The reveal of Overstrike at E3 2011 came and went without much interest from me, Insomniac Games' multi-platform reveal featured a rendered video showing off some stylized characters that took no guff and dealt with enemies in an over-the-top, almost comical manner. I honestly passed it off as something I wasn't too interested in, mainly because of a lack of gameplay in the reveal, so I pushed it to the back of my memories of E3 2011 and moved on.
Cut to September 5th 2012, a balmy day in Los Angeles, surprisingly light traffic, and a little bit of rain, a relatively easy drive to Burbank to visit Insomniac Games to check out what's been cooking since that reveal nearly a year and a half ago. Now renamed to Fuse, Insomniac Games' multi-platform title looks quite a bit different than the first reveal. The tone has gotten a little more serious, the characters a little more gritty, and the toys, those oh so wonderful Insomniac weapons, have become stars alongside the mercenary group that wields them.
The story of Fuse is driven by its name, an alien matter that has been kept under wraps since its discovery in the 1940's. It's obviously been experimented with and as a result has turned up a number of useful properties, most of which are lethal. This is why Fuse is currently in the hands of a para-military group called Raven, and why players will scour the globe with their Fuse-powered weapons to stop this escalating arms race. The addition of Fuse as a MacGuffin gives a bit more of a cohesive story than what the original Overstrike trailer showed off, which just seemed like a whacky team of rag-tag mercenaries. It also gives life to the weapons of Fuse which are some of the most unique weapons I've seen to date.
Fuse has four playable characters, each armed with a unique weapon picked up at the Hyperion base where Fuse was kept under lock and key. The team is comprised of Dalton Brooks, armed with a Mag Shield that allows him to create a barrier that stops enemy bullets and allows him to deploy shields anywhere on the battlefield. The shield is also capable of storing kinetic energy and can return fire in the form of a large blast wave.
Naya Deveraux carries the Warp Rifle, a weapon capable of coating enemies with Fuse mixed with anti-matter substance and can be used to create miniature black holes, tearing enemies apart in the process. Coating multiple enemies with the Warp Rifle can also set off a chain of black holes. Her secondary ability allows her to go stealth, allowing her to sneak up on enemies.
Jacob Kimble acts as the sniper with his Arc Shot. The liquid mercury mixed with Fuse allows him to fire bolts from the Arc Shot and can set traps with these bolts, causing them to spew hot liquid magma (you read that as Doctor Evil didn't you?) onto other enemies.
Last up is Isabelle Sinclair, she acts as crowd control with her Shatter Gun. This gun crystallizes enemies and lifts them off the ground, making it a great weapon for getting enemies out of cover which is an incredibly satisfying feeling. Isabelle is also able to fire off healing crystals that can be used to restore and revive teammates.
During our short-hands on time with Fuse, members of the media gathered and played through a short mission that offered a variety of situations where each players strengths were played to, and also offered up a lot of moments of what Insomniac president Ted Price called 'emergent gameplay.' At one point my party had mostly fallen with the exception of myself (playing as Isabelle) and another player as Dalton. Knowing that we were under heavy fire, Dalton moved to a corner and dropped a shield for me, which gave me a chance to fire off healing crystals to the downed party members and get them back in to the fight. Moments like these look to be rather common in Fuse, giving players a lot of surprises with what they are capable of pulling off. After navigating through a bunker, sneaking in through a sewer grate while other members of the team demolished a wall, our team was faced with a large missile spewing bi-pedal robot that could capture team members as well, but in doing so revealed a very vulnerable weak point. The combined firepower of our team was able to take down the robot in short order, but not without offering up some scares to team safety.
What we didn't get much time with is the Fuse points and character progression system. By killing enemies and teaming up with allies, players will be able to earn points that go toward character growth and special abilities like the Fusion power. Fusion will revive any downed characters and puts the players in to an overdrive mode where their weapons are more effective. Dalton can send out multiple kinetic blasts from the Mag Shield, Naya's Warp Rifle fires much more quickly, Jacob's Arc Shot will immolate any enemy it hits, and Isabelle's Shatter Gun is able to crystallize multiple enemies at once. As for earning Fuse points, it's much more productive to work as a team than to run as a lone wolf. Dalton for example allows players to hide behind his shields, and when friendlies fire through the shield and take out enemies he is given Fuse points. Isabelle on the other hand can leave enemies in a crystallized state and then let others take them out, granting her assist points.
Visually the game looks pretty good, it's definitely different than what was originally presented last year and the look goes along with the grittier story line. Insomniac is known for crafting convincing game worlds though, so this fear is pretty minimal. What Insomniac definitely has going for it is some fantastic weapons that feel and sound satisfying to use and offer up some great gameplay developments that encourages teamwork in a better way than most co-op games do these days.
With a release window pegged around March of 2013, we've got a bit of time for Insomniac to reveal a lot more of Fuse, but this first preview showed off what their strong pedigree is known for, some crazy imaginative weapons, and a whole lot of fun.