You will swear when playing Fuse.
You’ll swear loudly and you’ll swear lots. You’ll swear like a sailor with Tourettes who’s stubbed his toe. You’ll swear inbetween making noises you didn’t even know existed. The only question with Fuse is whether you swear because of the excitement and drama of multiplayer or swear because of the tedious frustration grinding you down in single player.
Because Fuse is essentially two games. There’s the multiplayer co-op shooter which is ridiculously good fun and there’s the single player shooter which is… not. At all.
Fuse – The Good Side
Fuse has clearly been designed with multiplayer in mind and that seems like the fairest starting point, because co-op is the best way to play it.
There are four playable characters, all with their own trademark weapon. Naya has a Warp Rifle that sees enemies explode in a small black hole supernova, Izzy has a Shattergun that freezes enemies thus setting them up for easy kills, Jacob has his Arcshot that’s essentially a crossbow with exploding bolts while Dalton has a Magshield which throws up a protective barrier than can be shot through.
You can also combine their weapons in various ways. Quick example: freezing an enemy with Izzy’s Shattergun means Naya can explode them with her Warp Rifle, awarding a points bonus to both players. Quicker example: shooting through Dalton’s Magshield awards both players with points. The combination of weapons leads to the battlefield exploding in a dazzling display of special effects, fireworks and numbers showing the bonus XP earned.
You’ll know this already if you’ve been following Fuse at all, because EA and Insomniac have both made a big deal out of the weaponry, which keeps in line with Insomniac’s history of over-the-top, unique guns in its games (see: Ratchet & Clank, Resistance).
But combining the weapons makes a huge difference in co-op. Players will instinctively want to work together, because there’s actual tangible reward for doing so – the bonus XP counts towards unlocking further skills, you clear enemies much faster and the resulting special effects add a tilt of carnage and destruction that Fuse sorely needs.
Combining weapons to find out what they do provides that element of interaction that every co-op game needs, so it feels like four players working together rather than four individuals who happen to be on the same battlefield. The weapons fuse the team together. See? SEE.
Fuse – Solid Shooter (We’re Still Talking About The Good Side)
Underneath the weapon combinations is a solid shooter, if somewhat unambitious. Fuse is a cover shooter that has the difficulty pitched just right that that you’re forced to protect yourself from gunfire but not so hard that it impedes progress, particularly when your team works together.
It has every element you’d expect from a modern cover shooter. You can blindfire, throw grenades, switch from cover to cover, and so on. There’s also the slightest of nods to stealth too. Stealth in Fuse just seems to be the default state for new rooms full of enemies before someone on either side inevitably opens fire rather than a viable tactic – it seems to be impossible to completely clear out a room without being spotted – but it is in there, along with stealth takedowns.
There are also unique character abilities that spice up the gameplay, such as planted shields and invisibility, both of which eat into the Fuse meter that powers up the trademark weaponry. The most significant skill is Izzy’s Healing Beacon. It works in a similar fashion to Stim Grenades in Gears Of War: Judgment – they create a healing area which can also revive fallen players. These extra touches help distinguish each character with their own role within the team, and adds personality.
Speaking of personality, there was a lot of criticism about Fuse pre-release that it looked like another generic space marine shooter. It’s definitely shifted in that direction since the days that Fuse was revealed as Overstrike but to call it generic is unfair. As mentioned, there’s enough personality to the four characters that they stand out (even if the enemies don’t) while boss battles are interesting enough that they’ll stick with you long after they’ve fallen.
Another big tick for co-op is the relentless pace, as Fuse throbs with momentum and urgency as the team pushes forward. The co-op highlight is in the combination of weapons and Insomniac Games has been smart in killing downtime between enemy encounters, so you quickly get to the next chance to combine the team’s individual arsenal.
It’s rare that you’ll have to suffer through huge chunks of story (which is humorous but mostly remarkable) or character exposition (which only really matters towards the end when the plot starts to come together). Because of that, it’s almost always engaging and exciting – you’ll find yourself swearing as you and your three team-mates fight back against the waves of enemies sent your way.
Fuse – The Bad Side
At this point you’ve probably glanced ahead to the 6.5 score and wondered where the ‘but…’ comes in. And here it is – tackle Fuse solo and it completely falls apart.
Solo play begins and ends with the wonky AI, which dominates the entire experience. Watch in horror as team-mates let enemies drift past them unharmed! Scream in frustration as AI gawps at your fallen body while refusing to revive you! Laugh and sigh as your comrades leave the safety of cover to blindly run into open fire!
It’s remarkable how stupid your team-mates are and more remarkable still how much this completely transforms the experience. Without human players filling in for the other three characters, you use ‘Leap’ to switch to whoever you want and therefore set up weapon combinations, character positions and so on.
Or so the theory goes. The reality is different, as the wonky AI ruins any potential Leap has because you’ll switch to another character and find yourself having to deal with the odd positions they find themselves in.
For example: When you switch to Izzy, she’ll be standing out in the open, being blasted by goons. Switch to Dalton in panic and he’ll be facing the wrong way. Switch to Naya and she’s somewhere you don’t even recognise, crouched behind cover, with no-one ahead of her.
This isn’t always the case but more often than not, you’re having to scramble to recover from the bizarre behaviour of the AI whose shoes you’ve just filled. It feels like needless busywork and brings a level of micromanagement that doesn’t belong in a game this fast.
The experience can only be likened to being the teacher on a school trip, having to check up on all the kids individually to make sure they don’t wander off and get into trouble.
It’s as though Insomniac Games has smashed together the brain-cells of every online moron with a oO M4STER CHEEF Oo style gamertag and tried to scoop out some semblance of human behaviour from the syrupy mess. At least you can shout at oO M4STER CHEEF Oo. If Izzy is standing next to your fallen body and refusing to revive you, there’s nothing you can do except swear.
And no matter how much you loudly you swear, she’ll never hear you.
Fuse – More Problems (We’re Still Talking About The Bad Side)
Because of those problems, you’ll leave the Leap feature alone and stick to one character for the majority of Fuse but this means you’re missing out on what the co-op adds to the experience – the weapon combinations (still there but not as frequent and not spontaneous), the unique character abilities (still there but not as clear when driven by AI rather than human players) and the camaraderie (not there at all).
Multiplayer strengths become single-player weaknesses. The relentless pace of the co-op, where you’re itching to get to the next encounter, actually starts to drag. You soon tire of the endless shooting galleries, because there’s no real joy to be had from them. Boss battles go on for far too long as their design fails to overcome the frustration of fighting them with incompetent team-mates.
Even when there are just two of you going through Fuse alongside two bots, it doesn’t live up to the fun and drama of having four human players blasting through Fuse.
And overall, that leaves Fuse in an odd position. It doesn’t push cover shooters forward except for the imaginative weaponry and yet it’s still the most fun we’ve had with a co-op shooter for a long time. But play it by yourself and it’s an absolute disaster. The only way we can recommend Fuse is when it is at its best – when playing with three friends.
It turns out that four player co-op isn’t just the best way to play Fuse. It’s the only way to play Fuse.
Version Tested: PS3