Insomniac pleased a lot of people when they announced a multiplatform title, putting an end to their Sony exclusivity. After the success of the Resistance and Ratchet & Clank series the idea of everyone having chance to enjoy an Insomnic shooter was one the went down very well with the gaming world. With some typically funky weapons and 4 player co-op everything was set up to be pretty damn good. Sadly, it seems a few wrong turns were taken along the way and a game with great potential ends up being a decent, but pretty average shooter.
Taking control of four Overstrike 9 agents you’re chasing after a terrorist grouped named Raven. Your chase takes you through various locations: and underwater facility, a space station and various other futuristic looking metal-clad spots. The hunt takes a familiar approach, using usefully placed cover to keep yourself nicely tucked away between popping your head up and taking a few shots at the bad guys. The weapons on offer range from the fairly standard included-in-every-game options, through to the Insomniac specials that are great fun to start with but lose their shine after a couple of hours. The pick of the bunch is Naya’s warp rifle, letting you tag your enemies by shooting them and setting up brilliant chain reaction explosions which ripple through tagged enemies when you eventually kill one of them.
The other weapons give a nice feeling of balance, offering up a huge shield which lets you shoot through it while blocking enemy fire, a rifle which freezes enemies ready to be smashed into pieces and a crossbow with energy darts which vaporise anyone who gets in the way. They’re everything you’d expect from an Insomniac title, but with each character being limited to a single one of these funky weapons it’s easy for the novelty to wear off before too long.
Half the issue is the slightly repetitive nature of what you end up doing. Enter an area, duck behind some cover, shoot people who get harder and harder to kill as the game progresses, loot whatever is around and move on. It’s a formula which is starting to get a bit tired, and by itself would have made Fuse a bit of a flop, we’re it not for one thing: the co-op.
Teaming up with three other players certainly makes things more enjoyable, assuming each player is willing to communicate throughout. Even though the AI takes control and does a reasonable job of working as a team when you’re alone (and you can easily switch characters on the fly whenever you choose), being able to work together to flank groups of enemies or draw fire away from a nearly-dead teammate is infinitely more satisfying, and is without doubt the only way to play Fuse if you’re planning on getting the most from it.
It’s also pretty tough to get used to the controls. While shooting, crouching and all that takes on the usual buttons on the controller, it’s the movement itself that feels awkward and fiddly. Find yourself standing next to a ladder, turret or control panel but not quite in the right place and it can be an utter pain in the arse to get yourself lined up properly. I’m not quite sure why it’s so difficult, it just sometimes feels like you’re trying to manoeuvre a B&Q trolley into place. The cover system isn’t the best either, and having been spoilt by the finely honed cover found in the Uncharted games you can tell that these guys don’t have a big back catalogue of cover-based games.
On the plus side there is a hell of a lot of shooting to be done. As a result of both large numbers of enemies, and actually large enemies, you’ll get plenty of chance to use that trigger finger. Not only that if you’re done with the main campaign you have a couple of options: replay some missions to try and beat your score, or head to the Echelon mode, which gives you a sod of a challenge by throwing waves of bad guys at you. It’s been done before, but it’s still fun with friends. There are also skill trees for each character, unlocking addition abilities and improving the ones you have, and while they’re a bit shallow they do unlock some niceties. Being able to go invisible for a short while helps with those elusive stealth kills, that’s for sure.
Despite the gripes, there’s a decent game trying to be seen here. It lacks the gritty shooting of Resistance, and doesn’t hit the humour found in Ratchet, but it’s still reasonably enjoyable with a few friends. But that sums the whole experience up for me: you need to make it fully entertaining yourself. Fair enough if Insomniac decided to focus on the co-op side (and with a squad of 4 throughout the game that much seems obvious) but leaving the single player gamers behind isn’t a wise ploy. Get those friends together and you’ll enjoy yourself, both in the campaign and the survival style modes, but don’t expect much if you know your friends aren’t bothering.
Reviewed on PS3