Fuse Hands-on Preview -- Overstrike Gets an OverhaulBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Sep 12, 2012
Up ahead, dozens of guards patrol the heavily fortified entrance to an equally heavily fortified military compound. Two guards are manning turrets above either side of the massive steel door leading into the compound behind them. Cement blockades, a military-grade truck, and various military facility-appropriate accoutrements fill out the courtyard (radio towers, power breakers, chain link fences, etc.). From our infiltration point in a nearby tunnel, my Overstrike 9 team gets into position.
Dalton Brooks, the tank of the group, takes point, bringing up his sizable energy shield to keep us covered. Jacob Kimble, aka me, aims his Arc Shot--a crossbow with a scope that also happens to shoot people-melting bolts--through the shield and lines up a shot on one of the turret guards. Activating her cloaking device, Nya Devaro sneaks around behind some crates on the east side of the courtyard, and takes cover behind a barricade, ready to strike. Izzy Sinclair settles in behind Dalton’s shield, eying the small group of enemies huddling by the facility entrance and preparing to work her crowd control magic with the help of her crystallizing Shatter Gun.
Three…two…one…Go! And like that, chaos ensues, and we are in the thick of Insomniac Games’ new third-person shooter Fuse, aka the game formerly known as Overstrike.
I take out one of the turret guards with a bolt to the dome, and then use the Arc Shot’s alternate fire to spill molten mercury to turn the other guard into a pill of goop. Nya pops out from her flanking position and unloads with her Warp Rifle, coating a handful of grouped up enemies with the gun’s singularity-inducing bullets, which unleashes a massive explosion that instantly vaporizes every enemy nearby. Izzy catches some enemies trying to hide behind cover, but a few choice Shatter Gun rounds crystallizes the guards, pushing them up and out of their cozy hiding places as they wait helplessly to be shattered into a million pieces by a shot or two from one of her teammates.
At this point, you're probably wondering just what the hell all of this flashy and gnarly action is all about. Of course, knowing the pedigree of Insomniac Games, you no doubt expect something epic, sci-fi-y, and humorous with lots of wild weaponry. And for the most part, this seems to be what Insomniac is going for with Fuse, albeit with a bit less snark and much more blood and guts than it had when it was Overstrike; after all, the game had been rated Teen, and it is now rated Mature.
The story--the little we know about it that is--goes something like this: Raven, a rogue paramilitary group, steals Fuse, an alien substance that the government has been keeping under wraps and experimenting with since the 1940s, from a government facility. It’s up to your elite squad of soldiers, aka Overstrike 9, to pursue Raven all over the world “and beyond,” suggesting we can expect an alien planet/facility level at some point, in an attempt to regain control of Fuse before it can be used to destroy the entire planet.
At the start of the game, you and your three squadmates are sent to investigate the military facility that once housed the Fuse source. As you move through the destroyed base, you come across a number of Fuse prototype weapons. These Fuse weapons are the result of the military trying to stabilize Fuse by combining it with earthly substances like ferrofluid (Dalton’s shield) and antimatter (Nya’s Warp Rifle). The four unique Fuse weapons that each of the characters acquires and use for the rest of the game also define their particular character class.
Nya is an area of effect and stealth extraordinaire. Jacob is the sniper. Izzy excels in crowd control while doubling as the medic (she can fire health crystals that heal anyone in their immediate area). Dalton is the energy shield-toting tank.
Now, making sure that unique Insomniac feel shines through and delivering a big, sweeping story are obviously front of mind, but as Insomniac founder and CEO Ted Price explained, the team has an even more singular vision for Fuse.
“Like all of our games at Insomniac, we place a great emphasis on creating new unique characters and deep stories that will drive you along as you are playing through the game. But at the core of this game is four-player co-op.”
The evidence of the developer’s focus on the co-op experience is all over the screen as you play the game. As enemies disintegrate, shatter, melt, explode, and liquefy, XP indicators pop up at a constant pace, even when it appears that someone hasn’t done anything directly to earn them (i.e. kill an enemy or revive a fallen teammate). As Price explained, Fuse is designed to reward players for working together in a way that goes beyond simple assist points.
