Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fuse review

Have you ever sat and watched a movie you couldn't really get into, but you watched it anyway because you were bored? That's exactly how Fuse is. The game attempts to use the same old "merc gets a heart" formula, which can be an okay idea at times, but without a very strong story behind it the game usually flops.

The game starts off with little backstory. You don't know who you are controlling, what you are supposed to be doing, or even know where you are. All you do know is you have been hired to clean up a mess in a top secret laboratory. The believability of the story fails before it even really begins. I'm not a mercenary, but I'm pretty sure no team is going to go into a hostile environment with no information about what they are being tasked to do, no matter what they are being paid. It's akin to climbing into a barrel of fish and waiting for someone with a gun to walk by. Dead men spend no coin, as the saying goes.
The story gets even more bizarre when you toss in an exotic compound dubbed Fuse. The physics of it are theoretically impossible, but that's where the sci-fi aspect comes into play. Fuse utilizes the age-old "it doesn't have to be real as long as it sounds important" concept. Regardless of what it does, it never gets expanded on what it is. A couple of times in the game it is referred to as alien in origin. Other times it's a byproduct of a failed experiment. It feels as if the story was being penned by two different groups, neither of which were interested in collaboration.

Fuse relies on the common mercenary story idea. Go in to retrieve dangerous item before rival faction of bad guys does, fail to retrieve item first, go hunting for bad guys. It never branches out in any way. Character backstory is practically non-existent beyond a failed relationship with a homicidal maniac and a father who is involved with your rival faction. Both are standard cliches and do nothing to add to the story.
Another large problem with the game is it's personality and atmosphere, or rather, lack thereof. The dialogue between characters is forced and at times is more of a transition from bad gameplay to bad writing. One-sided jabs that really have nothing to do with the situation fall flat, and random comments like "You guys want to get a taco" after cutting someone's eye out really lends nothing to the character interaction. The enemies are not crafted any better. You fight the same 5 types of enemies repeatedly, with an occasional spawning robot. It's not uncommon to get 300+ kills per level, as the enemy will throw itself at you relentlessly. Rather than it seeming like a tough firefight, it only ends up being an annoying series of repetitive movements. The only real change in the enemies is their uniforms change color as the game progresses.

The game had a slightly better chance in regards to the stealth takedowns on certain areas. Using Naya's cloaking ability, players could sneak up behind an enemy soldier, slit his throat, and move to the next one. It's a satisfying way to clear out an entire section of the game. It rarely ever gets a chance to be utilized however, as both the enemy AI and friendly AI are seemingly programmed to force you into a long, drawn out firefight. The enemy AI will suddenly realize you are there if you whittle down the forces too much, even if they aren't looking in your direction. They will walk over their dead teammates and not notice a thing, but that cloaked person in a different room, not in anyone's line of sight? Intruder! Your friendly teammates aren't any better. If you go down, expect to bleed out even relatively close to your teammate. The AI seems more intent on racking up points than saving you. Your team will say "let's do this one quietly", and while you are eliminating soldiers they will start firing, breaking the stealth spell and totally ruining your day as you get caught out in the open. Enemy AI won't even notice your friendly AI unless they are being shot at. Your teammate can assassinate an enemy directly in front of another enemy and the guy will end his conversation and walk away. At one point, a glitch allowed the entire team to view the area as clear and walked straight to the waiting elevator. I was left to navigate the area, eliminating targets as I went, with the occasional friendly "Hey, let's move it," which again, the enemy apparently couldn't hear.
One thing that made the game fresh at the beginning was the robotic boss fight. You were required to move constantly always trying to shoot it in the back to deal the most damage. This worked great the first time, keywords being "first time". Shortly after that first encounter, you will see multiple robot fights, all of which follow the same boring formula. The type changes from rockets to flamethrowers, to chain guns, but essentially it's the exact same battle over and over.

Each environment is setup the same way throughout the entire game. You will have a straightaway corridor with multiple lines of cover littering the area for normal fights, and purely circular areas for boss fights. The only difference is the backdrop, which brings me to the artwork and graphics. There are some rather beautiful areas that are so tempting to explore. The problem is, you can't explore them. You can't even go near them. The rest of the game which you interact with is rather boring and stale and whether you are in an abandoned Sheik's palace in India, or floating on a space station high above the Earth, Fuse fails to separate any of the 6 chapter settings from each other.

The Xenotech weapons are really the game's only saving grace. Turning enemies into crystalline structures that explode is cool. Creating singularities that suck a group of guys into an alternate dimension is fun, and using an impenetrable shield that can catch grenades and ammunition and throw it back at them is enjoyable. Even this neat addition can't detract from the obvious ham job your AI buddies are doing. The team is only really effective when you jump from person to person and control their Xeno weapons.
There are multiple issues with glitches as well. Your character can become glitched in a certain area requiring you to restart a checkpoint. Another glitch involving the "Look" camera left the main character choice staring at the ceiling, unable to aim or lower the vision, and you were unable to switch characters, leading to a loss of roughly 15 minutes of gameplay. One major concern was when the Origin servers went down and I was kicked from my solo, local game. If the game requires you to be constantly linked to the  servers to play when connected to the internet, it causes a severe problem. Origin servers are not known for their reliability, which can lead to some very frustrating moments while your system tries to reconnect to the servers repeatedly. If the game had any immersion to it, these instances would ruin that.

Fuse tried to take a unique approach to a time-tested adaptation and the end result was a game that was frustratingly simple, and at times, just plain annoying. You almost wish Insomniac Games had made a horrible title that you could hate, because at least then you could feel something about the game. With it's repetitive environments, lack of character building, boring gameplay, and overall dismal story execution, Fuse merely just exists. It's not a good sign when the best part of the game is the end credits.

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