Review: Fuse lacks the personality to truly stand out among third-person shooters
Remember when Fuse was first unveiled as Overstrike, a game rife with action and humor? Well, as the story goes, Insomniac Games' co-op shooter was transformed into a more "realistic" sci-fi shooter. But lost in the makeover process was everything that made Fuse, or Overstrike, appealing. In an attempt to be taken more seriously it seems Fuse has lost its identity. It's merely a faceless shooter among a saturated market.
The story of Fuse is about as stale as a sci-fi plot gets: A secret government agency, working with alien technology (Fuse), gets attacked by a terrorist organization known as Raven. Looking to satisfy their own motivations, Raven attempts to unleash this technology upon the world. It's a typical terrorist-driven plot that sees a team of mercenary agents called Overstrike 9 -- comprised of four characters each with their own uniquely modified weapons -- on a mission to recover the stolen goods.
If you're looking for more, don't, because that's about as deep as it gets. Sure, there are some twists, but the disconnect between player and characters -- as a result of the lack of character depth -- leaves you hardly caring for any "surprises" Insomniac may attempt to throw your way.
As mentioned previously, Overstrike 9 is comprised of four characters. Unfortunately, you won't learn much about the characters you play; nor will you really care to. I understand that as a third-person shooter the action is the emphasis, but surely a little character growth is welcomed. Nowhere throughout the eight(ish)-hour-long campaign do you really learn anything about the four protagonists, at least nothing that would make you care about them. And with such a shallow story, there's little room for character development. The unique Xanotech weaponry each character possesses is about as intriguing as any of them get.
The gameplay in Fuse, while polished, leaves a lot to be desired. Combat is both smooth and fluid, and the cover system works as intended, but confrontations are, overall, lackluster experiences. The real fault here is the lack of innovation – or at least exploring what little innovation Fuse offers. The campaign seems long and tired, because it's something we've essentially played before in any other third-person shooter that has released during this generation.
To its credit, there are some there are some creative ideas present in Fuse; unfortunately, these ideas are not nearly as fleshed out as they ought to have been. They give off the illusion of a more complex game than what Fuse really is.
The problem starts with the lack of a fleshed out weapon system. Each of the four main operatives is equipped with what’s supposed to be a unique weapon powered by this alien energy source known as Fuse. As you level each character you'll unlock further secondary skills that will benefit the team in combat. Each character’s unique weaponry, coupled with the skills you assign as you level, should have allowed for a more strategic gameplay experience. The four characters are supposed to work cooperatively, taking advantage of each other’s unique abilities.
Of course, this is all in theory. What you get are hardly distinguishable weapons and a bunch of generic guns you’ll scavenge from the enemy corpses. At no point throughout the game does the strategy in which you encounter a room of enemies really matter. Yes, certain enemies require Fuse-laden weapons to kill them, but there’s hardly any real strategy involved – at least not in the amount intended. When it's all said and done, Fuse can play just like any other generic third-person shooter: enter a room, duck behind the perfectly placed cover, and wait for enemies to poke their heads out. Theoretically, the ideas of flanking enemy waves or working in conjunction with your Overstike squadmates could make for some fun gameplay, but you really won't need to do so.
Fuse does offer some intriguing elements to what is otherwise a generic third-person shooter. The LEAP feature allows you to switch between the four Overstrike operatives at will during combat. If you do find yourself playing alone, the ability to switch characters on the fly is tremendously useful – if only to switch to a character in better position to take out the enemies. Of course, if you’re playing alone, you’re also missing out on a whole other layer of gameplay – cooperative multiplayer, which is really how Fuse should be experienced.
It’s not that the computer logic is dumb in Fuse. Save for a few mental lapses (usually during boss fights when my requests for aid were largely ignored), the AI should actually be commended. Not only are your three Overstrike operatives intelligent – which is quite handy during a few of the puzzle sequences – but they are fairly useful when it comes to encounters. A lot of games merely give the appearance that your squadmates are actually doing work; in Fuse, they actually deserve the weapons they wield.
Enemy AI, on the other hand, is about what you’d expect from a third-person shooter. Waves of enemies run out of corridors seeking the first bit of cover they can find. Wait long enough behind cover and they’ll peek out just enough for you to pick them off.
A few of the enemies do possess some interesting characteristics that allow for some challenging encounters. Examples range from mechs that require you to use Fuse-enabled weapons and target their back only, to invisible enemies that sneak throughout the room and render your teammates useless until you rescue them. On their own, these individual enemy types are easy to deal with, but it's in the later levels, when the waves of enemies are comprised of multiple types, that the fun really begins.
Fuse is exactly what we thought it'd be: a tired, worn-out shooter with very little to offer outside of a generic action shooter experience. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the box art features four faceless characters wielding high-tech weaponry. When it's all said and done, that's about as in-depth as it gets. Fuse is competent, at least in terms of gameplay polish, and there are some good ideas. Unfortunately, many of these ideas are held back by a fear to take chances, or maybe just a fear to be anything different than the clones we've come to expect in this console generation.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]