One of the things that bites about co-op games is finding someone to play them with, am I right? It can be hard to convince a friend to plop down for the price of an indie game, let alone a full $60 AAA experience. Oftentimes this leaves you with little recourse other than to tough it out on your own without the firepower the game expects you to have, or dealing with randos in matchmaking. That is, unless you’re playing Insomniac’s 2013 release, Fuse.
Fuse stars three secret agent types: Dalton is the tough but charismatic tank, Izzy the too-smart-for-her-own-good tech girl with spunk, and Naya the prim and proper spy. And it also stars Jacob, an unhinged cop turned vigilante. They’re as diverse in personality as they are with their character builds. Dalton acquires a portable fluid shield, Izzy gets a coating gun and healing grenade, Naya can cloak and generate singularities, and Jacob nets a crossbow with explosive melting bolts. Each fits a classic archetype of tank, support, DPS, or ranged artillery that works great for a team of four players, offering unique roles besides the standard cover-based shooting.
Except — you don’t need four players. You can play as the entire squad. Just like Blizzard’s classic Lost Vikings, Fuse lets you freely swap between each member of your team at any point. Enemies suppressing you too hard? Deploy a temporary shield by Dalton. Planning a risky advance that needs to move fast? Go invisible as Naya or lay down a health beacon as Izzy. If a boss is eating up bullets, unleash Jacob’s crossbow to break through its armor. All the while, the AI controlling your teammates keeps them alive.
You can customize each squadmate’s weapon loadout and assign a unique perk to each of them as well. Since Dalton can drop a temporary shield in addition to carrying his portable variant, maybe set him up with a sniper rifle. Naya’s often in the thick of it, so she’s great with close-range weapons, or maybe go for moderate range if you want precise shots while briefly cloaked. You can even turn Jacob into a blindfire frontline assault, treating his crossbow bolts more like explosive detonators. The spread of tactical options is far greater than most give Fuse credit, furthered by its unique array of enemies.
Besides basic grunts, you’re regularly confronted by cyber ninjas who can cloak, jetpack snipers who leap around each level, mechanized minibosses wielding devastating power weapons, self-destructing drones that can surge over cover, and a phalanx of riot shield enemies who later upgrade to their own version of Dalton’s portable shield for greater offensive power. Combine this with fairly open level design for Fuse’s time and opportunities for stealth before guns start blazing, and you’re left with a flexible, chaotic combat sandbox that’s a blast to play.
By melding this beautiful madness with the power to fully harness your squad, Insomniac’s captured the sort of power fantasy normally reserved for a full lobby of players. You can coordinate weapon combos, like blasting a boss through Dalton’s shield with Jacob’s arrows or swapping to Izzy so you can heal whoever’s under fire and get right in the thick of things. It’s so intuitive and slickly integrated into every encounter that it’s a tad bewildering the feature wasn’t a hallmark of Fuse’s marketing.
Character swapping is available so long as at least one player slot isn’t filled, so it even ensures local co-op has the same benefit of a full team. Fuse could’ve gone the easier route of forcing you to stick it out with just one character or be forced to rely solely on AI partners, but either approach would’ve missed the core hook of your squad’s devastating arsenal. Instead, you have the freedom to intuitively adapt to every situation and lead your squad to victory with ease.
Where many games boast co-op support, Fuse might be the first that should’ve boasted its substantial single-player support. I can only hope that more co-op games in the future take note from Insomniac’s hero-swapping system. For something treated as a minor feature, it elevates Fuse beyond budget action into a truly remarkable single-player game.