This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Fuse.
Hey Valve, you know I love you guys, love you a lot more if you released a fucking game now and then, but you've got a lot to answer for for starting the whole four player co-op shooter thing, one of the current models of choice for the money-powered emotionless robots who have intergrated into human society as game producers. I know four is the maximum number of people who can play split-screen at once, but it's a troublesome number to have to work with. As they say, two's company, three's a crowd, four's awkward to get through a narrow doorway.
Well, like it or not, four-player co-op shooter's a genre, and where there's "genre", there's "generic," which brings me to Fuse, a game that was called Overstrike when it was first announced, but was apparently renamed in some excruciating rehauling process when I guess it wasn't turning out as mind-blowingly innovative as that title would have implied. Must take a lot of determination to coincide a game with not one, but two spirited attempts at the Guiness World Record for "Most Generic Title for a Shooter in the History of the Universe." If only they could channel that into the actual game!
Still it comes to us from Insomniac Games and their previous shooter Resistance 3 managed to reach the dizzy heights of basically okay so OverFuse had some big- well, slightly more than sensibly proportioned shoes to fill.
We are introduced to Overstrike, a team of four mercenaries on diverse ends of the gender/racial spectrum who are all jaded ex-something or other veterans despite none of them being older than thirty. They're helicoptered into a classified government research facility to recover classified weapons tech - *yawns* Sorry Fuse, you're not boring me, I was just up late last night, please continue with your crap story.
Well, the weapons tech gets stolen by an evil (all together now) private military corporation with seemingly limitless funding, resources and personnel who all wear full body armor all the time including face-covering helmets you'd think by rights they wouldn't be able to see out of. Our heroes must overcome their jaded cynicism and cynical jadedness to do the right thing and save the world from the evil PMC before they can make up their bloody mind whether they're gonna sell the stolen technology to the highest bidder or just blow up the world with it. You know what, Fuse, I take it back. You are boring me!
Perhaps it was a good idea to not name the game after the main characters, and, indeed, to employ box-art that literally cuts off the main characters' heads so that the focus can be on the guns. The reason why I suggested thinking twice before you pledge yourself to four-player co-op is that if you do that, you need to come up with enough personality traits to go around four characters and Fuse by my estimate only has enough for one character and maybe also a dog.
- There's a cartoonishly big white dude who used to work for the evil PMC. He's about as well-rounded as it gets and I'm not talking about his upper arms! *weak laughter*
- Then there's Girl Character A who harbors daddy issues like a paddling pool harbors an ocean liner and, despite deliberately estranging herself from her father, now has no motivation in life other than finding him again so that he can finally take her to Disney World or something.
- Then there's Girl Character B who explains her entire character at one point with the three words "I hate people" but never says or does anything that might express such feeling. She shoots a lot of people but then who doesn't?
- And finally Black Man, who's just happy to be here.
When these four powder-keg personalities rub together on the battlefield, the result is the kind of explosive chemistry matched only by a big piece of wood in a pond!
There's something slightly surreal about playing a game single-player when it's obviously designed for co-op. It's like getting through an average day with your wallet, phone and keys tied around the necks of three dogs who hang back and stare at you gormlessly while you clear out the room at which point they all run over to the door to the next room, waggling their tails in anticipation of walkies. Although one way the single-player gets spiced up a but is that you can switch between the four characters Clive Barker's Jericho style. Urgh, I just thought about Clive Barker's Jericho! Thanks a lot, Fuse!
It's not a winning feature 'cos I ended up using the same character the whole way through anyway and the few interesting aspects of combat depended on characters working in conjunction. For example, many rooms suggest stealth-killing as many guards as you can before resorting to all-out firefight like it's taped a slice of processed ham to its chest and said "Feel our many different textures". But to do that to any significant degree, you need to be able to take out more than one guy simultaneously because they're all looking at each other and in single-player, the three AI partners just sit around the entrance of the room sniffing at each other's butts.
The other thing that makes me think of Clive Barker is that thing I said earlier, besides being stuck with the old Hobson's choice of which twat-blast to possess next, is that every character has a different magic gun with different effects. Desperate Dan has a magic shield and everyone else has guns that make people die if you keep pointing them correctly. Well, maybe I'd be less dismissive of them if the rest of the game wasn't so bloody boring!
It's one of those games that can't think of any way to curve the difficulty up as it goes except to just keep increasing the number of enemies. Eight hours in, I was only on mission five 'cos every mission was tortuously stretched out into room after room after room of inexhaustible supplies of dudes with way too much health who just keep spawning and spawning and talking in run-on sentences. The environments stop making sense. One mission allegedly takes place in someone's safe house but the place resembles a fucking space emperor's villa! Ah, the only manmade structure visible from the moon, that would make a good hiding place.
Playing Fuse is like having a conversation with a really thick person. "Alright Fuse, what have you got for me?" "Cover-based shooting!" "Yeah, that's pretty evident, what else have you got?" "...I don't get you." "Well, cover-based shooting is more of a connecting element than a central one. What do you have besides cover-based shooting?" "...You could stand up." "If I stood up, would I get shot?" "Yes."
I could just as easily be describing the enemy AI there actually. There's one bit where there's two different factions of enemy soldiers fighting each other and their firefights were the most retarded spectacle in the history of warfare. There are about half a dozen buggers on each team standing on opposite sides of the room surrounded by cover but all standing upright perfectly still and firing incessantly at each other's faces and because they all had so much health and their bullets were so piss weak, this went on for minutes until one bloke thought to lob a grenade like an elderly man playing bowls on a lawn.
"What should we do to counteract the shit AI, guys?" "I know! Let's spawn twice as many of the fuckers, that'll sort it out!" Spawning more dudes doesn't solve anything, Fuse, except maybe an unsatisfactory sex life!
Infused with vodka: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
So it turns out entering 'fuse box' in Google Image search doesn't get you very far
I suppose it was the enemy who were 'overstriking' if anyone was