The lights are on
Fuse has had a tortured development cycle. Beginning as
Overstrike 9, it presented a campy shooter with lighthearted overtones.
Developer Insomniac Games then opted to take its first multiplatform release in
a new direction, one with a grim new take on things, changing the name from
Overstrike 9 to Fuse. Somewhere along the way, Fuse lost any sense of identity
it still had.
The campy dialogue of Overstrike 9 remains, contrasted
against the social commentary Insomniac attempts to tell through violence and Machiavellian
tactics. Platforming segments are tacked on between firefights for no apparent
reason, other than to say they're present. Fuse's kitchen sink approach aims to
throw everything it can at you, and all you'll have in return is the sense that
none of its parts are very polished on their own.
Billed as a four-player cooperative shooter, Fuse places you
in the boots of Overstrike 9, a special ops team comprised of mercenaries,
former military members and rogue agents. The team is tasked with chasing down
a group of terrorists and crooked politicians intent on selling a source of
Fuse, a volatile alien substance that binds with whatever element it touches.
The eponymous substance fuels the unique weapons of
Overstrike 9, allowing Insomniac to do what they do best: create ridiculous
weapons with overpowered abilities. Each member of the team has one unique
weapon, ranging from a rifle that turns enemy soldiers into black holes to a
portable shield wall that doubles as a shotgun. Using these weapons fuels the
cooperative experience, as you'll need to coordinate efforts to protect the
group and dispatch enemies.
With three other players present, this is a lot of fun. My
favorite character is Izzy, essentially the medic of Overstrike 9. Anytime one
of my partners was wounded and unable to move without someone's help, Izzy's
thrown medical beacon means I don't have to leave cover to save my partner. The
team is only as strong as its weakest member, so using abilities and weapons is
paramount to protect each other's backs.
If you don't have three friends to fight the continuous
waves of spawning enemies, things fall apart fast. Even with two other partners
playing, that one AI-controlled enemy is the weak link in a chain set to break.
The AI has trouble crossing rooms to revive you and doesn't always use unique
weapons or abilities when the situation calls for it. "Leaping," the ability to
jump from one character to another, almost makes up for the AI's capricious
behavior, except for the AI's propensity for standing in the middle of
firefights just before a Leap occurs.
Fuse's technical problems aren't consigned to the AI though.
Several times throughout one playthrough, I had to restart from the nearest
checkpoint because the camera was stuck on a focus point from the previous cut
scene. The action resumed, but I couldn't defend myself because the screen
remained fixated on a distant point in the sky.
When the action subsides and the pervasive platforming
sequences rear their ugly heads, things become even more frustrating. Climbing
cliff sides and interior pipes present obscure paths for you to figure out, and
the controls often send you in the opposite direction of where you're trying to
move. When the AI tackles these sections, you'll often have to wait an extra
minute so the other team members can catch up. Leaping isn't allowed when
another character is wounded or climbing, so it becomes a game of patience
during the already superfluous platforming sections.
Fuse also froze several times following deaths, making me
less eager to jump back in every time. Most of these deaths were during the
boss fights. Several of the larger bosses show a glimmer of creativity and make
the preceding action worth the sometimes grueling trek, but the rest of the
boss fights are a test of how long you can survive before looking for more Fuse
ammo. My partners and I spent more than ten minutes firing Fuse rounds into a
mini boss' weak spot, only to restart once one of us died due to a lack of
And that's another problem with Fuse. The character-specific
weapons are departures from the generic weapons of other third-person shooters,
but the majority of Fuse's arsenal isn't. There's a burst rifle, a sniper
rifle, shotgun, pistol -- all obligatory additions that emphasize Fuse's banal
room-to-room firefights. There are no other Ratchet-esque options, something
disappointing considering Insomniac's previous creativity in the area.
Several different enemy types force you to use your powers
more often, such as riot shield soldiers or cloaking enemies, but it's not
enough variety to force you out of your comfort zone. Rather than eliminate
soldiers with the customary weapons of so many other games, I found myself
scrounging for Fuse ammo at every turn.
There are opportunities to improve the efficiency of both
the power weapons and the vanilla ones. Earning experience allows you to
upgrade the powers, ammo capacities and health of each character. Many of the
upgrades are negligible -- I hardly noticed the increased damage of my pistol
or slight increase in health -- but others make the experience worth earning.
My favorite ability provides Fuse ammo upon sidearm kills, a welcome
improvement considering the gameplay resulting from boring alternate weapons.
Team perks also serve to better the team, albeit on a larger
level. Earning Fuse credits unlocks these perks, which are assigned to a
specific character but affect all of Overstrike 9. These include increased
experience gain, increased ammo pickups and wider grenade explosion radius.
These perks alleviate some of the problems Fuse faces when it comes to
differentiating itself as a shooter, but the process of earning experience and
credits means you'll have to suffer several hours of dealing with bad AI or
repetitive enemy encounters.
Fuse's Echelon mode expedites the process of earning Fuse
credits; they're much more abundant here than in the story, and the horde-like
mode is actually the best way to play Fuse cooperatively. It's worth ranking
your characters up before you step into Echelon, as the enemies can be
punishing, but a rotating list of different objectives competes with the story
Fuse has a promising concept that slowly crumbles to reveal
a sever lack of execution. Much of it seems as if it was added on in hindsight,
with unnecessary platforming segments and inconsequential upgrades. Insomniac
seemed to be aiming for quantity instead of quality, leaving Fuse to be a title
only as good as its mediocre components.
This was written for Gaming Nexus
I was pretty disappointed with Fuse. The guns are cool, but you run out of ammo too quickly and the back up weapons do pitiful damage. I agree with all your points about the platforming and AI. The platforming was pointless and unnecessary, and the AI, well, it doesn't really exist. They do a decent job of rezzing you when you go down (especially Dalton), but other than that, they pretty much don't do much of anything except die. It also would have been cool to have more of a reward for comboing enemies with your fuse weapons. As it stands, its just another unnecessary component of the game.