Insomniac Games are known for unique, imaginative titles that while not always being perfect do attempt to change the status quo of whatever style of gameplay their titles portray. Unfortunately Fuse fails to really deliver any of the Insomniac charm in any sort of abundance. There are a few moments throughout where imagination tries to peak its way out but alas it’s short and not very sweet.
Fuse is third person shooter which can be played in four player co-op; teaming up with friends is significantly more enjoyable than playing on your own. The story features a team of highly trained operatives called Overstrike 9 and their quest to save the world from Raven, an organisation hell-bent on destroying it after discovering the substance Fuse. However it wasn't just Raven which discovered the power of Fuse, our Overstrike team have also harnessed its power while exploring a secret government lab called Hyperion Base after it’s attacked by Raven.
This Fuse power has given our OverStrike 9 extremely powerful weapons that can: create a shield that absorbs enemy projectiles and bullets, freeze enemies before shattering them, fire huge bolts of burning goo or create mini black holes that can be chained to absorb numerous enemies at once. These refreshing weapons are a typical Insomniac trait and are sadly the only real highlight in the game. It says a lot that the guns are more interesting and characteristic than the soldiers wielding them.
They are extremely broken too, the game provides you with enough ammo that using these weapons throughout will be the norm. The additional standard weapons you can pick up are nothing more than dead weight and you’ll probably only use them to finish off bosses after you’ve done the real damage. In fact the only weapons bar the Fuse weapons which are actually enjoyable to use are the ‘heavy’ weapons you can pick up from mini bosses, such as rocket launchers, mini guns and flamethrowers, with the latter actually being quite useful. It has to be one of the first times a game actually makes a flamethrower a useful weapon!
If the game’s weapons are imaginative, the game’s other elements and aspects are not. The story takes you across six chapters that are around one to one and half hours long, and while they let you explore dry deserts, tropical jungles, icy cliff tops and space stations they all manage to feel exactly the same. Arrive, kill some guys, loot some areas, kill a boss and escape. There is little to no imagination to be found here which is a shame considering Insomniac's Resistance series had so much life and vibrancy within each of its environments, even in the post apocalyptic worlds. It doesn't help that by the halfway point of the game you’ll have encountered pretty much every enemy type there is, making every fight gets extremely tedious. Even the boss fights follow the same pattern, just shoot the big yellow spots and hope your AI partner doesn’t die.
In Fuse if your AI partner dies, the mission is failed and you’ll have to restart at the latest checkpoint, which unfortunately can be a fair trek in the past. The checkpoint system implemented here isn’t very generous and you can easily lose ten minutes in the worst case scenario. This isn’t a fundamental disaster while playing multiplayer as a group of human players can stop their team members from bleeding out, and are far more adept at using cover in the right way. However if you’re planning on playing single player you’ll soon come to loathe your AI partners. During the general gunfights they are more than capable of handling themselves. Put them in a boss fight and that’s when things get annoying: they constantly fail to find cover and you’ll spend your entire fight trying to save them instead of tackling the boss, therefore it either takes a huge amount of time to complete or you’ll die yourself. At the end of chapter five there is a boss fight that could easily take two hours due to the lack of cover and the incompetence of the AI partners.
The saying that the best things in life are better with friends is extremely poignant here. Fuse feels like it was designed to be played that way, and when it is, the game changes completely. Multiplayer is what essentially saves Fuse from being a bland, uninspired shooter. Teaming up with friends makes the game far more enjoyable as your team members will simply be more intelligent when it comes to finding cover and picking of enemies silently. You can interact with your co-op partners and tell them where to hide, how to tackle enemies and how to approach a situation. You’re able to plan and implement strategies that simply aren’t possible with AI partners. Sadly, not everyone can enjoy the perks of multiplayer due to poor connections or a general dislike of the multiplayer community and they’re therefore stuck with the infuriating single player.
As well as the co-op story, Fuse also delivers a multiplayer mode called Echelon, which sees players tackle waves of enemies, either defending objects or attacking mech targets. It’s surprisingly quite enjoyable, provided you play with a partner who is competent and has progressed a fair distance into the story. If played with a novice you’ll soon become Fuse dust and the difficulty spikes are so brutal that it’s not recommended that you play it on your own. Even fully powered Fuse veterans will struggle going solo!
Like most shooters you’ll be able to upgrade certain elements of your characters throughout, be that health, ammo levels, damage and so on. Each player has their own skill tree which can be upgraded after you collect enough XP. They feature extra grenade slots, health upgrades and additional benefits to your Fuse weapons, although they’re pretty powerful already. There is also a team perks section which you can upgrade with Fuse credits, these are scattered across the map and are easily collected in the game’s multiplayer modes. These team perks include extra health for all characters and other team building features such as double XP and more powerful grenades. Sadly the skill trees and team perks never really change the game’s difficulty, in fact the game feels as easy/difficult at the end as it does at the start, while the enemies rarely change. This means that all the upgrades you’ve spent time and money upgrading don’t really come to fruition. It’s a shame as some of the upgrades are actually quite cool and resemble some of the barbaric upgrades found in the likes of Borderlandsseries. It may be because of the stupid AI partners or the lack of real upgrading but the game was fairly difficult throughout and even the four difficulty levels feel pretty much the same.
What really disappoints the most about Fuse is that it had so much potential but failed to deliver any sort of meaningful experience. The game started life as Overstrike but changed its title to Fuse and its graphics also received a makeover. Not for the better it must be said. While it looks OK here it’s not the unique style that was portrayed in the first screenshots and trailers that got us so excited. The Overstrike team have little to no character and the witty jokes that some try to tell feel forced and unnatural. It’s as if the team at Insomniac saw how the characters in Battlefield: Bad Company interacted and tried to imitate that, failing on a huge scale. And need we say more about the god awful final boss experience. We won’t spoil anything but it’s so 90’s its not even real, a poorly implemented checkpoint system (there isn't one) and an extremely unnecessary one hit kill attack means everything you've upgraded, taken the time to explore or built up is removed and replaced with good old fashioned luck. We could forgive the game’s other flaws, as somewhere, underneath there is a good game, but the final encounter is like eating your favorite cheesecake and finding a hair or worse a dead fly in your final bite. It leaves you with an extremely sour taste and will be the lasting memory most picture when they hear the name Fuse in ten years. If the game hasn't already been forgotten and resigned to the bargain bin by that point.
Fuse is so poor by Insomniac’s usually high standards that it’s hard to believe Insomniac actually made it. It feels like another was quashing their great ideas for ones that they believe ‘sell’. The game is a shadow of the one we first saw and is so generic and tedious that it’s hard to find much to like. But underneath the generic storytelling, level design and boss fights there is a game that friends could have hours of fun with. Squadding up and tackling the game is far more enjoyable than most multiplayer experiences on the market and the game should be praised for that alone. At the end of the day the game feels like it was marketed as a four player co-operative third person shooter and it does that very well. Sadly the rest of the package is a let down.