Fails to Ignite
FUSE is many things. It’s a third person squad based cover shooter from Insomniac Games. It’s an alien substance that’s being used in the development of experimental weapons in a top secret lab. It’s a sci-fi video game that has you and three friends working together to bring down various groups of baddies hell bent on securing these weapons for their own dastardly plan of naughtiness.
Yes FUSE is many things, but first and foremost, FUSE is an OK idea jammed into an average game.
You take on the role of one of four playable characters of a squad who, while investigating an experimental weapons lab that suddenly fell off the communications grid, quickly find their own individual FUSE weapons. Each team member’s weapon has its own individual abilities and limitations so your squad needs to work together to track down the terrorist/extremist group to blame and secure the advanced weaponry to save all humanity without dying in the process.
These various weapon types appear to be the main focus of FUSE which is where the good idea begins. Like most other games these days, your character unlocks additional weapon abilities by earning XP with standard kills and completing mission objectives and there’s also bonus XP to be earned by combining your weapons abilities with those of your team mates. For example, when playing as Jacob Kimble your crossbow can be used to shatter enemies that have been crystallised by Izzy. Or simply firing through Dalton’s shield with any weapon will also earn more points. There’s of course heaps of different combinations to try out when the opportunity arises and while your AI controlled team mates do a good job of setting these bonus kills up for you, the incentive of bonus XP never really seems worth the effort. This is where the good idea ends and the average game begins.
The combat is overly boring and repetitive, constantly putting you in small corridors that lead into large rooms full of bad guys only find tat after grinding through that room you’ll find yourself in another corridor leading to another room with a slightly higher enemy count.
Granted there is an almost passable mix of enemy types ranging from your standard grunts, snipers, enemies with shields and a few others and it was good to see that the enemy AI wasn’t completely stupid. Snipers fitted with jet packs will often shift position to get the best possible line of sight on you. Enemies with shields will turn around to protect themselves from grenades thrown over their heads and the obligatory invisible guys will run straight at you from nowhere and try drag you out into the open annoyingly demanding that you mash a button in order to break free.
But while your enemies are smart when it comes to killing you, they’re as dumb as a door knobs when it comes to preserving their own lives. They will just stand there and take 30 bullets before taking cover. Performing a very loud “stealth” kill on one enemy while standing 2 feet from another renders no reaction whatsoever and some baddies will crouch in front of cover rather than behind it!
The AI of your team mates is just as inconsistent. They will usually do a great job of reviving you if you go down and will actually use their individual abilities in the process. Dalton often approaches injured team mates using his shield to prevent further damage and once Naya has unlocked her medipack ability she will throw healing goodness at you from a distance if you can’t be reached easily. This was great to see but unfortunately that’s as good as it gets as your AI squad -mates are shithouse at killing enemies. As mentioned earlier they will set you up for special kills but for the majority if the 10ish hour campaign you’ll feel like you’re a one man army with a few medics following you around like lost puppies.
At the beginning of the game you’ll be asked to choose which character to play as and it initially appears that this is a commitment that you need to stick to. However you’ll quickly learn that FUSE would be pretty much the same game had it only featured a squad of two as Izzy and Naya are equal in their abilities and Dalton is completely useless given that the majority of gunfights are at medium to long range. It’s at this point that the game shows you that you can quickly and easily hot swap between any of the AI characters at (almost) any given time. It’s almost as if they added this feature in when they realised the lack of balance across the board of playable characters.
As we’ve seen in recent years, visuals in games have come a long way even with the limitations of the current generation of hardware. FUSE is a true example of those limitations. Admittedly the game NEVER stuttered or dropped a single frame even in the busiest of fire fights, this fluidity seems to have only been achieved at the cost of texture quality, texture count, interactivity with the world and character models.
It seems that the development of FUSE has incorporated a significant amount of cutting and pasting. All missions are set in varying locations such as an undersea science lab, a factory and a space station but every area feels exactly the same as the one before it. This repetitive feel is only reinforced thanks to all enemies being faceless drones and despite their large numbers it seems that only one voice actor was hired to play all of them. This is of course with exception to the larger Mech type enemies that need to be taken down by firing on the fuel tank on their back. Because in the future battle mechs decked out with miniguns and flame throwers run on diesel and have tanks fitted to the outside of their armour…
You might say that gameplay could be more entertaining with friends and you could be right. The problem is that finding a game was near on impossible at the time of publication and when playing four player co-op there’s always going to be a fight over who has to play as Dalton.
Three to five years ago FUSE might have been a clever title with a pretty original concept and decent visuals. But today it just doesn’t live up to the standard that today’s gamers expect. This was a massive shame as I have no doubt that before development on FUSE started, it probably looked great in theory.
If FUSE came out three years ago, it'll probably be somewhat better that we expected. Not today.