Hands-on: Fuse is lit by cool characters and impressive weaponry

Insomniac Games has always been known as a quality developer for the PlayStation 3 console, but this May, it'll be making its multi-console introduction. Fuse will be coming to both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 courtesy of Electronic Arts. Don't think for a minute it's let up on its creativity. This action-packed co-op shooter has plenty of inventiveness behind it, thanks to the characters you'll be choosing to play as and the weapons they brandish. Insomniac president Ted Price and his team recently invited us to a private suite at the Game Developers Conference to give it a go.

Fuse shooting and ducking behind cover

In the game, a team of four former mercenaries, known as Overstrike 9, are incarcerated by an evil military force upon learning that its leader, a maniacal scientist, plans to use Fuse alien technology for his own purposes. However, the team isn't staying down long, and manages to escape from their cells and pick up their weapons, which they'll need in order to fight their way through the facility.

The leader is Dalton Brooks, a mid-30's guy who manages to carry around a weapon that generates a Magshield. This device enables the creation of a large digital shield, which can protect both Dalton and his cohorts from incoming fire. The shield can stay with you, can be mounted on your gun, or you can drop it in certain areas for a few seconds at a time. What's vitally important about the Magshield is that while enemies can't shoot through it, Dalton can with concentrated bursts of fire that affect enemies.  Defensive types would do well using this guy.

Next up is Isabelle, aka "Izzy" — a girl who's always against authority and shows it in her combat style. She carries the Shattergun, which is capable of shooting enemies with massive amounts of energy, making them burst into singularity-driven explosions that can actually chain together if characters are close enough. Destructive types will easily love her.

If you prefer to deliver your damage in bursts, then Jacob Kimble is your man. A former LAPD detective who always leads on with his conscience, he also knows his way out of a firefight. His Fuse weapon of choice is the Arcshot, which enables him to fire explosive arrows around or behind enemies — ideal for groups or those hiding behind turrets.

Fuse explosion

Lastly, if you prefer someone with range, you'll dig Naya Deveraux. This gun for hire gets the point across with her Warp Rifle, which lets her shoot black holes that manage to damage more than one enemy at a time. It also gives Naya the option to cloak for a few seconds at a time, perfect for getting around enemies or sneaking up on them.

Fuse is built as a co-op experience, as Price explained to us over the demo, though the single-player version does allow players to switch between characters using the D-pad — even in the middle of firefights. There's plenty to experiment with in both modes, and, like most good co-op modes, you can help a buddy when they're down by running over and giving them a boost to get back in the fight.

We only played with two characters in our demo, but the action was rather lively. The score-based shooting skills are excellent, mainly when you go for headshots or one of your more creative Fuse kills. The action is about on the same level as Insomniac's Resistance games, and being able to hop behind a turret or defensively figure out a team strategy (stealth or just plain charging forward) is rather nice.

As for the graphics, Fuse looks great thus far. The environmental detail put into the facility are nice, especially when you get the drop on someone in the bathroom (had us thinking about Goldeneye 007 all over again). The soldier animations and blood effects are quite satisfactory, and the characters look great in action. The camaraderie built with the dialogue sequences is fun, even if the team isn't always on the same page. At least they still get the job done.

Fuse shooting at enemy

With Fuse only a couple of months away from release (May 28th), some may wonder just how Insomniac's first multi-console project will turn out. Judging by our hands-on, they've got nothing to worry about. This Fuse is certainly lit.