Insomniac’s first outing since leaving Sony’s nest was always going to be a tough task. But with such a strong history of inventive weaponry in the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance games, chances were that anything they put their minds too involving boomsticks would be fun.
Fuse is a third-person cover shooter with a heavy emphasis on co-op. With the multiplatform competition consisting of the like of Kane & Lynch and Army of Two, it’s all there for the taking. Fusepacks a little extra punch by allowing for four-player co-op action, rather than a paltry two.
The game is set in a near future, allowing for a slight sci-fi edge to things. You play as one of four Overstrike agents -guns for hire- on one long job after things get screwed up in the first mission. A volatile alien substance known as Fuse, gets into the wrong hands, meaning bad people would like to use it in nukes and so on.
Fortunately, they leave behind four prototype weapons, which your team promptly appropriate for themselves. A warp gun fires lasery shots that eventually build up into small black holes that can be chained together. A crossbow-like weapon fires flaming bolts that can be remotely detonated. A shatter gun eventually freezes enemies, leaving them vulnerable to standard weapons, enabling you to shatter large groups like glass. The final weapon provides a mobile shield, albeit one that can absorb bullets and grenades before repelling them back at the enemy.
The idea is that you work as a team to get these weapons to work together, but to be honest they never really feel like they get along particularly well, aside from the odd bit of chaining. The AI partners can’t even be relied upon to get this right either.
Each player can also carry two other weapons. A sidearm such as an ear-pleasingly powerful handgun or an uzi-style spray-and-pray effort in one holster and assault rifles, shotguns, snipers or small burst mid-range rifles in the other. Targeting is reliable throughout and the weapons really hammer through standard enemies with a health bar providing a useful indicator of each weapon’s suitability too.
Each player also has secondary skill to be unlocked early on. Med beacons will auto-revive fallen comrades and buff your health. Temporary invisibility is great for setting around to the vulnerable backs of boss-robots or sneaking up for a one-button finisher on shield carriers. Stationary magshields can be deployed to free up your hands for more offensive weaponry.
The above skills and perks, such as extra damage and increased critical chances, are bought with skill points awarded each time you level up. Despite starting well with different ones for each character, the second half of the skill tree consists of the same unlocks for everyone, which is alarmingly dull for an Insomniac game.
Enemies are mainly on foot troops, which shouldn’t cause any problems. Jetpack snipers are worthy opponents though, changing position and nailing you quickly should you pop up from cover. They’re tough, but fair. Whereas the infiltrators that grab you in a chokehold are a fucking nightmare as they can incapacitate the whole team with their cheaty moves.
Stages throughout the game feature the same repetitive objectives. Shoot everything and push forwards and open a door or press a button. Sometimes you’d need to carry a heavy power node to place it in a generator. Here you have to rely on your teammates to protect you, as you’re limited to a sidearm unless you put the node down. This was much more fun when playing online as the AI are lazy swines who never carry it for you. They’re even worse during the boss fights, which are mainly against large robots that need to be shot in the back.
In general, I’d advise playing as much of Fuse online as you can. The AI, aren’t great shots and they can get in a flap when you’re waiting for them to revive you. If they need to climb up to you, you can see their silhouette dancing around like a headless chicken. Still, they’re much better at coming to your aid than the morons running around in the Army of Two games.
There’s an option to load up your save file in multiplayer so you’re only playing from where you’re up to in the story. Despite the game having been out for a week, I found that there aren’t many players online (blame the sunshine?), I rarely got a full team playing at once. While this is still a tough game with human teammates, it’s a lot more enjoyable. Kills, assists, revives and points are compared throughout, giving the game a friendly sense of competition. XP or money found scattered around stages is shared too, which is a neat touch.
Many of the team buffers cost so much money; you’ll barely unlock any on a single playthrough, but at least XP and unlocks carry through to future playthroughs. As much fun as I had playing Fuse -especially online- there really isn’t much on offer to bring me back on a regular basis. The Echelon mode has a few maps to fend off lengthy waves of enemies, but they’re essentially just prolonged visits in sections of the main game. Ironically, this is EA’s first game in years that hasn’t required an online pass and it’s one you’re probably better off renting first.
Insomniac have proven themselves at both ends of the art design scale, from the colourful worlds inRatchet, to the bleak alternative history of a 1950s alien-decimated USA in Resistance. You wouldn’t think the same studio put this together. It’s mainly corridors and enemy bases, so lots of concrete to look at. There are some finer touches; the particle effects for the snow were particularly impressive, before I was ushered through another car park then back indoors. The story is typical video game fodder and the Overstrike team themselves are a real bore too.
Is this were I start moaning about the change of direction from when the game was announced as Overstrike? No, that was only a concept video, we saw no gameplay. Let’s not pretend to miss something we never actually had in the first place. Maybe Insomniac have stretched themselves too thin in order to go multiplatform while still pumping out so-so Ratchet games (All 4 One and Q-Forcewere clearly games made while distracted with Fuse’s development). If early sales of Fuse are anything to go by, maybe they should have given us that sequel to Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Timeafter all.
- Solid gunplay
- Fun when played online
- Stealth-camo makes you feel like a sneaky hero
- Weapons lack Insomniac’s usual creative flair
- Generic campaign
- AI aren’t much help
The Short Version: Fuse is considerably more enjoyable than the Army of Two or Kane & Lynch games, but still somewhat lacking by Insomniac’s high standards set in other genres. The weaponry doesn’t quite pull it off this time, with the combined reactions of team-fire failing to live up to expectations. A brief campaign and average wave-assault mode for afters make this more of a rental, albeit a fun one when played online.
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed) | Xbox 360
Developer: Insomniac Games
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