The first time I played the game, when I was by myself, I got bored and gave up very quickly. So I’ll make this clear from the outset: mechanically, when you play a single level at a time and don’t have the chance to experience the game’s levelling system or explore its multiplayer quirks, then this is a very, very standard cover-based shooter. It’s a shooter with weapons that have unique visual effects and a shooter with well-above average ally AI (even if the enemy AI is nothing to write home about), but it’s a shooter.
Fuse follows the standard formula of corridor-room-with-enemies-corridor-stealth-kill-opportunity that we are so used to now with almost every shooter. That much is well beneath the creativity I would expect from a studio as talented as Insomniac.
But then, the second time around I got to play the game in multiplayer, and for a long enough period that I got to play around with the character levelling system. Then it came alive for me. The mechanically-sound combat mechanics become more exciting when players are encouraged to combine the effects of their character’s weapons to deal massive damage. I became more attached to my character because I was personally customising her skills and strengths as I levelled up. There is something genuinely compelling about shooting through an energy shield conjured up by one ally to take down an enemy that another had just pinned to a wall.
Most importantly, the rooms in which the combat takes place are constructed to encourage players work together to avoid being outflanked. In one instance during the demo my entire team was wiped out by an especially challenging mix of monsters in our first two attempts at it. We took off our headphones (we were playing local multiplayer) and started to work out a strategy to tackle the room a third time. It was a rudimentary strategy session, sure, and once we gave each person a specific role we nailed the room with ease, but I just don’t play shooters that require teamwork typically. I just don’t care for the experience. And yet here I was having a great time with this game. I’m not entirely certain what it is about Fuse that is so compelling to me, but it’s enough to get me keen for the game’s final release.
I do wish that Fuse had a more distinctive art style – it’s playing things a little too seriously for a plot that is actually lighthearted underneath, but that aside I am looking forward to the final release of the game. Just make sure you’ve got a healthy friends list because you’re going to need it to get the most out of the game.