I’m in the business of giving opinions. People don’t have to like my opinion but I always try, at the very least, to back up that opinion with a solid base of facts and information to further my point. I’ve got a fresh opinion for you right now. If a game developer, Insomniac this time around, presents us with a game that is available to play solo or with up to three friends, the option to play solo should at least be somewhat as fun as the multiplayer option. In the case of Fuse they want you so badly to play in co-op that the solo campaign is a forced slog with three bots tagging along that you need to babysit. In my mind that took away somewhat from what could have made the whole package shine as opposed to only letting a portion glow.
Fuse as a whole doesn’t bring anything really new to the table. Originality isn’t a word that will come to mind when describing it. If anything you get a very distinct ‘been there and done that’ feel, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. There’s something to be said for familiarity and if you’ve got any experience whatsoever with FPS games you’ll feel right at home from the start screen and on.
The base story is that the human race has gotten its grubby paws on an alien substance/power source called Fuse. In a clichéd (read: unoriginal) story arc there’s the guys who want to use Fuse to advance all that is good in the world and there’s the bad guys, called Raven, who want to steal it and do all sorts of nasty, sinister type things with it. In order to fight off Raven the government recruits special agent group Overstrike 9 to come in and clean up the mess. Not the worst plot in the world by any means but a story that you’re likely to have heard before.
You start by choosing from four characters and their names are Dalton, Naya, Izzy, and Jacob. Each of these characters has access to a unique fuse weapon which sadly is the only real original thing about the game. Sure, I’ve seen weapons similar to these in the past but the take on these ones smacks of at least a smidgen of originality. Dalton has his Mag Shield which essentially collects ammo fired at him and fires it right back. He can also drop shields as protective cover for his teammates which often comes in handy. Naya has a singularity weapon that creates black holes to snare enemies. Izzy’s weapon turns enemies into crystalline statues ripe for the picking and finally Jacob’s weapon shoots crossbow bolts that explode upon contact into a fiery mess. When used tactically with teammates these weapon combos can prove to be powerful and awesome to watch, but sadly if playing this out solo you’re not likely to have many chances to utilize them. Correction, you’ll get a chance to use them but not always at ideal times. Luckily if you are playing alone you do have the option to switch between characters on the fly so you’re not always tied down to a single Fuse weapon. In true FPSRPG fashion each character also has a unique skill tree available to them (think Borderlands) that advances both their own characteristics as well as their unique weapon’s capabilities as you advance through the game.
Control wise the easiest comparison I have for the experienced FPS gamer is ‘Gears of War’. Similar cover and vault mechanics, shooting, essentially the whole package. Again, not necessarily a bad thing as I come from a mindset of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ when it comes to things like this, but this being said there is no innovation either. Familiarity here comes in handy as each section of the game is a rinse and repeat of massive enemy waves relentlessly pinning you down behind cover. It’s a lot easier to deal with if you’ve done it before. Horde mode anyone?
A couple of the things Fuse got right are both the graphics (despite the odd clip or tear) and the sound. Insomniac has some experience in creating visual masterpieces, especially in the form of the Resistance series on PlayStation, and they deliver here in spades as well. Character models are well done, mechanized enemies are highly detailed, and the overall background visuals are easy on the eyes. Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot new on the table when it comes to level design and each level feels a little bit like more of the last, but regardless of this everything is still enjoyable to take in.
Insomniac really got it right when it comes to the cast of voice actors for Fuse. It doesn’t come across as cheesy or forced at all and it’s genuinely good. This seems to be the case in more and more games these days as cut rate acting becomes unacceptable for most peoples standards and the team at Insomniac obviously knows this. If I was to give any department an A+ for work done in Fuse it would have to be here. This is even more appreciated when you realize that if you choose to replay a level that you can’t skip any of the cut scenes! If you’ve got to watch something over again and again it should at least be of half decent quality right?
Quite obviously the real draw here is playing with your friends. What is a mediocre offering at best when played as a single player experience is made so much better if you can push through it with a friend or three. It makes it easier to tactically combo up and while still not offering up a whole lot for innovation it gives you and your pals a good way to pass 7 or 8 hours of your life. If the story mode isn’t enough for you there’s also the Echelon mode which is essentially Fuse’s version of a Horde-like mode. As great as this game is to play with some friends the real issue here is to convince three of your friends to actually buy the title as well. Early reception before release was dismal at best and hype for the game was borderline non-existent so this might be easier said than done. Any gamer who purchases it might likely be left making a solo run whether they like it or not.
Breaking down the package as a whole Insomniac’s Fuse can be fun at times but it is a middle of the road experience at best. As a new IP I really think it shows some promise; however without a strong base of sales on this title the likelihood of us seeing anything more from Overstrike 9 is a longshot. Giving this title a go alone is fairly boring but if you can find at least one other friend who is willing to purchase a copy to play along with you it’d be a fun way to pass the time. You might want to wait until it hits the bargain bins first mind you as I have a hard time recommending it for everyone at full retail.