Review: Fuse (PS3)

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Title: Fuse
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (4973 MB)
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Insomniac Games
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Fuse is also available on Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.

Insomniac Games has a long lineage of hit games under their belt. After their work on Spyro, Ratchet and Clank, and Resistance, Insomniac’s main studio has decided to try their hand on a different game genre. Originally known as OverstrikeFuse is a third-person, squad based shooter with a focus on crazy weapons and teamwork. While the premise and game mechanics are strong, Fuse falters with a boring story, rampant difficulty spikes, and monotonous gameplay. It’s a great co-operative experience, but the repetition may overstay its welcome before the fun sets in.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 322 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Fuse puts you in the role of Overstrike 9, a secret task force sanctioned with preventing the evil Raven corporation from getting their hands on Fuse, a material with unknown origins. Through underground bunkers, mountainous bases, and other extreme places, it’s your job to eliminate Raven and get to the bottom of the Fuse conspiracy. It’s a story with high aspirations that unfortunately falls short. Story information is interwoven throughout most of the dialogue, but a lack of major cutscenes prevents the story from truly achieving it’s high aspirations. It’s a serviceable plot that’s fleshed out with intel scattered throughout the levels, but after Insomniac’s success with Resistance 3’s storytelling, Fuse unfortunately falls short.

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The game’s six missions take about an hour or more each, leaving the player with a relatively short experience. With such an emphasis on co-op, however, players are encouraged to revisit the campaign multiple times in order to complete on harder difficulties, fill out the remaining spots in skill trees, and collect as many fuse credits as possible to unlock additional team perks. On normal difficulty, enemies still tend to seem like bullet sponges, requiring way more bullets than necessary to kill. In regards to level design, most of the levels are laid out the same. Players must get to the other side while bunny hopping between cover, and each room seems to have multiple waves of reinforcement. At the end of each room, your commander will issue you a new command over the radio communicator, and each player has to meet up at the rally point before hacking or prying the door into the next area open. This structure does little to motivate or keep the player interested, and it becomes stale way too soon.

Thankfully, Fuse nails combat. Each of the character’s weapons feel satisfying and exciting to use. Dalton’s mag-shield feels powerful and protective, allowing players to advance while still keeping cover. Naya’s black hole generating gun can create chaos and chains of black holes across the battlefield. Jacob’s sniper-like Arcshot lights up enemies from far way. Izzy’s crystallizing Shattergun freezes enemies in their tracks, allowing her teammates to destroy them with ease. Each character’s strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and good teamwork can make each battle a piece of cake.

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Unfortunately, the solo experience does not hold up to this high standard of teamwork. Playing on normal difficulty, there were many times where my teammates would simply ignore me and leave me for dead. Dalton rarely took the charge with his mag-shield, making some battles an utter stalemate. There were also times where I had to wait upwards of two to three minutes for my AI partners to walk slowly across the battlefield, rather than running, to the rally point. The AI is serviceable in combat, but as far as teamwork goes, you’ll be dying a lot in frustration if you choose to forge ahead solo.

Some of this can be circumvented with Fuse’s leap mechanic. At any time during the game, the player can hold down the select button and instantly take control of any other free squad mate. This can be extremely handy when you’re stuck in a jam, but if your character is down and needing revival, you won’t be able to leap to someone else. This limitation seems unnecessary, and would have prevented many of the AI reviving issues that I had. I found myself using this feature sparingly, as I tended to stick with the one player I enjoyed the most.

Fuse keeps it simple with two modes: Campaign and Echelon. Echelon mode is similar to many games’ horde modes; try to survive through all of the waves of enemies thrown at you. It’s a fun distraction that can be a blast with friends, but the solo experience can be a bit boring and trivial. The mode seems thrown in to extend replay value, and while it does so, Fuse still feels light on content. As a solo package, it’s hard to justify Fuse’s price tag unless you’re a player who loves to repeatedly play campaign mode.

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Visuals:
Fuse is a good looking, albeit generic game. For the first part of the game, the sights and scenes bore. Every base or hideout feels similar, and it’s not until the latter half where the game opens up and shows off some gorgeous environmental vistas. The snow and particle effects are a particular standout, which are among the best seen on current generation consoles. The lighting playfully bounces off of grass and snow, making the environment feel alive. It’s unfortunate that most of the game takes place inside bunkers. The game would have felt much more varied and enjoyable with more outdoor environments.

The character and enemy models leave a lot to be desired. The few scattered cutscenes do show off some quality models, but for the most part, the in-game characters seem lifeless and stiff. Running and turning animations feel stiff, but cover and rolling animations are quick and responsive. Lip synching is practically non-existant when in-game characters are spouting off lines, and idle animations are stiffer than a board.

Enemies on the other hand, are hard to tell apart from one another. Most enemies are just color palette swaps or size differences. There’s a point in the game where two enemies are facing off against one another, and you as the third party must intervene. The only problem: both sides of the faction look nearly identical (there’s a story reason for this, but some differentiation would have been nice). Some of the bigger mechs and bosses have some variety, but even some of them are nothing but color swaps. It’s a game that comes off as extremely generic and stiff, even though there are some really great visual treats.

Audio:
Like its weapon design pedigree, Insomniac Games knows how to handle weapon audio. Each shatter, black hole, and mag-shield absorb sounds spot on and satisfying. Explosions and squad chatter are adequate, although the commands and dialogue from your teammates could have been more useful. Otherwise, the rest of the audio suite seems par for the course. The game is plagued with a few minor bugs, as cleared rooms can play the same ten second action music loop, and some subtitles can be repeated twice when dialogue occurs. These aren’t game breaking by any means, and probably won’t affect most players.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Fuse is designed around multiplayer. Up to four players can team up and take on Campaign and Echelon modes. With good teamwork, both of these modes become much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, Fuse lacks any kind of in game command system, so unless all four players have a headset, don’t expect your teammate to know where to drop his or her mag-shield. Up to two players on the same console can play split screen or hop online with two other players, which allows for some rather fun local co-op. Overall, the multiplayer enhances the solid foundation laid out by the rest of the game, but a lack of communication options prevents some teamwork and cooperation.

Conclusion:
Overall, Fuse is a mixed bag. Its mechanics and gameplay are some of the most solid out there, but its story, level design, and content fall extremely short. It’s a game that is designed to be played cooperatively, but a lack of modes makes the experience monotonous and repetitive much sooner than it should be. If you have a group of friends who enjoy this type of game, by all means, pick it up. It’s one of the more enjoyable third person shooters I’ve played. Otherwise, for single players, Fuse becomes a shallow and tiresome story experience, with solid gameplay. It’s a solid game, but not the home run that we’ve come to expect from Insomniac Games. This is a fuse that struggles to stay lit.

Score:
7.0

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Written by Eric R. Miller

A 21 year old multimedia student who lives, eats, and breathes everything Playstation. Follow me on Google

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