When we first saw Fuse
at E3 2011, it was titled Overstrike and followed the adventures of a four person squad of wise-cracking, no-nonsense mercenaries. However, Insomniac Games wanted to create a stronger identity to tie the storyline and the gameplay together and thus Fuse was born. The story is slightly darker and the game is less cartoony, but it still resembles what we connected with originally.
The game follows the highly classified work of the team known as Overstrike-9 as they check out what’s happening at the Hyperion base, which has gone quiet. It’s usually bad news when a top secret research facility ceases communications, but it becomes a more urgent matter when the facility was conducting experiments with alien substances. The substance in question, known as Fuse, is a volatile and unstable substance. However, the boffins at this lab were able to successful weaponise it. Each character on the team finds a Fuse weapon to suit their needs and then are tasked with stopping the mercenary force known as Raven who are looking to claim the alien substance for their own benefit.
Overstrike-9’s crew have successfully held on to their personalities, which made the game seem refreshing when it was initially announced. They are also armed with unique weaponry and secondary abilities, so there should be a character that appeals to everyone. Dalton is a tank-like character, equipped with an energy shield, and the leader of this rag-tag bunch of misfits. Of course, who better to lead a crew against Raven than a former member of that particular mercenary group? Izzy is armed with the shatter gun, which crystallises enemies that can then be shattered. Its secondary function can heal teammates, which is an essential tool as once a player is killed the mission is failed. Players can be revived once downed, but their teammates need to be quick to get them back on their feet.
Jacob is equipped with the Arcshot, a long-range crossbow, which can be used to pin enemies to surfaces or used as a trap that unleashes molten mercury. Naya is the final member of the team and has crossed paths with Raven in the past. She is armed with the Warp rifle, which causes black holes to appear and rip enemies apart. According to Insomniac Games CEO, Ted Price, the rebranding and the implementation of the alien technology allowed the team to let loose with the weaponry and make it more visceral. A smart move from what we have seen so far.
Fuse rewards players for using their unique abilities and racking up kills. Players earn points based on their actions and can use these to level up any of the four branches on their skill trees. The skill tree is split into Xenotech, Survival, Firearms and Fuse. There are three tiers on each branch and three levels within each upgrade. Some upgrades, such as health improvements, are standard across the characters, but some have unique upgrades. Fuse has been designed so that players can pick a character that they like and then shape them to suit their own playstyle based on the upgrades chosen. We will have to get more time with Fuse to see how this plays out as players choose to upgrade. However, it is promising to see that players could choose a character that they simply like and then implement their playstyle, rather than having their playstyle dictate the character they choose.
As you would expect from a four player title teamwork is important, although Price was keen to stress that players don’t have to work together and that it isn’t forced on them. Players will be rewarded for cooperating though and life is naturally easier when players do so. As said, players get points for kills and using abilities, but multiple players can earn points for working together. For example if Dalton drops a shield for Jacob to fire through, Jacob gets points for racking up kills, but Dalton also gets rewarded for being a cog in that particular war machine. This allows both players to level up faster and keeps the pressure on enemies who are suddenly faced with barrages of firepower from all angles.
One of the concerns that we had initially was that players would easily become unstoppable super soldiers. However, Price stressed that the game is tough, Fuse abilities aren’t infinite, and that players should think about how they approach the game rather than running and gunning. You have Fuse on your side; it would be wise to do so, but be sure to use it when the time is right. Insomniac Games has taken balancing quite seriously according to Price to avoid the possibility of making things too easy. As he said, “If the game’s easy, it’s not fun."
Co-operative action is at the heart of the game, but Fuse also caters for those playing individually or with less than four players. The AI takes control of any remaining squad members, but players are able to use the LEAP feature to jump between their own character and any of their AI teammates. As long as there is a bot in play, players will be able to use this feature. This makes it possible to take advantage of teammates in a better position or with capabilities and weaponry that is more suited to a particular situation. While we hope the AI will be smart enough to take care of itself, it is reassuring that players will be able to jump in just in case. However, it is the strategic possibilities that are even more promising. Not only will players be able to position themselves for a given situation, but they can make use of each squad members unique capabilities and combine some of them with their own action to level up faster. For example, players could use Dalton to set up his shield and then LEAP to their default character to take cover behind this and fire through.
There are enough unique elements that set Fuse apart from other cover shooters. The usage of the alien substance allows for an anchor point, enables the team to give players impressive weaponry and capabilities, and the LEAP function looks very promising. The tone has changed somewhat, but there is still humour injected throughout the game and there are some quips that bring a smile to the most stern of faces. Another announcement is expected soon regarding another game mode, but no hints were being dropped at the time. Fuse will be released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in March 2013.