For instance, whenever someone takes out an enemy while shooting through Dalton’s shield, the shooter gets bonus points but what’s even better is that Dalton gets points as well for providing the cover. With four unique characters each sporting four unique weapons (equipped with two alternate attacks), in addition to the three extra slots for a light gun, heavy gun, and grenade, the combination possibilities are endless.
Another benefit of working together is something called Fusion. As you perform various tasks on the battlefield, you charge up your Fusion meter. When the meter is full, it can be triggered to temporarily give your team a power boost. This also changes the effects of the Fuse weapons, so, for instance, Nya's Warp Rifle doesn't overheat and Dalton’s energy shield has unlimited blasts (which basically sends out an energy wave that gets built up as more enemies shoot at you).
For all its power benefits though, Fusion is much more about strategy, especially since it can be used to instantly revive any downed allies. Communication is obviously a big part of Fuse's design, and knowing when to trigger it can be the difference between success and failure.
Digging down deeper into player progression, each character also has a unique skill tree complete with 12 weapon and skill upgrades that can be purchased with Fuse points earned during the game. Character progression also carries across single-player and co-op (multiplayer has yet to be discussed or even confirmed), so no matter how you’re playing, you’re always working towards improving your characters’ overall progress.
And while the game is meant to be experienced with other players, more solitary types will still be able to play the entire campaign solo, swapping between characters at will, and earning Fuse points all the time. In fact, as long as there is one AI controlled slot, players can hop into whichever character is open. When four people are playing, you’ll also have the option of changing characters between missions.
Back in the now cleared courtyard, it’s time to split up. Two people break left, open a grate, and jump down into the sewers below. Me and the remaining teammate go right, hop a fence, plant two charges on a wall, and blast our way into the facility proper. At the same time, the other two-person squad pops up downstairs and proceeds to fight their way up to us.
In order to progress to the next area, we have to face a seemingly endless horde of enemies, some of which arrive by truck, some by helicopter. Regardless of how they arrive, they all meet the same stylishly violent end, as do their vehicles with the help of turrets and Fuse grenades. With the area secured, a previously locked door opens, and we proceed, encountering a good old fashioned laser grid.
Touching the grid means instant death and game over, so two spry teammates climb onto two control stations on either side of the grid, hop inside, and hack the security system to turn off the lasers and grant us access to an elevator that can take us to our next position.
Environmental traversal plays a big part in Fuse's overall gameplay. Even from the little bit I saw, this maneuverability gives the game a decidedly different feel compared to other cover-based third-person shooters. In fact, because of how fluidly you're able to move around the environments, Fuse feels more like recent Splinter Cell games than, say, a Gears of War, especially when you pull a dude off a ledge with a knife to the leg and kneck.
The final sequence of the demo introduces one of the game’s major baddies, the Enforcer. This towering bot sports a jetpack and targeted missiles. As he flies between ground level and the surrounding balcony, shattering through cement banisters as he does, our squad works to avoid getting bunched up. One of the Enforcers primary attacks is an energy ring that secures players in place, making them sitting ducks for more punishing abuses.
After unleashing a phenomenal amount of Fuse-powered ammo into the hulking mech, we finally see a chance to do some real damage after the Enforcer picks up one of our teammates who had been caught with the energy ring. Picking him up exposes the enemy’s gooey insides, which we promptly obliterate, causing the entire bot to explode into a fiery mess. And with that, our first look at Fuse came to an end.
After watching the original trailer for Overstrike again, it’s obvious that quite a bit has changed tonally and stylistically, but that core four-player co-op experience looks to be very much intact. And the fact that the game has a sort of Resistance meets Ratchet and Clank vibe to it doesn’t hurt either, and actually bodes quite well for Insomniac’s first venture into the realm of multi-platform development. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but color me genuinely intrigued to see more of Fuse as we move closer to its Q1 2013 release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.