Fuse Hands-On Preview – Four-Play's Fun
Written Thursday, February 14, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
When Fuse broke cover under the moniker of Overstrike during E3 2011, most gamers we're excited by the colourful visuals and the wise-cracking dark humour that developer Insomniac promised upon its announcement. Fast forward to 2013, and the year in which the game's launch will take place, and those same gamers have since decried the shift in tone to something more serious, and the relative lack of colour compared to the original reveal.
Insomniac has been paying attention to the fan feedback in response to the game's change in aesthetics and tone, making various tweaks to bring it back in line with the fan expectations of the original 2011 version of Fuse (then called Overstrike), as the studio's CEO Ted Price notes. “We took a lot of the fan feedback that we got earlier last year to heart, so we've been back and added a lot more colour to the game, we've gone back and made sure that the game delivers on humour, and you'll see that in the story,” he told us at a recent EA press event.
During our second hands-on demo following our first proper hands-on look at the game in October, the visual changes are immediately apparent, with the Jodhpur Stronghold stage proving a lush, colourful treat for the eyes. This section takes place during Fuse's campaign, which as you'll already be well aware, supports drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to four players, with any unfilled character slots smartly handled by the game's efficient AI. Playing with one other human player, we're able to seamlessly 'LEAP' between any character (provided the other human player isn't currently controlling them) at any time, keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting.
Each of Fuse's characters not only boasts a unique personality, but also their very own individual dual-purpose fuse weapon, with its own power and properties. Dalton has his bullet-catching Mag Shield, Izzy has her Shattergun that encases enemies in black crystal, Jacob has Arcshot incendiary crossbow bolts and Naya is our personal favourite, with her ability to temporarily cloak for stealthy executions and fire concentrated singularities from her Warp Rifle. Each of Fuse's characters is interesting to play as and their abilities ensure that the action feels constantly engaging, especially when you consider the team combos you can string together between the four weapons to accumulate extra fuse points for spending on upgrades.
Marching through the nefarious Raven organisation's Jodhpur Stronghold for the first part of our hands-on, we find ourselves having to activate switches to power down laser barriers blocking our entrance into the base, which means a bit of light ledge climbing. Once inside the confines of the stronghold itself, we're set upon from all sides by Raven troops, but thankfully, there's plenty of cover to hide behind. Fighting through the hallway, we soon find our way out into the courtyard at the foot of some steps leading to the central palace, where the reinstated injection of colour really starts to show. Fuse looks fantastic, with lush greens, vibrant blue skies and bright orange explosions providing a nice bit of eye candy. It certainly looks a lot brighter than it previously did during our last preview, although it wasn't particularly drab back then.
Things soon get chaotic pretty fast, as Raven troops jetpack in or rappel from helicopters, and a marauding robotic boss makes life particularly difficult, firing missiles haphazardly all over the place. This section proves to be a perfect primer for Fuse's tough Echelon mode, which is what Insomniac calls the game's 'co-petitive mode'. Essentially, it's a series of increasingly demanding waves of enemies with random objectives to complete and fuse credits to collect. It's described as 'co-petitive' because you'll need to work together to tackle all 12 Echelon waves, while competing to earn the most kills and fuse credits. There's also fuse credit currency bonuses littering the arenas upon dispatching enemies, making it a mad dash to grab the coins, gold bars or huge glowing sacks of cash before the next wave invades the map.
Going hands-on with the Karakoram Mountains map situated in Pakistan, we find ourselves ensconced within the exterior grounds of a Raven facility nestled in a snowy mountain range, battling waves of troops. Random objectives come into play at various intervals, with the first we encounter being to execute a Raven 'High Value Target'. There will be numerous others to mix up proceedings and keep you on your toes, whereas wave 6 and the final twelfth wave play host to a boss battle. The map we play is fairly large and divided into four areas – the Storage Area, Power Station, Guard Station and Maintenance Area – meaning there's more than enough room to manoeuvre and shift the action from zone to zone, as the battles unfold.
Echelon is fast, frantic and challenging stuff that effectively boils Fuse down to its bare essentials. It's in this mode that the combat and co-op elements truly shine, with team tactics utterly vital for making it through the waves alive. Our record was reaching the end of wave 7, beating wave 6's mid-boss by the skin of our teeth. Suffice it to say, Echelon is hard, but immensely fun, as you revive your co-op buddies, compete for kills and fuse credits, and work together to defeat the onslaught of enemies. On paper, it sounds like just another Horde mode, but in reality, Echelon offers something more.
Our second hands-on with Fuse is promising. Insomniac has taken on board the criticisms levelled at the game's visual style and tone, tackling it head on, making the game closely resemble the original vision that Overstrike promised. It shows in this latest build too. If Fuse can successfully marry its style and incredibly robust shooter gameplay to an exciting co-op campaign narrative, then it not only has every chance of being a truly compelling game, but also one that stands out among a crowded market of grey action titles. Echelon mode might just be the icing on the cake, and Fuse might just have the potential to be one of the best co-op shooters you'll play this year.
Fuse is out in Q2 2013.