FUSE is a cooperative 3rd person shooter, developed by Insomniac Games and published by Electronic Arts. During Electronic Arts’ press conference at E3 2011, that game was revealed to be called Overstrike, with a trailer, short appearance and synopsis. However, it was later found to have been “reworked” and rebranded as FUSE.
A Hyperion base has gone dark and a rag-tag team of 4 mercenaries have been hired by an unknown client to sort it out. The task is to secure some “advanced technology”, so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands or give the public the wrong idea about what’s really going on. It later turns out they are experimenting with weapons interlaced with an element called FUSE, which was discovered in the late 1940’s. This process has caused the entire base to malfunction and cause chaos to everyone inside.
You pick one of the four mercenaries who have access to a different type of futuristic “Xenotech” weapon. After this weapon has been acquired at the Hyperion base, you are free to switch to any character to test out their different abilities. Each character also has their own skill tree which contains upgrades to health, ammo and the Xenotech weapon. This means every time each character has levelled up, you must switch to that character, pause the game, to go into their skill tree and then pick an upgrade before unpausing and doing it for the other three. There is no quick switch between skill trees, which makes this system very tedious when playing solo.
This is your typical 3rd person shooter where every encounter is littered with indestructible chest-high walls, where you press a button and be launched toward the closest one available. You and the rest of the team go from room-to-room, wiping out waves of enemy soldiers. The continual swarm of soldiers come from an evil company called Raven, who are trying to take the FUSE for themselves. This is very much like Gears of War – if a squad mate is down, you run over to them, pat them on the head or inject them with medicine and they are all better again.
There is also a “stealth” element to the game, where a couple of targets can be taken out, without alerting the remaining enemies in the room. Since there isn’t any crouch functionality besides gluing yourself to a wall, you instead walk up to target, then tap them on the shoulder before making the kill. After finishing the game, I was only able to identify one or two rooms where using “stealth” entirely was possible or made sense. In the end, I’m not exactly sure why this is a mechanic in the game. Most areas are designed with an open space, with scattered groups of unmoving guards simply waiting for you.
On the other hand, there are sections in the game where it effectively becomes a survival leg. You’re stuck in one area, fighting hordes of enemies until an unspecified amount of waves has elapsed. Usually when this event is about to occur, a large ammo crate will be placed in the room, to allow everyone to be prepared for what is about to come. The crate even exists during the event, where effectively you can just sit next to it, kill some guys and refill ammo until the scripted event is finished.
This would be tolerable if there was some actual chemistry between the characters, but even this is lacking. There is barely any banter between the rag-tag 4, and it really grinds everything to a halt when they are all just shooting, and no one is saying anything. Even after the enemies are dead, it doesn’t get any better. I swear if one of them did actually die, the other 3 would just continue on like it didn’t happen. I get it because they are mercenaries and such, but there is a point in the story where they go from getting paid to a job, to actually caring about what the outcome is, even though they wouldn’t get paid for it. It boggles my mind how they can just switch their process like that, and ultimately change the feel of the sub-par story.
There are so many comparisons I can make between this game and Gears of War that if you replaced the human enemies with locusts it would be hard to tell the difference. At least the Gears’ story had substance behind its characters, but with FUSE, there’s nothing of the sort to drive that emotion between the characters. There’s even a part of FUSE’s story where you have to save the father of one of the main characters, and that’s when I started to see how much this game is similar and not in a good way. On top of that, there is a secondary mode called Echelon, which has you wipe out wave after wave of increasingly stronger enemies to earn experience and credits. Sound familiar?
I think if FUSE had been made by a lesser known studio, it would have been forgotten in a week’s time. Being made by Insomniac however, it has placed an expectation on the game it could not deliver on. This new game could have joined the house of good games like Ratchet & Clank and Resistance, but it’s a crushing disappointment to see how mediocre it is. This is a game where you need to play with friends to get any enjoyment out of it. If you are playing solo, there is not enough going for it except some futuristic weapon effects.