It’s been a while since I have in the words of Jim Gordon, ‘plunged my hands into the filth so you could keep yours clean’ with the whole guilty pleasures thing. This is mostly due to the insanely addictive and criminally under loved Titanfall…. but also as I got married.

This is what Fuse used to be like before Insomniac felt that the game needed to be like everything else on the market

Fuse in its previous guise before Insomniac felt that the game needed to be like everything else on the market

Life events aside, next on the block is Fuse, a third person shooter from Insomniac which sold less than Thornton’s limited edition baby sick flavour fudge. Funny thing is Fuse started off as a completely different game called Overstrike, with the same four- player concept but with bright visuals and a thick vein of off-beat humour running through it. A year or so prior to release developers Insomniac changed the name and opted for a darker, grittier aesthetic, seemingly removing more of the quirkier aspects.

You can’t walk down the Streets of Rage without falling over a destitute, stubble wearing action hero

It’s easy to see why a developer would choose this path given that wanky focus groups and game sales indicate that audiences gravitate more towards brooding heroes, rather than cheery ones, but let’s be honest, serious shooters are ten-a-penny. You can’t walk down the Streets of Rage without falling over a destitute, stubble wearing action hero in a ripped shirt who has personal issues and isn’t afraid to be grumpy about it.

A wacky comical co-op shooter could have worked wonders

A wacky comical co-op shooter could have worked wonders

However is there something to be said for fun? Anyone who has watched Guardians of The Galaxy will attest that there absolutely is. How about a hero who likes his job or isn’t less fun to be around than an out of work panto actor who just lost his kitten in a freak garden strimmer accident?

At any rate, sense of humour malfunction or not, the key component of Fuse is its use of the eponymous substance. An alien compound which does horrible things to people when it touches them and which has been experimented on by not entirely trustworthy weapons manufacturers. Because, what else are shady multinational corporations going to do, fill cluster bombs full of Jelly Tots to fire at starving people? Don’t be daft.

Fuse gameplay 001Your four person squad titled ‘Overstrike’ investigates and ends up wielding a series of Fuse powered weaponry, all which have different abilities. A single weapon is gifted to each of the team members so team leader and chief ball-bag is Dalton, who gets a mag-shield type pistol, Naya a cold professional killer gets the black hole creating assault rifle, Izzy, the token sassy redhead scientist gets a gun that crystallises people, and Jacob the gruff ex-cop with a bucket of chips on his shoulder gets a crossbow which sets people on fire. These weapons are really novel and in the sea of shooters out there, they stand out as unique. Unfortunately you can’t mix and match between weapons, but the game allows you to swap players using a radial.

The team also get a series of more conventional fire arms, all of which are pretty bog-standard derivatives of pistols, rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles and grenades.

Fuse skill tree

You really have no freedom in the way you upgrade your characters

You have the ability to upgrade your character using a skill tree but given that almost all things can’t be unlocked till you unlock everything else, there isn’t much room for you to carve your own path within this framework, unless you swap players. Unlike say Borderlands where you could specialise within the class you had, Fuse just says’ Here, you get better as time goes on; you just plug the tokens in the slot’. It’s the illusion of choice, rather than choice itself. Even an especially brainless and unimaginative troglodyte would struggle to not work out which skills to pick.

The game plays well enough and in actuality is rather fun when played in co-op mode (which can be done with up to 4 players). The combat is basically Gears of War but the cover button has moved around on the pad. The characters handle well, get into cover without any real issue and the shooting feels chunky and satisfying. Its bread and butter stuff but to those familiar with the genre, it’s likely to be an enjoyable experience.

Its bread and butter stuff but to those familiar with the genre, it’s likely to be an enjoyable experience.

It’s only occasionally and usually during boss battles that things come off the rails, as your players start falling over like two-legged cats when heavy weaponry hits them and it’s very difficult to dodge. At this point it turns into a fun game of picking each other up over and over until one of you screams at the sky and quits.

The main problem with the game is the dull level design and story structure, consisting of a briefing screen during which a load of expositional guff is spouted, followed by a mission with mid and end of level bosses, which are for the most part robots or helicopters. Yes, you basically fight the same big robot and helicopter six times, usually in a circular platform, like the developers ran out of disc space and had to use the existing models. Given that Fuse imbues things and people with many strange and unusual properties, it’s disappointing to see such unimaginative boss battles.

The boss confrontations aren’t the only thing dripping with cliché like a sodden cat covered in gravy, it’s everything …. Like a 60’s rock band which has reformed more times that you’ve had hot dinners, Fuse ends up running like greatest hits package of rote, been-done-better-elsewhere , cover shooters.

Like a 60’s rock band which has reformed more times that you’ve had hot dinners, Fuse ends up running like greatest hits package of rote, been-done-better-elsewhere , cover shooters.

A bit where half of you have to split off and the others cover from distance?…check. A bit where you have to work your way up a series of platform to switch off buttons to make something self-destruct?…covered. I mean there’s a bleeding barge level for god’s sake. This came out in 2013 and people still thought cable car based levels in third person shooters haven’t had enough screen time. I reckon that as a regular gamer, I have spent more time in hideously contrived cable car situations than a horny Austrian snowboard-instructor looking for gullible tourists to defile with his immaculately buffed member.

The visuals are decent

The visuals are decent

The graphics aren’t too bad all things considered and a whilst it’s no looker it’s also not exactly ugly and you can tell they spent a fair bit of money on the game. However every now and then the visuals shows signs of its previous bright and breezy incarnation, like Jim Bowen showing you what you could have won on Bullseye.

The real boon of the game is the ability to engage in four player online co-op campaign, which gives you the ability to replace the stolid exposition and unfunny character dialogue with your own much more humorous commentary about how obese your friends mum is. As the gameplay is pretty good, provided you have a couple of buddies, this is the chief reason to pick up this game.

There’s also another game mode called Echelon, which is the roughly 185th reiteration of the Horde , wave attack team defence which almost every shooter since 2009 has peddled out like Mince Pies at Christmas.

Fuse has a Horde Mode. What shooter doesn't these days?

Fuse has a Horde Mode. What shooter doesn’t these days?

At this stage in the evolution of the console shooter, Horde mode, though often diverting and not entirely un-enjoyable after a few lagers, has become the gaming equivalent of the ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm and insert adjective and object or activity’ mug, found in chintzy middle class shops in spa-towns. Someone somewhere needs to put a moratorium on this, at least for a few years.

Verdict: Pleasure (just!)

Fuse’s most disappointing aspect is its move away from a unique, quirky shooter to run of the mill, moody cover blandness which has been done a million times before. If the developers had the strength of their convictions there is a good chance the game would have stood out in the crowded marketplace and sold a few more copies. However , even considering the often uninspiring level design it’s still a decent playable game mostly due to its quality control system and weapons , which for a low price will likely keep shooter fans/ cheev hunters happy for a couple of evenings. A faint recommendation from me.

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Ed F

I am a keen amateur gamer who has always found himself slightly behind the times. My interest in gaming piqued with jealous looks at my friends copy of Duck Hunt on the NES all the way back in the early 90’s. Since then I graduated to a Sega Mega Drive of my own, a late 90s obsession with PlayStation One and then an ill-advised GameCube phase in the early noughties. Since my relatively late introduction to the Xbox360 in early 2009, I have being playing catch up. Among my other interests are comics, movies and boring my wife to death with talk of ‘cinematic tropes’ and ‘narrative arcs’. I am currently gorging myself on the next gen whilst keeping one foot in the previous one.

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