The talented folks at Insomniac Games, once Sony-exclusive developers focusing only on PlayStation platforms, have now shifted gears and released their first multiplatform title. Fuse, a cooperative third-person shooter, is the company’s attempt to branch out and try something a little different. While it’s less Ratchet & Clank and more Resistance in terms of tone and atmosphere, it still maintains a lot of what makes Insomniac’s games so enjoyable in the first place even if it is a lesser product than its previous efforts.
Telling the story of a four-person group of special agents known as Overstrike 9, Fuse follows a mission to thwart a terrorist organization and their newly discovered alien technology. Through this mission, they discover weaponry powered by that technology, and decide to use it to fight back against the terrorists. The story is forgettable, leaving you very little reason to care about this world or these characters. Throughout the game, our heroes have flashbacks detailing their pasts in an attempt to flesh out their back stories, but it isn’t enough to stop them from being anything but one-note.
Fuse is, first and foremost, a co-op experience. While you can play the entire game solo, you’ll be missing out on the best parts of the game. Solo play is fine, and the partner A.I. you are accompanied with generally do an okay job (outside of the occasional dumb mistake), but playing this way is doing yourself and the game a disservice. While there is still fun to be had and you can swap between the four characters on the fly, this is a game all about playing with at least one other person to more effectively use the game’s best trick: the Fuse weapons.
The majority of the game is a fairly standard third-person, cover-based shooter that you may have played a million times before. The majority of the weaponry is what you would expect, including machine guns, shotguns and snipers. It all feels solid and controls well, and the basic guns are effective enough, but they aren’t the main draw. Each one of the four characters has a special weapon to use at any time, turning this run-of-the-mill shooter into something that stands out a little more.
Each individual weapon is great, including a gun that launches a large projectile which can double as a shield, a crossbow with the ability to ignite enemies and a gun that essentially shoots black holes to take out large groups of your opponents. The best part is that the abilities can be combined, which is where the fun of co-op comes into play. For example, Naya has the black hole gun, which can be combined with Jacob’s crossbow to both pull enemies together in a single cluster, light them all on fire and then send out a wave of flames that hits any other nearby foes. While you’ll quickly discover every possible combination, putting them to use is where most of the enjoyment of Fuse’s combat lies.
Each character also has upgrade trees which allow you to focus on specific aspects of each weapon, such as getting more ammo, dealing more damage or customizing the ways the different weapons work together. You will also unlock secondary abilities for each weapon, all of which are incredibly useful during later levels, as well as custom grenades that tie to your weapon’s specific abilities. You won’t be playing the entire game using these weapons exclusively (you do have limited ammo, unfortunately), but you’ll use them often enough that the somewhat bland combat becomes way more exciting than you might initially expect.
Outside of story mode, there is a separate, wave-based co-op mode called Echelon. This pits you and the other three characters against waves of enemies, and with each new wave comes new objectives. During one section you’ll be asked to defend a specific point on the map, while another might task you with defeating certain “high value” targets. The objectives seemed randomized, and there was enough variety to keep me coming back for more.
All of your experience in Echelon mode goes toward your character’s progression in the main campaign, giving you an opportunity to try out each character and see what skills they have to offer. It’s not a groundbreaking mode by any means, but it gives you more of a chance to use those amazing weapons with very little story structure standing in your way.
It’s unfortunate that if you take away those unique weapons, you’re left with a shooter that does absolutely nothing to set itself apart in a very crowded genre. This is Fuse’s biggest issue, and while it doesn’t drag the experience down exponentially, you will often wonder if there was originally more to this game than what’s there now. You can tell there are plenty of smart ideas, including being able to swap characters on the fly (if three people or fewer are playing), but the game doesn’t always rely too heavily on its strongest aspects leaving you with a shooter that is, at times, generic.
Despite those issues, Fuse is a mostly satisfying experience that, when leaning heavily on its strengths, shows just how creative the team at Insomniac can be. Strip away the amazing weapons and character abilities and you’re left with a somewhat-hollow experience, but with the right group of people, there is plenty of fun to be had.
Pros: Brilliant and creative weapons, excellent co-op
Cons: Solo play is dull, very standard gameplay