"Don't Go Alone"
After a very questionable overhaul in artistic direction, Fuse was done absolutely no favors by publisher Electronic Arts. With little to no advertising to avert gamers’ attention from the next generation hype train (releasing so close to E3 with everyone abuzz about the PS4 and Xbox One certainly does not help), Fuse is a prime example of a game sent out to die. However, you have to give developer, Insomniac Games, credit. Even with so much going against their first multiplatform game, they see potential as a franchise in this new intellectual property and have already begun prototyping ways to expand the Fuse experience. Is this prospective series-starter worthy of that designation?
The developers ensured that, even with the change in art direction, the game would still be steeped in humor and charisma. It holds fairly true. The banter between the crew in the midst of battle calls to mind the charming personality exuded by Uncharted’s characters. However, while the latter game’s wit afforded levity to its atmosphere, it also importantly and subtly helped shed light on its characters. It gave them personality.
Sure, in Fuse, it is moderately entertaining watching the juxtaposition of taut humor against simultaneous graphic violence, yet it feels rather out of place because, while each main character is loaded with intriguing backgrounds and stories, the game does not offer much in the way of character or story development over its relatively short campaign. The narrative is a pitfall with one-note villains leading the team on a world-spanning chase of destruction. No, the real stars here are the weapons.
Experiencing the game through a single-player lens allows you to test out each and every one of the Overstrike 9 team’s unique set of abilities. At the touch of a button, you can switch between each of your available characters, which is useful when you are running low on ammo.
The group’s leader, Dalton, wields the Magshield, which manifests movable and deployable cover, acting as both a source of reliable defense and potent offense. Jacob, a former officer who doled out his own brand of vigilante justice, sports the Arcshot, a long-range crossbow that is perfect for taking out multiple targets and setting up traps.
With the Shattergun’s ability to freeze enemies in crystal and medical beacons at her disposal, the fiery redhead, Isabelle, the rebellious hacker of the group, acts as the squad’s support and medic. Naya has the most interesting array of abilities as her Warp Rifle can set off a chain of destructive miniature black holes and allows her a cloak of invisibility for up-close melee action.
They all feel distinct and have advantages to them, and each Fuse weapon is expectedly strong but limited in use. Otherwise, the game would be much too easy. However, this forces the player to rely on regular weapons which, unfortunately, carry such a sameness to them that gameplay often feels repetitive.
Further, it became very clear while progressing that it is much more beneficial to bring along a buddy (you can play with up to 3 others!). Earning points to upgrade your characters’ abilities is most effective when your abilities are used in concert. Combining Izzy’s crystallizing power to temporarily freeze enemies while another character destroys them earns more points than acting alone. Dozens of combos exist to encourage teamwork.
At least, that is the idea. Curiously, you are awarded the same amount of points by repeating the same combination over and again, so you never really feel compelled to switch things up. Where diversity in approach should be inspired, it is instead stunted. Still, coordinating team-based attacks by switching between A.I.-controlled squadmates is just way less rewarding than working with a friend since that A.I. is occasionally inept at utilizing their weapons correctly.
There is a competent and enjoyable cooperative element underneath all of the by-the-book shooter mediocrity. If, in a future title, Insomniac gets the opportunity to expound upon what works in Fuse and fixes what does not, let us hope the studio can also find a way to leverage in the personality that the developer’s resume so easily demonstrates.
GameDynamo's Score for Fuse (X360)
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
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