If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say it was between the 142nd and 143rd wave of seemingly unending generic enemies that I lost interest in Fuse, the latest shooter from Insomniac Games. Or maybe it was between the 202nd and 203rd? Who can really tell?
That’s not to say Fuse is a bad shooter, it’s just that there’s nothing remarkable about it – it feels like a game we’ve seen a hundred times before. At this point in the evolution of games and of this generation of consoles in particular, that sort of mere serviceability just isn’t enough to impress.
The game tells the story of Overstrike 9, a quartet of mercenaries-with-a-past, who have been sent to investigate a group of scientists experimenting with the titular mysterious energy force. In this near-future world where private military contractors have run amok, it doesn’t take long for conflict to emerge: a renegade PMC known as Raven is also interested in the alien energy. Let the tsunami of endless enemies begin.
The combat in Fuse is standard third-person fare, centering around the sticky cover system made most famous by the Gears of War series. Each character can carry three weapons, two of which are chosen from the generic shooter assortment of pistol, submachine gun, assault rifle, shotgun and sniper rifle, plus grenades.
The main “Xenotech” weapon is unique to each individual. Jacob carries a crossbow that shoots flaming mine bolts; Naya’s rifle fires miniature warp holes; Izzy’s shatter gun freezes enemies into brittle black blobs; and Dalton’s gun emits a defensive force shield.
Developer Insomniac made its name on such imaginative and inventive weapons through the Ratchet and Clank and Resistance series, and that definitely carries over here. Each of the individual Xenotype weapons are great fun to play with, especially with a group of friends, since you can chain their various effects together and just mow through those aforementioned waves of opponents. The cover system works well and the enemies aren’t noticeably dumb, so the action isn’t terribly easy to plow through.
The problem is, there just isn’t enough variety. The only way to switch up the main weapons is to swap over to another character. That’s easy enough when playing solo, but if you’re in co-operative mode you’ll have to convince another player to trade. And even if you can manage that, there are ultimately only four cool weapons to try out, which means things inevitably become repetitive.
The situation isn’t helped by the sameness of the bad guys. There is some variety in the types of enemies encountered, including some cool mech-robot and flying gunship boss battles, but the sheer volume of them inevitably makes them all blend into one tasteless morass. Even the characters’ special abilities – Naya can turn invisible while Izzy can toss healing grenades, for example – don’t provide enough spice to mask the taste of, “Oh boy, here we go again,” which could actually serve as the unofficial subtitle to the game.
While Fuse isn’t nearly as cartoonish as the Ratchet and Clank games, it also certainly isn’t as serious as Resistance. The action, tone, characters and plot fall firmly into a middle area that can only be described as “arcade-y.” It’s perhaps why I found the generically dumb and out-of-place dialogue – where the characters jest in between huge shootouts about dating problems and their fear of cats – to be more forgivable than in the more earnest Gears of War. Still, with characters that aren’t fleshed out or made believable in the least, there’s no real reason to get invested in them.
Fuse is meant to be played with up to three friends, and it can be a hoot to do that. Playing it solo, however, exposes a less-than-intelligent artificial intelligence that governs your teammates. When playing with friends, I found it was easy to take chances because I knew they’d take risks to revive me. When playing solo, the opposite was true – I knew that if my character went down, it was pretty much curtains because my teammates were either too inhumanly logical or too cowardly to run out into enemy fire to save my bacon.
If it’s a simple co-op shooter to play with friends – there’s also a now-standard-for-the-genre wave mode – that you’re looking for, Fuse is an okay option. It works mechanically and has some nifty elements to it and it’s a blast to see what sort of combinations you can come up with in conjunction with actually intelligent partners. But as a solo adventure, its flaws – and especially its sameness – are more readily apparent.