What a blast!
A Great Surprise
Written by Vincent Deshaies
Published Tuesday, 28 May 2013 03:01
Having spent more time playing Insomniac’s famous Ratchet & Clank series than I can disclose without feeling extremely bad about myself, it goes without saying that the californian studio is one of my favorites. While I was initially excited about Overstrike, its subsequent delays, previews, and transformation into what is now known as Fuse lowered my excitement quite a bit. As I inserted the review disc into my Xbox 360, I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, but it didn’t take long before I realized that this was going to be a blast. From the get-go, Fuse isn’t shy to show its true colors. You’re not looking for the most impressive narrative or the most cinematic experience while playing this game. What this game does aim for is to give you the tightest and most satisfying third person shooter experience. Does it succeed in doing so? Let’s find out…
Fuse tells a story set in the near future which is centered on a well-balanced team of four unlikely partners collectively known as Overstrike 9. Their objective is to stop the evil company known as Raven Corporation from getting an unidentified substance called “Fuse”, as it could be used to power extremely effective weapons that could be dangerous for the future of humanity. Obviously, this doesn’t stop the team of four from using said weapons. Thankfully, they happen to be incredibly fun and satisfying to use.
The game features two main modes, none of which are your traditional competitive multiplayer. In fact, only a relatively long single player campaign (which is also playable cooperatively with up to 3 friends), and Echelon mode are available in Fuse. Echelon mode is a fun spin on the popular Horde mode from the Gears of War series, the twist being that any experience points (here called Fuse credits) that you gain during your play sessions will be usable in the campaign. This lack of traditional multiplayer may defy your expectations given that such features are practically unavoidable in any modern third-person shooter, but that’s not the only surprising thing that comes out of Insomniac’s new game. In fact, one of my main concerns about this game was that it was simply going to be too generic. I’m not going to lie; everything from the game’s cover art to the playable demo had me thinking that we were going to be treated to the usual run-of-the-mill shooter. This is simply not the case.
"It's probably some of the most fun I’ve had playing a third-person shooter since Platinum Games’ Vanquish."
If your concerns are aligned with mine, please forget everything you know about this game. While it doesn’t reinvent the genre, it certainly plays to the strengths that Insomniac, as a studio, has developed along the years. One of the biggest positives from the Resistance and Ratchet & Clank franchises has been the purely inventive weaponry. In Fuse, the trend continues. The fuse-powered weapons pack a punch you rarely see in the genre, and it’s a thrill to discover how you can use them all in conjunction to craft surprising death traps for your enemies. My favorite of the bunch is easily the warp rifle, which literally lets you open up warp holes to disseminate your opposition. After a few upgrades through the game’s skill points system, this weapon can become so powerful that you could pretty much use it exclusively throughout the rest of the game, but that would be sucking out half the fun in Fuse. Using it in conjunction with your pistol, for example, can incinerate your foes, which is just one of the various ways you can plow through the waves of enemies.
This alone makes for a diverse, fun, and well-paced experience, but the surprisingly beefy campaign also packs quite a bit of variety. Not only will you discover various environments, but you’ll also have to navigate them in interesting ways. While the meat of the game remains the shooting, some Uncharted-like platforming sections help spice up the experience. On top of all that, the game offers a lot of replayability through the co-op mode, as well as the feature that lets you play through the campaign as different characters each time. Each of the four team members are quite different, each having their own arsenal, and you’ll want to try them all. Thankfully, if you’re not one for playing through games four times, you can hold the back/select button and “leap” from character to character in real-time, without having to restart the level. If you’re playing the game alone, this actually allows you to strategize and plan out ways to clear a room more effectively, but the feature remains completely optional.
Beyond the weaponry, the game also offers various other ways to take out your enemies. While I wouldn’t recommend it given how fun the shooting is, you can actually remain stealthy and take out your enemies one by one by sneaking up behind them. Another option is to use the melee system to take out some of your opponents, which happens to be very satisfying, given the game’s solid animations. It’s worth noting that using such techniques is completely unsuitable for the game’s various boss fights, some of which are very reminiscent of the co-op mode from Resistance 2, while others are more traditional and grand in scale.
On the negative side of things, the enemy and ally A.I. isn’t always reliable. In my solo playthrough, my allies were mostly reliable when it came to completing tasks such as reviving my downed self, or blowing up doors with me, but they did happen to run through my waves of bullets quite a few times. Enemy A.I., while not being particularly dumb, isn’t exactly the best either. They sometimes failed to notice my presence as I sneaked my way past them without much cover, and their aim could be quite forgiving. For this reason, I definitely recommend you crank up the difficulty of the game on your first playthrough, especially if you plan on playing in co-op with some friends. Another pet peeve I personally have with video games is present in this. While the writing is good and the dialogue is particularly funny (with clear Ratchet & Clank vibes hitting me from time to time), the narrative exposition is definitely not the main appeal of this game, so I was disappointed to see these annoyingly common forced slow walking sections in this game. I understand that these are used to conceal loading times and provide story details, but that doesn’t stop them from being quite irritating.
For the presentation of the game, Insomniac clearly wasn’t ready to prioritize visuals over framerate. Having played through the game on Xbox 360, I’m happy to report that the framerate remained buttery smooth with a constant 30 frames per second at all times. It’s definitely something to appreciate in games like this, where action can get quite chaotic on the screen, as visibility and accuracy remains important at all times. The graphics do happen to be good, but they fail to be particularly impressive. As for the sound design, I found the 5.1 mix to be particularly impressive, the loud, thunderous explosions feel powerful, and the guns actually feel like they pack quite a punch when you fire them.
All in all, Fuse is a welcome surprise and a nice break from the story-heavy and highly cinematic games that have come out in the past few months. This game is the definition of gameplay over presentation, and it’s all the better for it. After playing this game, I’m happy to report that this is definitely Insomniac’s best outing since Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, and probably some of the most fun I’ve had playing a third-person shooter since Platinum Games’ Vanquish. It’s that fun!
+ Awesome weapons
+ Extremely fun gameplay
+ Empowers creative players
+ Perfect for co-op
+ More varied than you may expect
+ Great sound design
+ Satisfying gunplay
+ Fluid, responsive controls
+ Cool boss fights
- Slow walking sections and unskippable cutscenes interrupt the fun
- AI is a mixed bag
- Graphically unimpressive
- Some recycled ideas
- Too easy
- Average story
- Uninspired art style and tone
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Release date : 2013-05-28
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : Insomniac Games
Gameplay : Shooter
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