Sometimes, in an attempt to judge a game on its own merits, we lose the overarching story surrounding that experience. Where did you get the game? How much did you pay? What was your experience like playing it? For most critics, it’s important to isolate and remove those details, to try to give an unbiased account of the game as it is, even though a review is still entirely opinion-based. Hey, people don’t want to read your blog, they want to know what you think of a game, that approach makes sense. But in this one case, I’m going to break from the pack and tell you how it really went down.
I am a member of GameFly, which I used to explain as Netflix for video games, but that makes less sense now since no one rents discs from Netflix anymore. I like GameFly, they ship from Seattle so I get games fast and their “keep it” option means I can get “like new” used games on the cheap. This is especially nice because they give members discounts on purchases based on how long you’ve been subscribed, consecutively. Sometimes they even sell games they have to many copies of on the cheap. Fuse was one of those games, I picked it up a couple weeks ago for less than $10.
I wasn’t super excited about Fuse, based on the reviews I had read about it, but I figured it would be fine. It sounded like the most OK game of all time, but it was an Insomniac game, and despite never really loving an Insomniac game, I think those guys are all right. So I bought it and I got it and I played it over a few weekday afternoons when I wanted to put off doing the things I needed to do.
Fuse is the story of a team of misfit commandos trying to stop an evil PMC from using an alien substance called, shockingly, Fuse. To do this, they themselves use Fuse-based weapons to slaughter thousands of people. The whole story kind of feels like a super generic GI Joe knock off, devoid of the brazen goofiness that makes that cartoon still remarkable. Our heroes are white guy, black guy, tough lady, and stealth lady. They each have one Fuse weapon – a shield, a sniper crossbow, a crystallization assault rifle, and a black hole machine gun. As you might imagine, the two girls with their way cooler, offensive guns are a lot more fun to play.
This game is clearly meant to be played with three friends, but if you chose to solo it like I did, you’re free to jump between all the whole team, letting you use your favorite set up for each situation. But the situations are basically shoot a lot of guys, do some light platforming, and fight a boss, so don’t expect to really ever want to use shield guy, despite his ability to absorb and shoot back bullets being pretty cool. Honestly, I played each mission as one of the characters, then stuck with the lady with the crystallization gun the rest of the game.
Levels in Fuse are long, with numerous firefights broken up a few objective segments and, as I said before, some light platforming. The platforming is super easy, the controls are tight, I always knew where I was going, and I feel like you probably couldn’t die without trying. So it all comes down to the shooting… Which is fine. It’s weird, because Insomniac is known for the inventive guns in their games, that the combat feels so spectacularly run-of-the-mill. It’s cover-based combat that isn’t bad, but no where near as satisfying as Gears of War. With only four Fuse weapons at your disposal, that twist on the shooting feels like it didn’t go nearly far enough. Mass Effect wasn’t an amazing shooter either, but it made it work by throwing in so many fun powers you didn’t have to shoot if you didn’t want to – Insomniac needed to step it up to make this game stand out.
But whatever, Fuse was OK. It cost me roughly a matinee movie ticket and gave me some great procrastination fodder. I wish it was better, I wish it was really special, but it’s a game that played it safe in every aspect. Which is too bad, because if you go back to the original Overstrike trailer, it’s hard not to think that Fuse got focus grouped to death. And hey, if you want to shoot for the middle, it’s hard to get any closer than Fuse.