When we first heard about FUSE it was actually called Overstrike. A third person cooperative shooter, it's made by developers Insomniac Games - the people behind both Ratchet and Clank as well as the Resistance games. It seemed like a big win for all concerned; the epic storytelling and presentation of Resistance, coupled with the gleeful, hi-tech, alien pounding of Ratchet and Clank. There is no way it could go wrong.
Unfortunately, while it hasn't all gone wrong, the game feels like someone at Insomniac decided that things weren't going so well; that enough was enough, that they should just get it finished, get it out, and move on.
FUSE is about as generic a third person shooter as you could imagine. Overstrike 9, a four member black ops cell, are dropped into Hypernian Base, a top secret weapons lab researching the alien material FUSE. What follows is ten hours of shooting enemy soldiers, an occasional robot that usually serves as an end of level boss, and collecting XP and cash to buy a fairly limited number of team perks and upgrades.
If I'm making it sound a bit boring, that might be a little harsh. The story mode isn't long enough for boredom to set in. But once your four member team get their alien tech you're generally shooting something or someone, so that’s good.
Each member of the team gets their own piece of hi-tech, alien infused weaponry. Big guy Dalton has an energy shield that can fire a blast that turns soldiers to gloop, Izzy has a shatter gun that encases enemies in crystal, Jacob has a crossbow that can shoot fire bolts, and Naya has a cloaking device that turns her invisible, as well as a warp gun that sucks bad guys into mini black holes.
Everyone has their weapon that only they can use, so essentially Izzy and Naya are the winners. If I had an awesome warp gun or shatter gun I certainly wouldn't to swap it for some lame energy shield or crossbow. Along with their unique weapon everyone also has three other gun slots so you can also pick up and swap between a sniper rifle, handguns, and assault rifles.
The guns are disappointing; especially if you expect some Ratchet and Clank invention. And, although you can upgrade them, upgrades just mean they do a bit more damage or hit three or four soldiers with one shot. Also, if you knock off one of the big robots, you can pick up their flamethrower and start doing real damage. But, if you are running out of ammo, or bleeding out on the ground, pressing select will let you switch to another character. This is especially helpful if your AI controlled teammates don't bother reviving you when you're dying at their feet.
However, the selling point of FUSE isn't the singleplayer story, it's the unique and exciting take on multiplayer. So it's a shame that the multiplayer isn't all that unique or exciting.
You can play through the story with three friends either split screen or online, or play Echelon mode. Echelon is FUSE's take on Horde mode. There are half a dozen maps taken from locations in the game. Among them is the weapons lab, the weapons lab in the jungle, the lab up on the snowy mountain, the military base that looks a bit like a lab. You get the idea.
Each location has twelve rounds to fight through. From kill 'em all 'carnage' rounds to 'critical drop' rounds where you have to open a crate before the enemy soldiers destroy it. The type of round is randomly selected, except for the boss robots in round six and twelve. It's all suitably frantic with a nice difficulty curve.
So the multiplayer is solid, if limited. While there is only four player cooperative play, no fighting against real people, I found the matchmaking a bit random. The game connected me real people only one game in every three. And when it did of course Izzy and Naya were taken so I'd be stuck with boring Jacob and his stupid crossbow. The only saving grace being that even if you can't find a game to join you can play by yourself as Naya, invite some friends, and hope someone drops in.
This is all good because the xp and cash you get in multiplayer can be used for your characters in the story. The downside is that characters top out at level 35, so a couple days getting through the story and a week online will see all the characters maxed out.
So, FUSE could have been awesome, but it's not. Graphics and sound are fine. Firefights are intense and you can take out enemies with stealth and melee kills. At times the story tries to give the characters some emotion and depth, but fails, and generally ends up half baked and confused. Having the same robot turn up as the end level boss, even if the later chapters have you fighting two or three of them, feels like everyone stopped trying. With so many great games coming out over the next few months I think it's time for us all to finish with FUSE and move on.