Insomniac Games’ Fuse has already gone through a number of transitions despite its short time in the public eye. Originally revealed as Overstrike back in 2010, the two years since have seen the videogame taken back to the drawing board, given a fresh coat of paint and a new name. To say that Fuse appears more generic in it’s presentation than Overstrike did is perhaps par for the course given it’s intended mass market appeal, but that’s not to say Insomniac Games hasn’t injected enough enthusiasm into their multi-format debut to make it worth keeping an eye on.
Fuse tells the tale of an alien substance which runs throughout all things in the videogame. It powers some unique weapons, gifts the characters with special abilities and is the key element in the storyline. Set in the near future, Fuse follows a team of known as Overstrike 9 as they infiltrate an enemy stronghold called Hyperion. The team have been employed by the government for one simple reason: plausible deniability. This is the blackest of black ops, the most questionable of all military actions as the government not only want you to find out what’s going on at the base, but prevent the occupiers from using the Fuse against them.
As might be expected, things quickly spiral out of hand. Upon arriving at Hyperion, Overstrike 9 discover that the base has been ransacked, and that the Fuse substance they have been sent to investigate has already been made into a selection of powerful weapons. As luck would have it, four weapons. One for each team member? Coincidences are wonderful things.
During Electronic Theatre’s time with the videogame Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price was keen to emphasise the uniqueness of each of the four characters. Their personalities are undoubtedly well worn clichés, but the unique abilities available to each thanks to the Fuse weapons they are equipped with are the real stars of the show. The leader of the group is Dalton Brooks, a headstrong thug who solves most of his issues through brute force. Dalton is billed as the ‘tank’ of the group, carrying the Magshield: a barrier that attracts bullets and uses them as a blast back against enemies. Brooks used to work for Raven, an enemy force also in pursuit of the Fuse asset and are responsible for the prior assault on Hyperion. In fact, it’s on of Brooks’ former commanders is leading Raven’s charge into the base.
Also on the team are Izzy Sinclair, Jacon Kimble and Naya Deveraux. Sinclair is the rogue who doesn’t necessarily follow orders. A former intelligence broker jailed for selling secrets Sinclair picks up Shattergun early in the videogame and uses it to cause enemies to crystallise and explode. The weapon can also lift enemies behind cover and can catch multiple enemies in its range. What’s more, the Shattergun has additional healing properties also. Kimble is a former LAPD Officer with a strict view of what’s right and wrong, leading to frequent clashes with Dalton. Kimble carries the Arcshot, suing sniper blots to pin enemies to the wall. The secondary function sees bolts spew mercury and melt enemies.
Finally, Deveraux is an ex-assassin also tied to Raven thanks to her estranged father. This relationship adds a swift-moving current through the videogame as an additional side story. Armed with the Warp Rifle, Deveraux coats enemies with anti-matter and creates singularities. Smart players will be able to create chains by coating multiple enemies after using the secondary function: stealth, allowing you to go invisible.
Of course Fuse is designed to be a four player co-operative experience, and as such all four of the characters are designed to work in harmony with their abilities and fuse weapons. There are other weapons available and each character has an affinity for certain types of weapon (Dalton likes burst rifles, for example) but it’s clear that Insomniac Games is keen to emphasise the importance of the Fuse weapons; so much so that every set-piece and boss fight encountered during Electronic Theatre’s hands-on time was designed for efficient use of the dual functions available. Because of this demand to utilise all of the skills available, the ‘leap’ command is available to allow players to move back and forth between characters at will, directly on the battlefield. Leap always exists as long as there is at least one AI character, though it’s not currently been confirmed how this will affect the death mechanic.
Fuse follows the Gears of War template practically to the letter, with the cover system and use of the Fuse weapons feeling immediately familiar. What’s more players are able to revive downed teammates, but should one character die its mission over. Exactly how this well worn mechanic will work with the leap ability remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting design decision is Insomniac Games make it possible to change from a downed teammate into one still engaged in combat.
There are a handful of additional mechanics that aide to make Fuse unique, such as the Fusion and progression systems. Fusion happens when fuse in weapons becomes unstable; triggered by any one player all four automatically become ‘fuse powered wrecking balls,’ dealing greater damage and being practically invincible themselves.
The progression system seems interesting at present, though Electronic Theatre does wonder whether it might be a bit limited: every character has four skill trees, Xenotech, Survival, Firearms and Fuse, and players earn Fuse points by killing enemies. Fuse Points spent in skill trees to unlock a small number of bonuses and abilities, for example, the Xenotech tree allows you to unlock new functions while Survival increases health and endurance. As Fuse is designed for co-operative play the progression system smartly offers bonuses for players who work together, with bonus Fuse Points given for shooting through Dalton’s shield or taking down enemies while they are trapped in Deveraux’s singularity. The progression system works hand-in-hand throughout all gameplay modes – both the campaign and as yet not revealed mode share progression through the skills trees – and players acquire points across all four characters, so using the leap to take control or another character won’t leave you with an inexperienced fighter.
While there are still many questions left to be answered it does appear as though Insomniac Games has built a solid yet familiar foundation for Fuse and then added new layers on top with the hope of creating something unique; something special in fact. The titular Fuse drives everything – story, weapons, fusion ability – and the technical delivery of that through destructible scenery and other visual affects is frequently stunning. Set for release in early 2013 on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Fuse certainly looks like it’s going to make waves in the action genre.