By Nicholas Simonovski
In 2011, I said that Shadows of the Damned was my sleeper hit of the year. It wasn’t necessarily the best game I’d played that year -- it didn’t have innovative gameplay or even generation-defining graphics. It wasn’t a game that I’d heard too much about before release either, nor one that I hadn’t expected too much from, but it was a game that I walked away from feeling really satisfied with what I had just experienced.
Recently, as I’ve been playing through Fuse over the past few weeks, I think I might have just discovered my sleeper hit of 2013.
The plot of Fuse follows the four agents of the Overstrike 9 team. In the beginning of the game, the team are sent to a secret underground government base called Hyperion, to recover an experimental substance/technology known as "fuse.". Soon into the mission however, we discover that Overstrike 9 aren’t the only group within the base, with a militant company known as Raven breaking into Hyperion to steal the tech.
Being successful in their heist, Raven then plan on using fuse to create weaponry powerful enough to end all life on Earth. With the situation reaching dire levels, it’s up to the Overstrike 9 team to stop them before it’s too late. While it’s nothing new (giant corporation tries to take over/destroy the world, and it’s up to a small team to bring them down), it’s a simple story that’s easy enough to follow and enjoy.
Much like with Shadows of the Damned which I mentioned earlier, it’s obvious that Fuse doesn’t take itself as a super-serious action game; truth be told, I really think it’s all the better for it.
Moving on, perhaps the greatest thing about Fuse is it’s gameplay. While it plays like a third-person cover shooter (which for me is fantastic), it’s the way the special fuse-empowered weapons work which takes this game from just an ordinary shooter, to something so much more satisfying.
Irrespective of the player you choose, each has their own special Xenotech weaponry. Dalton’s weapon allows him to create a shield for his team, Jacob has a long-range crossbow with exploding tips, Naya bears an assault rifle which she can use to create black-holes to engulf her targets, while Izzy’s weapon allows her to crystallise her enemies (which can then be shot at with normal bullets to cause them to shatter apart).
This said however, it isn’t just the special effects of their weaponry that makes things so great, but moreso the tactical layer that both the Xenotech and the characters abilities add to combat when you make them work together. For example, Dalton can use his shield to protect another teammate while they revive a falling ally, or Naya can use her Warp Rifle to chain together a series of implosions that take down multiple enemies at once. With the frequency that large-scale combat scenes take place, there’s more than enough opportunities to learn and hone each characters’ weapons and abilities to make the most of the situation. It really never gets old and you look forward to the opportunity to engage in those massive battles to take down all those Raven opponents.
A significant feature of Fuse that I really liked (and which you’ll realise was at the core of the gameplay I just described) is the way the entire game revolves around this concept of teamwork. From the very basics, where you can choose to play the game either alone with three AI allies or with three friends (any every combination in-between), to the fact that a mission will be failed if even one of the four agents dies in combat, Fuse really pushes the player(s) to think as a team and work as a team. It really hasn’t been since Mass Effect 3 that I’ve come to care about my teammates when they are injured as I have in this game, and it reminds me a lot of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier too (both games which I personally loved). The ability to use L.E.A.P to freely jump between the four characters at will is also a nice touch and adds variety to the game, so you never feel like you’re restricted to just one class.
Amongst all these positives however, there were a few slight niggles I noticed during my playthrough. The first (and really only major) gripe I had with Fuse, was the lack of any real stealth in the game. At multiple points throughout the game you’d be asked to approach a situation silently, but no matter how hard I tried, it always ended in open conflict. Yes, the game allows you to take out enemies quietly from cover, and Naya even has a cloaking ability, but then there are times when you’ll have two targets with their backs facing to you, and while you can take down one silently, the second is always sure to see you and raise an alarm. I don’t think it’s just because I’m a novice at stealth either – if I could pull it off in Hitman Absolution and Ghost Recon, I should have been able to figure it out in this game too.
Apart from that, the only other annoyances I had with the game was the fact that I’d always have to return to the lobby to restart from a checkpoint (rather than from the pause menu), and the game would sometimes revert my secondary weapons from the ones I picked up, to the default guns. Overall though, nothing that was too much of a big deal.
Fuse isn’t a game that’s going to win any awards for the most innovative or engaging story. Fuse isn’t even a game that’s going to be considered in the league of other AAA titles released this year. What Fuse is though, is a genuinely fun shooter that gamers really should owe it to themselves to check out. It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun in a game, where I’ve enjoyed exploring each room or area for any extra cash, XP points or intel (which provides further information on the story and the different weapons/characters). As I started the review, much like Shadows of the Damned, Fuse is a game that didn’t appear to receive too much attention before or after launch, but it’s certainly one that I’ve had great fun playing.