Formerly known as Overstrike, Fuse has faced a lot of changes over the course of its development cycle. Insomniac Games' third-person, co-op shooter not only received a complete overhaul of its weapons and graphics, but also faced major plot changes and a shift in pace, switching from stealth-based combat to high-powered assaults. With the demo launching this week on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live ahead of its launch on May 31, we took Fuse through its paces to see if this new direction has been worth the effort and whether the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance developer has managed to create an exciting new chapter in this well-trodden genre.
The demo begins with players having to choose between one of four playable characters who are part of OverStrike 9, a band of misfit agents whose task it is to stop the bad guys from harvesting a potent alien substance called Fuse. Fuse is a co-op game where either four players can team up together, or one player can fight through the campaign solo, switching between the characters on-the-fly. Unlike many co-op shooters, however, the choice of characters isn’t just about having extra firepower and variation in terms of aesthetics, but each agent offers something different in battle. Insomniac has used the phrase “lethal teamwork” during interviews about Fuse to describe gameplay, and once you meet its four characters it’s clear to see why.
First up, there’s ex-mercenary Dalton Brooks, the ‘tank’ of the group, who is equipped with a Magshield that he can use to deploy a shield at will, which can repel bullets and provide cover for his team - he prefers the action to be up-close-and-personal. Then there’s Jacob, who stays his distance using his ArcShot (Fuse-powered crossbow) to pinpoint enemies from range and set them alight with molten mercury - he’s also handy for creating pools of fiery flames which melt any enemy that steps in them. Then there’s Isabelle Sinclair, who uses her Shattergun - which does exactly what its name suggests - and shatters and crystallises enemies into pieces - she’s also a healer who throws down med beacons for teammates to buff up their health. And, finally, there’s Naya Deveraux, the stealth specialist, who can turn invisible and use her warp rifle to set off a chain of black holes and suck enemies in.
The first part of the demo focuses on the infiltration of the Raven facility hidden deep within the mountains of Pakistan. The mission is to break into the weapon development facility by taking out members of the rogue paramilitary corporation that patrol its perimeter. During this mission, gameplay largely consists of moving from cover-to-cover and clearing waves of enemies, but what makes it feel different to many co-op shooters is that it feels like you’re really part of a team, that you do need your teammates help in battle. Furthermore, the variation that the weapons give you in battle ensures there’s multiple ways to approach combat.
While Jacob, for instance, shoots a fiery bolt at a group of enemies standing close together, one is set on fire and the fire spreads to his teammates. Meanwhile, Dalton powers forward using his deployable shield to provide cover for Isabelle and uses his secondary fire to send those bullets right back into enemy faces. Isabelle bobs in and out of cover as the guards reload, shattering one of them into smithereens with her Shattergun, while not neglecting to toss out med beacons to help out Jacob who has suffered some heavy damage from a guard up on the balcony.
Naya in the meantime is using the battle as a distraction to flank her opponents while in cover and use her Warp Rifle to send those guards who are firing down from the upper balconies into a black hole of no return. The pace is frenetic, the action is exciting and the resistance from the guards is challenging. When we go it alone we soon die, waiting to be revived by teammates, but when we switch between characters and utilise their skills to the max, it becomes a strategic battle that we won through teamwork and regular use of cover, which plays a large part in the demo. The fact that you can stick to the side of crates and move your way around them without breaking cover or edge up the battlefield by diving in between cover without the fear of getting hit is a bonus.
For every kill made, players earn Skill Points which can be spent on a host of upgrades as players level up. There’s the usual clip upgrades and health buffs available and there are also upgrades that can have real impact on the gameplay, such as invincibility. Team perks can also be bought to help out the team as a whole, perhaps giving them all a health buff. Due to the challenging A.I. , gameplay feels rewarding when you eventually manage to fight through an area and it’s nice to have points flash up on screen, giving you a constant reminder that your killing and reviving is getting you somewhere. Indeed, we were soon levelling up and accessing the skill menu to upgrade.
After this frenetic start, the Fuse demo doesn’t let up by pitting the four mercenaries again two mini-bosses, which appear to be wearing mech suits with flame-throwers and mini-guns attached. As the giant mechs stomp toward you, we found it imperative that we kept a distance due to the long range of the flamethrower. Without teamwork, we found ourselves burning to death before a teammate revived us. The best method was to work together with shields, med beacons and use members of the team to draw a mech close by firing at them while others flanked them.
Overall, the signs are good that Fuse has the potential to be a solid co-op game. Each of the four characters offers something unique and the concept of humans gaining access to alien technology opens up a world of possibilities in terms of weaponry. These are role-specific characters that really do add something unique to each battle and the combination of their powers is engaging to watch and fun to use.
There should be plenty of replay value too through playing with friends and experimenting with classes, as well as some of the multiplayer games that we can look forward to, such as Horde mode. Fuse is all about teamwork and choice and the demo gives us some indication of the ways in which players will need to communicate to be successful when working together in co-op mode. When playing solo, the decision on which player to switch to on-the-fly is going to be even more crucial. Bring it on!
Fuse is due for release on PS3 and Xbox 360 on May 31, 2013.
To be in with a chance of winning a PS3 copy of the game, enter our Fuse competition.