We’ve been discussing FUSE on our FB page for sometime. Now a demo is out, let’s see if at the preview stage we are still excited…
Let’s break down what FUSE is, in terms of genre, background and expectations. It’s a third person, cover based shooter, with group dynamics. It’s produced by Insomniac, known for the Resistance franchise AND Ratchet and Clank (not a bad pedigree for a developer). It’s for PC, Xbox and PS3, and will be out very shortly. In this ‘dry patch’ of releases, you might be tempted to buy this game. We will be delivering a review, but we have played the demo and wanted to share our initial thoughts.
So the best way to reference the gameplay in FUSE is Vanquish+Left for Dead+Uncharted Co-Op+Gears of Wars+RPG. The game looks nice, but is nothing special. Coming this late into a console’s life cycle you would hope that it would stand out a little, and whilst it doesn’t look bad, it doesn’t look amazing. One of the early scenes involves a tiny bit of climbing up a rock face, jumping between ledges. It’s clumsy, and if we take Uncharted as the benchmark of this type of gameplay, then FUSE is well off the mark. This was a tiny scene, and one hopes there is little vertical climbing in the final game.
The enemies are very repetitive in their looks, except for the two end of level big bosses we encounter in the demo. Whilst the average enemy is pretty dumb, the end of level bosses chased intelligently, and have some super cool tricks up their sleeves (such as the ability to vanish and reappear elsewhere on the map).
In the demo we are allowed to experience 3 areas of play. Each is in effect a small ‘map’. The game feels boxy as a result, rather than an open flowing environment (even if that environment is broken up into segments as in Uncharted or Gears of War). However, the environments Insomniac place us in have lots of blind spots and LOTS of Gears of War style cover. Whilst the average enemy soldier lacks the AI of the big bosses, they make up for it in numbers, and by covering lots of angles and multiple vertical levels it creates a challenge purely from the number of positions from which they can pick you off.
Moving between cover is easy, and this is where the group play starts to make sense. There are four characters, each with a very distinct choice of weapons. We have your typical close quarter specialists, snipers (and healers) and general purpose soldiers, and ‘tank’ type character able to soak the damage. Some of the special weapons are pretty cool, with deployable shields, guns that turn enemies into statues for a short period of time, or weapons that create black holes around enemies and suck them to oblivion. In addition, as is the fashion these days, it’s possible to level up your character and abilities.
Combine the cover system, the multi-angled maps, and the distinct roles of the four soldiers and you have a nice strategic challenge. The game can be played single player, allowing you to switch between the different soldiers, but this felt pretty lifeless and the game AI, whilst not ‘stupid’, didn’t seem very human. The demo came to life when we entered a quickmatch with three team mates via Xbox Live. This is where the title felt like Uncharted, with players supporting each other, reviving each player as a real team would.
There is a narrative, but in the short space of the demo it felt flat. I think the game is going to go for a Battlefield Bad Company vibe with the characters all being a wee bit dodgy, but with circumstance bringing them together to take on the bad guys. So expect lots of gags and one liners throughout. However we will have to wait for the full game to see if Insomniac have achieved the type of narrative depth witnessed in Gears of War and Uncharted.
So to summarise, FUSE is shaping up to be a credible, team based shooter. It doesn’t look like it’s going to one of those end of generation games which showcase what old hardware can do (that’ll be ‘The Last of Us’), but it does look like it’s going to be a lot of fun, if played online. Watch out for the review to see if it can sustain that fun for more than 20 minutes….