When FUSE (formerly Overstrike) caught my attention, I was surprised that the project was seen through to completion. The ideas didn’t seem terribly unique: four player co-operative shooting with futuristic weapons and “deeply flawed” characters have been promised before, but I rarely turn down the opportunity for a shooter when I see one. Unfortunately, FUSE reminds me why shooters are getting a bit long in the tooth, and why “good enough” just can’t cut it any more.
The military worship continues in FUSE: Overstrike 9, a group of black ops specialists, is sent in to a top secret government weapons lab to look for a missing senator. At the same time the team faces off against Raven Corporation, a paramilitary organisation intent on snatching up Fuse, an alien substance. Overstrike 9 comes across a set of weapons based on the xeno-material, and antics ensue as they move from location to location with old army buddy relationships, bizarre familial cameos, and cheesy dialogue in plentiful supply along the way. When the characters engaged in playful banter on relationship issues, I expected the canned sitcom laughter to follow. It’s rough.
The presentation doesn’t fare too well, either. The opening title greets you with an Inception brass blare and a slick interface, but the in-game graphics look watered down in the hopes of preserving some modicum of performance…somewhere. Weapon effects and other visual elements do not look like they come from the tail end of a console generation; it felt like Prototype with considerably less chaos happening on screen. (Needless to say, those promotional screenshots are more than misleading.)
The gameplay is what pulls FUSE back from the brink. Overstrike 9 is armed with a small but impressive arsenal: the Magshield can absorb incoming rounds and send out a short range pulse, the Arcshot is a long-range crossbow that immolates enemies, the Shattergun encases enemies in crystal, and the Warp Rifle generates black holes that can set off a series of chain reactions. Weapon effects can be combined for more impressive results and a higher score, enforcing the idea of teammates combining their weapon abilities, rather than every team member for themselves. The Fuse weapons are backed up with more conventional pistol / rifle / shotgun / sniper options to help break the monotony.
The game is built for co-operative play, accommodating up to four players at once. Solo gamers can choose whether or not to allow others to drop in, or simply play offline entirely and be at the mercy of the game’s atrocious AI. If the computer-controlled teammates aren’t hiding in cover indefinitely, they’ll be rolling through gunfire to risk their own life and using their secondary abilities in inappropriate times. I felt obligated several times to use the character with the Magshield, and prayed that the rest of my team had the good sense to take cover behind me.
Simply put, FUSE lacks vision. It sets out to meet expectations for a 3rd-person shooter, but no more. Its risk-averse gameplay becomes grating, and the novelty of its alien-tech inventory props it up only for so long. It follows the third-person action formula to the T, and sharing the bland experience with friends may not even be enough to set it apart from any other title. If you’re still keen on taking a look at this, you’ll probably be able to find this one in a trade-in bin, doomed to obscurity.
Reviewed for Xbox 360