After the grand reveal in September last year, Fuse has been a rather polarizing title. Originally titled Overstrike with an aesthetic reminiscent of 'No One Lives Forever,' and 'Team Fortress 2,' Fuse is the divisive re-imagining that took the game in a grittier direction. For me personally it hasn't been so much about how the game looks, I yawned when I saw the original E3 reveal of Overstrike, so this change for Fuse wasn't really that big a deal to me. I'm all about the gameplay, and the initial reveal showed a lot of promise. Playing it after the reveal still felt really good, but was still obviously very early and some key things like balance and features weren't totally in place back in September
. Cut to two weeks ago, in San Francisco on a near final build, I walked in a skeptic. What I left with was questioning why I'd doubt Insomniac in the first place.
Fuse is a multi-player game through and through, sure you could play it alone, but after getting a chance to go hands on with other members of the gaming press I wouldn't recommend going solo. The computer is quite competent in its own right, and being able to switch characters on the fly via the LEAP system does give you plenty of options in getting to know and learn each individual characters' strengths and weaknesses. But playing with a full roster of live players, who know and understand their roles makes Fuse an incredibly fun experience, especially in Echelon mode.
Fuse's story line starts of with some rather typical stuff, a covert operations group called Overstrike has been called upon to clean up a mess in the Nevada desert. The unit Overstrike 9 has been deployed and is led by Dalton Brooks. His crew finds that the benefactor who called in the request hasn't been forthright about what the mission is really about. Suffice to say there is some stuff in this Nevada installation that isn't meant to leave the facility. This 'stuff' is Fuse, an alien substance that is being used to create some rather unique weaponry, guns that can form black holes, shields that can return the fire that they absorb, but Fuse is the key component of these weapons, and the PMC group Raven is on the scene to try to get their hands on it. Dalton and company depart on some globetrotting to track down each of Raven's attempts to weaponize Fuse in a multitude of world-ending scenarios. It's not the deepest storyline, but the characters develop well and their banter is much appreciated.
Our group started getting a feel for our respective characters by going through some early chapters of the campaign, I started with Isabelle (Izzy) Sinclair, the spunky young member of the group with plenty of attitude to spare. Every character has a specialty weapon and Izzy's is the shatter gun, which combines the titular Fuse with melanite to freeze enemies in crystal, keeping them in place for a limited period of time. The crystals grow, causing enemies behind cover to be lifted up, and can branch out, freezing surrounding enemies when the gun is powered up. Izzy also has the power to heal with melanite grenades, which gives her the distinct honor of being the group medic, which I love to play. I'm not all about shenanigans, I just want to be an awesome helper, so her setup is perfect for me. Earning experience for the other characters that you are currently not playing is also a pretty cool feature, so I'm glad that I don't have to grind it out with each character.
The other characters each have their own unique roles to play, and it's comparable to Borderlands in the way that each of these characters grow. Dalton Brooks functions as the team's tank with his Mag Shield. This shield absorbs bullets that can be used to build kinect energy with the shield and be sent back against enemies. Jacob Kimble acts as the long distance damage dealer and trap setter. His Arcshot is a Fuse powered crossbow, giving him excellent range, and the ability to set traps, by combining Fuse with mercury to set things ablaze. Naya Deveraux has the stealth element covered for the group, and her Warp Rifle shoots anti-matter coated with Fuse, causing enemies to get sucked in to black holes, it's messy, but effective. Each character has a skill tree that powers up the abilities of their weapons and does a good amount of stat augmentation, giving players buffs in certain situations.
Throughout the first three chapters of the preview event we were also finding experience boosts and Fuse credits, which can be used to buy power-ups for the group like increased experience gain or increased damage. Or if you want to go the cosmetic route you can use the Fuse credits to buy outfits for your characters or skins for your guns. The cool thing is that these bonus pick-ups go to the whole party, so there's no need to fight over who gets them, just grab them and go. However, for those that want to go the more Smash TV route of big money, big prizes, Echelon mode may be for you.
Echelon mode is the equivalent to Horde mode that has been all the rage in games lately. Players are dropped in a small map that consists of twelve rounds, and each round has one of six preset events that players must complete which range for simple enemy elimination to protecting a Fuse canister. On the sixth and final rounds are 'Prime Target' events, which throws the big guns at players. Killing some of the harder enemies will result in money drops, which are fair game, and belong to the first player that picks them up, fueling the 'co-petitive' design element that Insomniac was going for. During our sessions of Echelon, we actually were more driven to try and complete the events, since they were rather difficult. Anyone who enjoys some Gears of War horde mode is definitely going to want to check this out.
This near final build was certainly looking good. The gameplay was most definitely on point, which is where I had my biggest fears about Fuse. I've been a bit burnt out on the whole 3rd Person Shooter genre, especially after my tepid response to Gears of War: Judgement. Playing Fuse in a group setting is definitely a great experience, and has me totally sold on the game. Hopefully the story turns things around because the start is kind of generic, but there are hints at some massive turnabout, so we'll see when the game is released later this month. But from a gameplay standpoint, Fuse shows the best that Insomniac has to offer, great weapons, clever emergent gameplay, and multiplayer that actually makes me want to play with other people. That in itself is a major win for me. Fuse's release date of May 28th now seems to far away.
Electronic Arts provided airfare and lodging for this trip