On the surface, Fuse looks a little too much like one of the many gritty and realistic action shooters that populate the third-person genre than it does when it was originally billed as the more cartoonish Overstrike. While its aesthetic may have changed, and its narrative often takes itself a little too seriously, Fuse is actually a good third-person shooter that’s enjoyable to play with or without a team.
Fuse puts you in control of Overstrike 9, a mercenary spec-ops team lead by veteran commando Dalton Brooks. Sent in to secure a top-secret research facility, Dalton and his team find themselves battling against Raven, a paramilitary group that seeks to use a mysterious substance known as “fuse” for nefarious purposes. Even if the concept of an evil organization out to hold the world hostage sounds clichéd, Fuse‘s story features enough interesting twists to keep you playing through the next chapter, and you’ll get a few chuckles of the team’s sarcastic commentary during their adventures. Though some of the snarkier quips delivered by the Overstrike team do feel out of place during some of the darker parts of the game’s narrative.
Although its artistic design may not help Fuse stand apart too much from other games in the third-person shooter genre, Fuse‘s gameplay is a different story. The shooting and cover mechanics are very easy to get a grasp on, but the centerpiece of Fuse‘s combat will be each character’s unique fuse weapon. These items each have its own special ability that you can use to devastating effect on the battlefield. Dalton, for example, has a Mag-shield that lets you protect teammates from harm or liquefy enemies with a short-ranged burst of energy. Naya, the stealthy one of the team, has a warp rifle that can cause enemies to warp into miniature black holes and then explode violently, damaging anyone around them. What makes the fuse gear even more interesting to use is how you can chain up different weapon effects to create some destructive combos that can wipe out entire enemy squads in one go. The Overstrike 9 team does have access to the usual collection pistols and assault rifles if you run out of special ammo, but after crystallizing, incinerating, and vaporizing dozens of poor bastards with a high-tech rifle, you’ll find they’re not quite as fun to use.
While Fuse is meant to be played with more than one person through its co-operative mode, if you are by yourself your AI teammates are surprisingly competent. They’ll seek cover, try to flank enemies, come to your rescue if you get knocked downed and use their unique skills and fuse weapons to great effect. You’ll rarely feel like you’ll have to babysit any of the characters you aren’t currently controlling. Plus, you can easily swap between the other members of Overstrike 9 with the push of a button – incredibly useful if you want to try tackling a firefight from another angle, or if you’re not playing with a full team of other players and want to use another character’s fuse ability.
Each character also has their own skill tree which, as gain you experience through defeating enemies, will let you pick from damage bonuses or can unlock extra fuse abilities like a deployable medical beacon or an invisibility cloak. The skill trees do offer some customization over each character and their effectiveness in combat, but given how few options there are in each tree you might wonder why there isn’t something more straightforward in place instead. Plus, there’s no option to have the game automatically level up each character on its own, so there is an unfortunate side effect of having to pause the game to do so whenever you swap characters. It won’t break your flow too often, but it can feel awkward when you’ve gone a long length of time without swapping characters.
One of the more frustrating aspects of Fuse is having to fight the various mini-bosses and bosses you’ll encounter throughout the campaign. Ranging from heavily armed mechs to futuristic gunships, these imposing boss battles can feel tough and challenging – at first. What kills the fun in defeating them, however, is how most bosses aren’t really affected by your special Fuse gear, turning them into bullet sponges you have to whittle down over time. Given how fast-paced combat can be the rest of the time, and how you can wreak some considerable carnage on the poor bastards standing in your way, it’s annoying to learn you can’t use them to the same effect on the giant doom bots.
Once you’re done with Fuse‘s story campaign, you can check out Echelon mode, which pitches the Overstrike 9 team against waves of increasingly tough enemies to rack up a high score and earn bonus experience and fuse credits. While there aren’t too many locales to battle in, Echelon mode keeps things interesting by having random mission objectives, like securing a weapon cache or taking out a high value target within a time limit. It’s a nice addition to the game and can be incredibly challenging, but you probably won’t get much out of it unless you’re playing with other people or you’re really interested in maxing out your character’s skills.
Bottom Line: Some of Fuse‘s flaws, like the grindy boss fights and a storyline that takes itself a little too seriously at times, can harm the experience, but it’s a well built third-person shooter that’s fun to play solo or on a team.
Recommendation: Fuse is a fun action game that old and new fans of third-person shooters will enjoy, but it’s not free of a few speed bumps that hurt the overall experience.[rating=4.0]
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360