mill sci-fi fair, and its characters lack the personal flair to offset the game’s baffling narrative, but it still manages to offer a competent shooter experience, further complimented by its slick weapon design. It’s not quite as smooth an experience alone as it is with friends, but there’s enough style and substance here to justify a playthrough.
The game follows a team of four mercenaries tasked with reclaiming a dangerous alien substance, fuse, from enemy hands. It starts strong but eventually heads into dullville, lacking the emotional punch of others in the genre like Gears of War. Fortuantely, Fuse is saved by its great range of unique weapons, and gratifying co-op play that puts it well above the likes of Army of Two.
Insomniac Games, the trusted developer of popular series’ Ratchet and Clank and Resistance, does a competent job of making the four members of the Overstrike team interesting, but it unfortunately falls down outside of the occasional off-beat humour present while the characters interact. The story becomes an increasingly jumbled mess of sci-fi cliches, although rather than playing to this weakness like the Call of Duty’s and Battlefield’s of the world, Fuse’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t quite know whether it wants to be taken seriously or not.
Looking beyond its disappointing plot, Fuse’s core experience lies in its cover-based combat, and its here that Insomniac’s new IP offers somewhat of a refreshing take on the genre. Controls are smooth and crisp, and character-specific skills present flairs of originality and value across the game’s numerous different environments. Each character has their own fuse-fueled weapon, while the skill sets, spread out across an accessible skill tree, round out a neat arsenal of sci-fi weapons and abilities for combat.
Playing the game solo for a significant amount of time, I primarily used Dalton’s powerful shield, before updating his abilities to throw down temporary shields throughout the battlefield. Working through the skill tree when playing the game alone makes leaping from character to character -- one of Fuse’s more intuitive features -- an especially engaging affair. While playing the game alone lacks the action-packed punch on offer in the cooperative experience, the Overstrike team offers enough variety across weapons and skills to add value for single players.
Unfortunately, the solo experience is a shadow of what’s available cooperatively, and this has a lot to do with the friendly AI’s lack of battlefield awareness. They’ll rush over to your character if they need health, but beyond that they lack the intelligence to use skills effectively, or move from cover-to-cover efficiently enough to push up on the enemy. It’s here that Fuse’s cooperative roots shine through, as the game lacks the gameplay proficiency reserved for team-based styles of play.
When you do finally managing to team up with up to three friends, Fuse manages to offer an especially gratifying and memorable experience, as the difficulty is seemingly buffed up to balance out the enhanced efficiency of human-controlled team members. It doesn’t do enough to drain out the game’s at-times incoherent narrative, but hearing the characters chuckle and quip to one another while knowing you’re friends are controlling them gives the game a personally that's lacking when played alone.
This is further exemplified by the game’s near-impossible Echelon mode, which must be played with friends. The mode appears to have been made almost exclusively with cooperative play in mind, as the AI lacks the smarts to counter the mind numbingly tough waves of enemies that come at you right from the get-go. The mode encourages players to bring over their levelled-up characters from the campaign, so playing with three friends, choosing a favourite character, and each working through the skill tree will make the tough Echelon mode that little bit more forgiving.
The Final Verdict
While it lacks the emotional punch offered by others in the genre, Fuse is an enjoyable sci-fi romp refined for four-player co-op play. There’s enough there to play alone but AI-controlled squadmates don't quite offer the battlefield coercion to make solo play a viable option for the whole duration. Fuse is undoubtedly drenched in co-op fundamentals and is best played with friends. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a solid experience ahead of the end-of-year next gen rush.