Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review: FUSE (PS3)

Insomniacs four player cooperative shooter had a fair amount of stick when it came out, but honestly I struggle to see why reviewers disliked this game.  It does everything well without any superfluous features that clutter the game and it plays exceptionally well.

The story I will admit isn't the most electric out there but it works well enough to propel the story and give the developers a reason for all the crazy tech being used in the gun battles.  Basically the Roswell incident crash really happened in this world and scientists after decades of research have extracted a material from the alien ship known as FUSE.  This substance can be combined with any other material to create entirely new elements and even weapons which is a big feature of the game.

Early on you acquire your FUSE powered weapons each designed around a specific type of play.  The shield can block pretty much any projectile attack and turn enemies into goo  at close range.  The crossbow can impale foes while others turn targets into crystal or rip them apart with mini singularity shots.  In the story you play as one of four members of a squad known as Overstrike a private military corporation that is in competition with rival PMC Raven.  Overstrike are sent into a highly classified facility that has come under attack by Raven who aim to steal the vast quantity of FUSE equipment stored there.  The subsequent chase takes you through a wide array of locations from underground base, under sea facility, mountain outpost, Indian palace, remote Chinese island and eventually space.

It's all very tongue in cheek James Bond style stuff.  The pseudo science and banter are aplenty here and the cast is fun if not a little bland.  Overstrike features four playable characters each with their own reasons for chasing Raven.  Dalton is the sarcastic former Raven mercenary with a dark past, Naya is the deadly sniper assassin searching for her father, Izzy is the sexy scientist and Jacob is the ex cop with a grudge.  The team is really there so you can blast people in interesting ways with super weapons really, they aren't irritating or anything just a little bland.

The majority of the gameplay focuses on shooting, lots of it.  Your team will be moving through each level from shooting gallery to corridor to the next gallery.  No different from a lot of third person cover shooters really.  The friendly AI when playing singleplayer are actually pretty helpful, they kill soldiers, use special weapons and revive each other and the player without issue.  The pathfinding is pretty smart too with the AI being able to navigate the maps easy enough to get to you if need reviving.

With combat being the meat of the game it's just as well it works well.  Chest high walls litter every gallery and enemies come thick and fast.  These maps though are generally quite large and allow for flanking attacks during particularly big firefights.  The weapon selection is sadly a little on the small side with only two rifles, two pistols a sniper rifle and a shotgun.  This is a little disappointing since shooters generally have a wide range of weapons to keep things interesting.  Still the selection each have their strength and weaknesses and you will find which one works best for you early on.  The only negative to the combat is the fact that weapons don't seem to do damage quickly enough unless you get headshots.  After a while you will be picking off enemies via headshot anyway but in the early stages body shooting doesn't give the necessary results.

Enemy variety is decent enough though ranging from grunts who use cover, throw grenades to flush you out and move in for melee attacks when you get too close.  Snipers can be deadly with their jetpacks allowing them to move around the arena after every shot.  Special forces can use their jetpacks to jump onto you, forcing a rapid button mashing session to prevent a shotgun to the face.  Cloaked enemies can sneak up and grab you again forcing another button mash sequence.  Larger enemies come in the form of power armour of flame, Gatling gun and rocket varieties.  Finally there are several bosses each of which involve a lot of shooting for the glowing weakspots.

Some stages try to give you the option of stealth but they never really work as intended.  You can generally get away with killing the first few guards without being detected but eventually the AI will see you anyway and things go pear shaped quickly.  There isn't any punishment for failing these sections other than failing the challenge set before you.

Outside of the campaign there is a horde mode which you can play solo or with friends to earn extra credits and experience for the characters.  FUSE has a light RPG system in place which involves acquiring experience throughout the levels.  Experience can be gained by completing objectives, killing enemies and finding experience canisters dotted around the maps.  The skill trees for each character focus on improving their unique weapons or unlocking new abilities such as deployable shields for Dalton.  The characters damage and accuracy can also be improved as they level.  Credits however are spent on team buffs which can be anything from improved health, damage, accuracy, ammunition and more.  Finding credits is much like finding experience but each skill costs a fair amount so you won't be unlocking all of the skills in a single playthrough.

FUSE looks pretty enough although it isn't aiming to push the technical boundaries of the console.  Characters animate nicely with some rather comic style executions and stealth kills.  FUSE weapon effects are pretty cool with yellow lightning arcing around as you fire them.  The levels are generally detailed although being a cover shooter, many areas are recycled at times.  Still the detail in the maps is good and their is enough variety in the locations you visit to keep things from getting boring.

The audio is actually quite good too.  Weapons sound powerful with the starting pistol sounding like a cannon each time it's fired.  The FUSE weapons each sound alien with the usual hums, whines and cracks you would expect to hear in XCOM.  The dialogue is delivered well by a cast that get past some of the more corny dialogue without making it sound as bad as it is at times.  Probably the worst voice over is by Steve Blum who just does what he always does which is speak with a slight accent, this time being vaguely stereotyped Russian.   The music is wholly forgettable and while writing this I struggle to remember a single tune from the entire experience.

Overall FUSE is a decent shooter, it doesn't aim to be the best of it's genre nor does it fail in any particular area.  The shooting mechanics are solid, the characters are fine and the graphics are generally good.  It doesn't have any issues with glitches or bugs and has competent AI that doesn't need babysitting the entire time.  It might not be Gears of War but it does a great job of being a cooperative shooter.

SCORE: 8.5/10


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