Thursday, 16 May 2013

Preview: Fuse *Hands-On* (360, PS3)

Weapons, weapons and more cool weapons! As a company, that's the general theme of Insomniac Games (IG). Starting with Ratchet and Clank and through the Resistance franchise, both series have featured cool weapons. I still remember seeing the commercial for the original Ratchet and Clank where several guys were sitting in their backyard testing out a weapon called the "morpher" on one of their friends and turning him into a chicken. It was pretty cool and it was my introduction to Insomniac Games.

For the past decade, IG have found themselves working exclusively for Sony on the Ratchet and Clank and Resistiance franchises. A few years ago, IG announced that they had joined forces with Electronic Arts to develop a a multi-platform game whose core focus was on creating a cooperative experience.

Enter, Fuse: a cooperative based third person shooter set in the near future where a secretive alien technology (Fuse) has been stolen from the American military by a rogue private military contractor called Raven. You take control of a band of four misfits with loose ties to the US government, whose objective is to retrieve the stolen technology:
Dalton Brooks -  Is able to deploy a mag shield that can protect himself and his teammates from enemy fire. His teammates can fire through the magshield at enemies.
Jacob Kimble - Carries a fire crossbow that can be used to ignite enemies. He is extremely effective against enemies using shields.
Izzy - Carries a shattergun, which can be used to crystallize enemies and temporarily take them out of the battle.
Naya Deveraux - Stealth operative that carries a warp rifle which can create black holes. If you shoot multiple enemies with the warp rifle you can cause a chain reaction of black holes.
In early May, I got the chance to head down to San Francisco and get some hands on time with Fuse. In addition to playing the game, I also got the chance to sit down with IG CEO Ted Price.

In Fuse, you're always playing with four characters on the screen at once. The game can be played solo or cooperatively with up to four players (split screen for two players and online play for up to four players). Any characters not controlled by humans will be controlled by the AI.

During my interview with Ted Price, he stressed that the development team worked hard on getting the AI to mimic human players so that if you do play the game solo, it's still a great experience.

One of the main features of Fuse is Leap. Leap allows you to switch between each of the characters on the fly. The only time you cannot use Leap is when you are injured or if you're playing with three other human players. The Leap system is terrific and I never found myself playing solely as one character during my time with the game.

Each situation lends itself to a particular type of character and weapon. Fuse does seem to draw inspiration from other games such as Uncharted and Tomb Raider. There is a fair bit of climbing, jumping, and taking cover. These elements all work extremely well and compliment the action very nicely.

The four characters have their own skill tree that can be upgraded as you progress through the game. You earn experience points by killing enemies, getting kill assists, being stealthy or using teamwork. Each time
your character ranks up, you can earn skill points which can be used to upgrade the character.

While the game's levels are fairly linear, how you approach objectives and enemies is completely up to you. You simply won't fail objectives because you chose to get into a fire fight over using stealth. While stealth may seem like the best option at times, a well planned out ambush of unsuspecting enemies can clear a room fairly quickly.

The preview build we played consisted of the first three levels of the campaign. When you're playing with three other people, the game is an absolute blast and the AI puts up a good fight. Even with four players, the fire fights are intense and teamwork is essential to completing objectives.

There are so many ways to use teamwork to defeat enemies, if feel like the possibilities are endless.

If you're facing a group of enemies with riot shields, you could have one character toss grenades behind the enemies exposing their rears and have Jacob take them out with his crossbows and ignite the surrounding enemies or have a sniper on your team take out the enemies once they turn around the deflect the grenade blast, and so on.

We also played the game's multiplayer mode called Echelon.

Echelon is similar in some respects to Horde Mode in Gears of War. The Echelon mode features twelve rounds with randomly ordered objectives, which range from killing all the enemies on screen to defending a Fuse canister from waves of enemies or taking out an enemy VIP. Make no mistake about it, Echelon is extremely challenging from what I played of it. This isn't a mode you can play as a regular third person shooter. You need to use each of the four characters strengths to your advantage and plan tactically against the enemies. Even with four players, the group I was playing with, barely made it to the fourth round. At one point during our session I had to answer a phone call and had Ted Price take over, the same group made it to Wave 5 or 6.

After spending several hours with both the game's campaign and Echelon mode, I walked away fairly impressed. In usual Insomniac fashion, the weapons take center stage and the gameplay is intense, unrelenting and fun.

Fuse will be released for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 at the end of the month, so stay tuned for our full review.

- Siddharth Masand