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Fuse - Review
Fuse has been attacked by that most deadly of creatures: the EA marketing department. Ok, so I have no evidence to suggest that it was EA that ultimately saw Insomniac's first multi-format title not only change its name from Overstrike to Fuse, but also undergo a rather radical art-style change, which saw it being brought in line with pretty much every other science fiction bro-shooter on the market. But I still suspect it was EA's doing.
From any other developer, this would have just been the norm, but from the developers of Ratchet and Clank it hurts. Insomniac have a knack for creating witty characters and colourful environments and Fuse ultimately strips them of some of their greatest assets.
For the uninitiated, Fuse is kind of a cross between Gears of War and Borderlands; essentially a third-person cover shooter with some RPG elements and a general focus on co-operative play. Playing across the game's campaign, you have access to four different characters, each of which comes armed with a different Fuse-based weapon. Dalton, for example, has a "Mag-Shield", a pistol like device that projects a large barrier in front of him, and, later on, a portable version can also be deployed. Meanwhile, Jacob comes equipped with a fancy crossbow and is the resident sniper choice. It's down to the two female characters, Maya and Izzy, to bring the weapons that hint at Insomniac's ability to craft absurdly creative weapons. One has a rifle that, if fired for long enough, creates miniature black holes that suck enemies in and can cause a chain reaction, whilst the other comes equipped with a gun that results in enemies becoming encased in crystal that can then be easily shattered.
It sounds fun...and it would be, if most levels didn't consist of running down dull, grey corridors hammering away at the trigger to slaughter the next bunch of identikit enemies. It's a real shame too, because the few times that the game reveals an outdoor location, such as one chapter that begins on a mountain side, the view is genuinely impressive, but for the most part each level is happy to eventually shuttle you into dull square warehouse area where you can then duke it out with the next batch of soldiers.
Insomniac also make the mistake of making the enemies absolute bullet sponges, and then confusing this with cranking up the difficulty. Regular enemies will go down fairly quickly, but robots and fliers that you encounter, "sub-bosses" if you like, take an absolute age to kill thanks to gargantuan health bars. Borderlands had the same problem and it results in some incredibly frustrating situations where you're scuttling around without any ammo and the enemy is only at half health. Once again, repetition kicks in with these enemies too. Robots come in various colours which results in different attacks (flamethrowers, gattling guns, rocket launchers) but it's essentially the same enemy dressed up differently. From a lesser known developer this might have been just mediocre design but from Insomniac you'd think they'd have come up with a hell of a lot more variety.
The RPG side of things is, as with everything else, very middle of the road. Whilst you do have a choice of what characters learn most of the options are copy and pasted from one character to the next. There is some strategy involved, and the tiered levelling system highlights the Borderlands influence. However, there's not a hell of a lot of depth to it, each character seems to have a very obvious selection that fits with the role of the character which severely hampers any attempt at experimentation.
And don't hold out for any classic Ratchet and Clank humour either. Not only is Fuse's story bad it's downright nonsensical, villains appear out of nowhere with no set up, leaving you wondering why they even bothered with cut scenes. It comes as something of a disappointment too, considering that the voice actors are all very solid; Jennifer Hale in particular can be counted on to deliver a good performance. There's a sense that a lot of the story suffered from the art style change. With a more pulpy, comic book plot and tone, Fuse could potentially have had a genuinely funny story.
For a game focused on co-op play, the single player handles itself reasonably well. While the AI won't be winning any awards, none of your team will act like complete idiots. The best touch is the ability to instantly swap between any of your group of four, adding a touch of squad strategy, reminiscent of the old Conflict games, to the whole mix. There's also a horde mode thrown in which can be used to level up further before tackling the campaign's challenges.
You might want to use it as well. Fuse is short, very short in fact. The campaign clocks in at around five to six hours depending on your play skill, and playing online with others will likely shorten the completion time even further.
As a mildly entertaining distraction, Fuse isn't all that bad. It's core gameplay is utterly derivative but serves its purpose. The summer months tend to be a relatively quiet time for new video games, which might make it slightly more appealing. RPG fans might want something deeper but hardcore third-person shooter enthusiasts will likely find that Fuse works well enough. Just don't be expecting too much.
Fuse was released, in the UK, on May 31st for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.
© 2013 LudoLogic