Fuse Hands-On: Why Insomniac Had To Delay It
Insomniac’s Fuse has had something of a strangled and confused time during development.
It hasn’t helped that Insomniac has quite publicly changed its mind a number of times regarding the level of humour and proposed seriousness of its co-op shooter, but this back and forth undecided development process has muddied the general perception of Fuse and what, if anything, makes it different.
Sitting down to finally play through a chunk of its campaign (which apparently appears just after the halfway mark) it becomes clear that Insomniac is struggling to define the Fuse experience.
With Insomniac and EA announcing recently that the game would be delayed to June/July, it gives Insomniac a chance, however brief, to readdress exactly what is currently holding the game back.
But what should Insomniac look to changing in its brief but crucial delay?
Much was made of Fuse’s original reveal back at E3 2011, when it was announced as Overstrike. Billed as a colourful co-op shooter with Insomniac’s expected level of comedy-infused moments, Fuse took a rather unexpected route and began to downplay these unique elements.
After a warm reception, Fuse’s muting of Overstrike’s humour and colour seemed to take Insomniac’s game in a rather predictable direction and many of the studio’s fans spoke out. Those criticisms were heard loud and clear, according to Insomniac’s CEO Ted Price, who admitted as much in a recent NowGamer interview.
Price explained how Insomniac eventually ended up back-peddling and reinserting Fuse with much of the colour and humour that had been removed, but what has this back and forth development process meant for the game itself?
Well, as you’d expect, Fuse’s tone is a little muddled.
Insomniac’s vocal fans were right, though. When Fuse’s colourful, cartoon-edged world works, it’s a unique joy to experience as well as feeling fresh, too. Ted Price might like to explain that Fuse’s art design and world were inspired by mixing District 9 and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol together, but that doesn’t really do it justice.
Jumping into a random level it’s hard to gauge just how well Fuse is pulling everything together. It’s certainly a lot brighter than the more serious re-reveal had suggested it would be, but it now appears to sit a little awkwardly between the two types of visual styles.
Hopefully, these tonal inconsistencies will be ironed out because at its core, Fuse has a compelling setup that deserves exploring.
Insomniac is promising that levels will have multiple routes through for the various characters.
It was something of a surprise to jump into Fuse’s campaign (with one co-op partner and two bots) and discover that combat was crushingly difficult. Though Insomniac explained that by the halfway point we were inserted into, players would be well-versed with the Fuse weapons and mechanics, it did feel like the enemies found it a little too easy to overpower us and the bots we had fighting by our side.
Forcing co-op partners to work together through adversity is one thing, but at this stage, it appears that Insomniac hasn’t provided players with the appropriate tools to deal with the onslaught the enemies can provide. This was clear in the Fuse’s main campaign but blindingly obvious in its Horde mode spin-off, Echelon, which sees enemies drop in front and behind the player.
Fuse’s combat requires that players utilise their specific abilities and Fuse-based weapons to succeed in combat. Combining these attacks should mean that players are more than capable of taking on the swathes of crack-shots that head you way. But, it’s not quite as easy as that.
Relying on cover and swift communication between players to combine attacks, combat is actually rather tricky. This is due to Fuse’s mix of normal and specialised Fuse-based weaponry (of which each character has one) as well as the ways in which players are required to work together.
Fuse encourages this style of play by reinforcing it with XP boosts that allow you to level up faster, but this reliance on your fellow players (or the AI itself) could be what’s ultimately holding Fuse back.
To offer a comparison of sorts, Borderlands 2 offers similar co-op play that rewards players for working together, but it doesn’t require that you do to succeed. Gearbox finds a balance between the two styles that currently is lacking from Fuse.
This might not necessarily be as debilitating as you’d think, given Fuse’s obvious co-op focus, but another issue quickly arises and given that Insomniac only have a limited time for polish and improvements over the next few months this might prove much more troubling…
Though we struggled to come to terms with Fuse’s difficulty level and style of play that emphasised teamwork over solo gung-ho theatrics, it was the AI that consistently let the side down during our brief gameplay stint.
Though far from a finished build of the game (especially now considering Fuse’s delay) the AI struggled to deal with the complex co-op interactions that were required.
Even with one person helming another character, the AIs inability to interact with what we were doing had a definite impact on our success. Despite Insomniac’s Ted Price’s insistence, rarely would an AI controlled character run to our aid and help us back into the fight.
The heavey empahsis on team work really does require constant communication between players.
Recognising the awkwardness of playing Fuse alone, Insomniac has included a ‘hot-swap’ feature that allows you to ‘Leap’ between unoccupied characters and utilise their distinct abilities. This should give you some idea just how important each character is to the success of a mission but also just how limiting the AI actually is.
How much impact these issues have on the overall experience depends on how much Insomniac can get done over the next few months. From the small slice of gameplay we had the chance to jump into, a delay seems all but inevitable and almost certainly the right choice.
Despite the issues we’ve described here, there’s still every chance that, when experience within the context of Fuse’s campaign, these salient issues fade into the background. But, as it currently stands, Insomniac was right to delay Fuse and use the time to polish what is largely a positive game.