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Fuse Preview Night at EA HQ 02/05


I walk in at the tail end of the speech being given by Insomniac’s CEO Ted Price and my ears prick up at the phrase “new landscapes to explore”.
And now I am automatically intrigued. This is a pretty big statement to make considering the vast array of games out there….but then again we’re also talking about the same company that brought us Spyro The Dragon, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance.

Let’s take a bit of a backward step for a second and do a quick assessment. Both Spyro and Ratchet are fun games, well designed, highly addictive and non-ageist, (a phrase I use when describing games that the general populace would see as just a kids game but is quite accessible to all ages and therefore being non-ageist).

So these guys know what they’re doing when it comes to building a good game, establishing a solid franchise and capturing the hearts and minds of millions of gamers.

Now I’m not a Playstation guy, there’s lots of reasons why but they’re all petty so we’ll leave that itch and scratch it another time. What I will say is this, I am soooooo disappointed that I didn’t hook myself up with a PS3 console as I missed the Resistance boat. Yes I’ve played it and yes I was in awe. There’s something about that game that sucks you in and keeps you, (literally), on the edge of your seat.

I’m more in to driving games and sports sims, shoot ‘em ups have never really been my field of expertise, (despite the fact that half of my gaming library is made up of various franchises), so I’m always pleasantly surprised when a new game in this genre comes along and tweaks my interest. I am by the very definition of the phrase – bloody fussy and a bit of a game snob.

Now enough about me, more about the historical segway. So we have a development house that is more than capable of producing memorable and highly playable games and their CEO is talking about new landscapes and switching between bots and guns and FUSE and aliens and my mind just melted for split second.

I’ve been afforded the opportunity to give this game a go, have a play and write about what I think of it…well here it is.
A quick set the scene. The game is set slightly in the future, you’re part of a team of four, (Dalton – to me he will always referred to as “The Tank”, Izzy – a red head designed to keep the masses in check, Nya – invisible…who said that? and Jacob – the guy has a cross-bow…I have a man-crush), you’re dropped in it and you have to fight your way out. Oh yeah there’s also alien-tech called FUSE that’s being used to create weapons and the bad guys want it all.
This game feels fresh, it looks crisp, it plays well and there is depth. It has a flow to it that is different to other games in the genre without alienating the audience or assuming we’re dumb and making things too easy for us…oh yeah, easy is not a word I would use when describing this game.

This game challenges you in the campaign but especially so in Ecehlon Mode. I got pummelled, crushed, shoot, bombed, pistol whipped, shoot again and again and…you get the idea, it’s hard. Normally it’s just me and my general suckiness at shooters but this game is not easy and others around, (far more skilled than myself may I say), got torn a new one.

A wise man once said that nothing rewarding was ever easy,
how true it is…especially in gaming. Echelon is a new breed of wave mode and is challenging for a couple of reasons. The first difference is that you just can’t sit put and enjoy playing sneaky sniper, you have objectives that require you to move from one waypoint to another and along the way defend yourself against an enemy/lots of enemies/helicopter loads of enemies/an almost never ending stream of enemies. The objectives themselves range from defending locations or objects, clearing out areas, opening a weapon cache and using it against a virtual tsunami of baddies or taking out a high value target, (they don’t tell you he’s usually surrounded by tonnes of armour and guns and missiles and remote machine guns and support…no they don’t tell you that).

I absolutely love this new take on waves and enjoyed the variety of objectives. Always being on the hop and not being able to settle down adds to the pace of this game mode. (Do you remember how I mentioned that these guys know how to make a game?)

I was also given the opportunity to speak with Ted about FUSE and after playing some campaign I had quite a few questions.
The main thing that stood out for me was the AI. It wasn’t dumb but was quite thoughtful, reactive and tactical. You take cover on the left and fire the odd shot or two, you’ll draw fire and the AI will actually try to flank you if possible. Got a sniper in your scope, shoot and miss….guess what, he won’t be there for long. The AI acts like it should and is something that many games have not done well. Nothing is more infuriating than having a too predictable enemy who wants to takes bullets like a magnet and doesn’t notice when you move…there’s literally no challenge and any “success” feels hollow. Thank goodness that FUSE bucked this trend and cranked up the Challenge-O-Meter.

When I mentioned the notable change in AI, (when compared with some other games), I was told that it was a deliberate attempt from the development team as they indeed did want to challenge us as players.

Having to think react and come up with strategy is what pulls this game together. You have a team of four and if you’re playing solo you will be rewarded if you use the “LEAP” functionality.

What’s LEAP you ask?

LEAP is the terminology used for when you jump between any of the four characters in the team. Each imbued with it’s own specific skill and weapon, (I am still doing a happy dance after seeing a crossbow). By tapping in to the various traits of each character you become better placed to fight back. The bonus here is that the more you use each character, the more experience you give them and the more skill upgrades you can make…and you don’t lose experience when crossing over from campaign to Echelon. This is a very attractive feature that makes you want to move about rather than just stick with one character and not squeeze the most out of what’s on offer.

Now this is where the multi-player bit kicks in. You can split screen, (awesome and well overdue as being a normal feature), invite friends or join parties for either the campaign or Echelon. The best part and to me another surprise, was the fact that the game rewards team play. The more you interact with your team-mates, the more time you talk about strategy, the more rewards you reap. This is not a game that rewards cowboys and glory seekers.

For me this was an important step as too often I have become cannon fodder simply because some greedy bugger with 99% of normal ammo rations didn’t want to share with Mr. Zero Percent, (also known as me). To have a game deliberately move down this path is like a breath of fresh air. There is no deathmatch or other such individual game types, this game is all about team, unity and thinking.

Again Ted confirms that this was part of the scope when the game was being developed.

That and fun.

It’s a key word that was used a few times in the interview and was a definite part of the creative process. When talking about the individual weapon types each character has, (again cross-bow….awesome), Ted talked about how they changed Izzy’s original weapon because “It simply wasn’t fun”. Nice piece of honesty and great to see that they were willing to make the change in order to stay true to themselves and the nature of the game.
I have to tip my hat at the work done in the environments as well, the detail, colour and richness are quite stunning. I can now see what was meant by exploring new landscapes.

What FUSE has done is to be applauded. They have combined the concept of having fun, a four player set-up and the premise of alien-tech driven weaponry and delivered us a game that brings with it a sense of something new.

To often things get popular then mass produced and copied, (usually poorly), watered down or bastardised until the premise is so over done we become numb to any “new” offerings. With FUSE I see a well-crafted game that taps in to those emotions we have when we talk about comradery, team, fun and success. The genre may not be unique but the approach certainly is.

I like the ethos of the team at Insomniac - making the game fun and challenging at the same time, all without compromising on their vision. I look forward to getting my hands on the finally copy, calling up a few friends and having an old style house LAN like we used to do so many years ago. That for me is the best thing about this game, it’s designed for gamers by gamers.

You can see this game being able to turn in to a franchise but lets take baby steps first and enjoy what will surely be one of those games we all enjoy playing and talk about with the fondness and familiarity of an old friend.


On behalf of Rooster


39 Comments

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