The Average Gamer

Fuse Preview: Co-Op with Class

FUSE - Dalton Naya Izzy in Cover
Earlier this week EA released this video of upcoming team shooter Fuse. Formerly known as Overstrike, Fuse follows the story of a mercenary team called Overstrike 9 on their mission to investigate the unexpected closure of a government installation called Hyperia Base.

I played the game at an EA showcase last week and if you’re the sort of person who watched 18-minute promo videos on the internet, this is basically the presentation they gave us.

For the rest of you who like to get your games info in written form, here’s the general gist.

Fuse is a four-player co-op shooter that can also be played with up to two players split-screen or even single player with the AI. Immediately I’m interested because there haven’t been enough co-op games lately that you can share in your living room. (Yes, Borderlands 2 only I find it dull and yes, Minecraft only you can’t see what the hell you’re building in split-screen. And yes, Resident Evil 6 which… has its own problems that I will share in a forthcoming post.)

The premise at Hyperia Base is that “the government” have been researching an alien substance called Fuse. This orangey glowing stuff bonds with Earthly elements to given them new properties. In this base, the unspecified government’s research project has conveniently produced four different types of weapon which our band of plausibly-deniable mercenaries claim for their grubby mitts at the earliest opportunity.

Based on the videos we watched, the writers have put a lot of emphasis on the four playable characters and worked to ensure they don’t all come across as dudebro macho black ops types. For a start, two of them are female:

  • Dalton Brooks is the lead and tank of the game. He carries a Magshield which absorbs energy and can also release it in a wave that blasts enemies off their feet. Dalton used to work for another mercenary group called Raven whose members will be popping up all through the game, waiting to be shot.
  • Izzy Sinclair wields the Shattergun. This coats her enemies in a pillar of black, crystalline substance that, unsurprisingly, can be shattered and kill them. Her secondary fire is a healing grenade. Izzy used to be an intelligence broker and, as seen in the video, she doesn’t always follow Dalton’s orders.
  • Jacob Kimble is an ex-LAPD detective with a tendency towards vigilantism. He wields the Arcshot, a fancy crossbow which, in game terms, is a rifle with bits sticking out the side. The arcshot’s bolts are a type of sticky bomb. Shoot them into your enemy’s head or on the floor and use the secondary fire to detonate.
  • Naya Deveraux is your team’s wildcard. She’s an ex-assassin and, rather inconveniently, the daughter of the Raven leader. Her Warp Rifle create “singularities” which are man-sized whirling areas that disable her opponents or can be used to put her in invisible stealth mode

Insomniac Games have a developed a co-op system that’s far more overt than the complementary skill trees of Borderlands 2. Dalton’s Magshield is a huge transparent distortion, 8 feet high and probably 12 feet wide. Shoot through the shield and you get extra experience points. Or better still, use Naya’s Warp Rifle through the shield to disturb your enemies, Izzy’s Shattergun to immobilise them and Jacob’s Arcshot to shatter the crystals and put them down for good. You can see this demonstrated in the video above from timestamp 14:00.

In practice, this goes a long way towards building the bond between you and your teammates. You quickly start feeling vulnerable if the rest of your team aren’t nearby and the bonuses should be substantial enough to encourage co-operation. You’ll also fill your “fusion” meter faster, which is the typical overdrive mode that makes you temporarily superpowered and able to take on the world.

Another nice touch is Leap feature, as Insomniac are calling it. At any point in the game you can leap between AI-controlled characters. Got Izzy trapped by a turret while that idiot AI Jacob shoots away at exposed soldiers that you could easily take down?

No worries. Jump into Jacob, use his arcshot to detonate a flaming bomb behind the turret and then back into Izzy to push forward. Your teammates can do the same, so if there are fights over who gets to be Dalton, just wait for your friend to leap out and hop in when his back’s turned.

The small section we played had me playing Jason as the team invaded an enemy base, took out everyone inside and then used the base’s defences to repel a wave of attackers attempting to reclaim it. The action was quite fast-paced – we had only a minute or two to switch from attack to defence. Some quick exploration found that you won’t always be encouraged to hide behind Dalton’s shield. Turrets were mounted on the upper floor and slow-loading rockets gave an enjoyable balance of balls-out firepower vs switching back to my arcshot for the better-defended enemies.

My one complaint lies with the controls and this is clearly a legacy from my hours with Gears of War. When you run towards chest-high cover holding down the A button, you’ll leap over the cover instead of coming to a nice protected stop behind it. Several times, I was knocked out trying frantically to leap back over the crates I’d inadvertently vaulted and into a safe space. It’s frustrating and I can’t see a good reason to move the cover control to a different button.

I may have only played for 10 minutes but I really enjoyed what I saw. As a third-person, split-screen, co-op game, I’m definitely going to watch the development of Fuse. I like that there’s a choice of female characters and that co-op is actively rewarded over solo heroics. Even the dialogue seems like a real team of people who aren’t above some mischievous behaviour even though they’re serious about the mission itself.

Fuse is scheduled for release in March 2013.