Fuser is the latest from Harmonix, the team behind classics like Rock Band and Dance Central. I already knew this of course, but the studio’s marketing director wanted to make sure, name-dropping those games alongside DropMix as the precursors and influences of this latest DJ-centric adventure. After a hands-off demonstration, I posited that Fantasia Music Evolved should be added to the top of that list.
Gone is the need for plastic peripherals or even a Kinect camera – Fuser puts you in the shoes of a DJ, letting you mix beats from four different sources at a virtual music festival. Easy to learn and hard to master, a player can drop (and queue) discs to create a unique track and can further enhance it by creating and adding instrument loops, changing keys, tempos and more. While a single-player campaign gamifies the experience by setting timed objectives (add the keys from Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” or have two different drum beats at the same time, as examples), a crowd meter that assesses engagement and a point-tallying, star-based rating system, a freestyle mode will let creative types mix to their heart’s content (even with a friend). If you’re the competitive type, you’ll also be able to duke it out with up to three others too.
You’ve got to walk before you can run though, and the campaign is a perfect way to not only get used to mechanics, but also earn in-game cosmetics to pretty up your player character and their DJ stage. In a world where expression and accessibility is important, I was delighted to find can you have overwhelming control when it comes your on-screen avatar. There are absolutely zero gendered options for your character, so you can customise them to be someone who identifies as a boy, girl, or whomever they please. It a small, subtle touch but one I’m sure many will appreciate. Your character is very fluid in design and body language, and that’s a true comfort — they are who they are. It’s all about love at this here festival.
It’s one thing to watch someone playing Fuser and another to play yourself, so Harmonix kindly provided me with a preview build to mix my own tracks. Sadly, I wasn’t able to capture or record any of my work, but I will say this: like I recorded an amazing mix of “Take Care” by Drake inside Music Evolved for use in my regular playlist rotation, I’ve already done the same for Fuser. Harmonix has embraced this style of thinking for the full retail release, with a robust set of sharing options planned for launch. It’s another thing altogether to hear Fuser for yourself, so you can check out a Harmonix master at work mixing a short set below.
Experts aside, I can’t wait to see what the community will ultimately create because the possibilities are endless. Not only will we have 100 songs on the soundtrack to access from launch, spanning not only different periods of music (the 60s through to today), but different genres (country, hip-hop, rap, dance, carribean and more) as well. Add in the ability to record your own samples and change pitch and the like and my mind is already blown.
Fuser will be a lot of things for a lot of people, but to me it’s an extension of Fantasia Music Evolved. It’s a tool for expression, to embrace your musical preferences and engage with them in a way most of us haven’t done before. I took my preview build to a family birthday this past weekend, sharing its message and making instant fans of those who gave it a go. You’ll feel the same if you open yourself up to the tools it provides.
Fuser is planned for a release on Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch later this year.