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Fuse preview: Overstrike reborn

by Ozzie Mejia, shacknews.com, Sep 12, 2012 6:45AM PDT

Insomniac has a proud history of outrageous weaponry. The creators of Ratchet & Clank and Resistance now bring their tradition of hard-hitting arsenals to multiple platforms with Fuse, formerly known as Overstrike. This four-player squad-based shooter will emphasize team-based combat, bringing killer new weaponry and stealth elements to a new mature setting.

The story of the game's campaign is that an unstable alien substance was discovered by the U.S. government and kept under wraps for decades. The substance is called the titular "fuse" and it becomes lethal when bonded to any earthly substance. In a bid to weaponize it, scientists have scrambled to stabilize fuse through intense testing. The source of the substance has been stolen by a rogue paramilitary group, so it's up to four mercenaries with no government ties to recover the lost fuse.

Their operation will take them to various locations around the world, each crafted to proper scale using a combination of photo reference and Google Maps. One such area features an Indian palace, faithfully recreated to offer a sense of authenticity. The pieced-together palace is surrounded by near-copies of Indian roads and neighborhoods with an effect that shows off a distant landscape similar to what one would see using Google Maps.

The four mercs are Dalton, Jacob, Izzy, and Naya. Each character has a particular skill and fuse-based weapon at their disposal. Dalton is the team's tank and his Magshield gun can craft a semi-permeable shield that can protect himself and teammates from enemy fire. Dalton can carry this shield around or deploy it at will. Naya is the team's stealth operative and her warp rifle can create singularities that can be fired near enemies to suck them into black holes. The warp rifle makes Naya the team's area-of-effect expert. Jacob's sniper rifle-like weapon fires super-heated liquid mercury to fry enemies. Not only can Jacob take out faraway targets, but the mercury's temperature can be intensified to the point that a single shot can penetrate multiple targets. Izzy's shattergun can crystallize foes, which is useful for lifting enemies out of cover and setting them up for teammates to shatter with a single shot. Each of these characters feature skill trees for their weapons and players can upgrade them through fuse points (FP) earned throughout the game.

Players can earn FP by simply tearing through foes, but are also rewarded for teamwork. One example includes Dalton earning supplemental FP by deploying his Magshield, while his teammates shoot through it to eliminate enemies. Another example sees Izzy crystallizing a line of foes and setting them up for Jacob to take down in a single shot, which rewards both players with FP. This encourages players to act in tandem and come up with unique combos to dispatch foes.

The fuse substance's unstable nature means that repeated use will allow players to unleash a mode called "fusion," which grants the entire team (regardless of who unleashed it) bonus effects for their weapons for a short time. For example, Jacob can strike a target and watch him ignite nearby enemies, as well. Izzy can crystallize an enemy and any surrounding enemies struck by crystal debris will suffer the same fate.

In going hands-on for a short preview level, I can say that Fuse's teamwork takes some getting used to. I was slow to get the hang of Izzy's shattergun, though my teammates grasped the concept quicker than I did. The objective was to infiltrate a facility undetected, but after a pair of stealth kills, an all-out firefight broke out and we got to demonstrate our weaponry through cover fire. Upon clearing the outside area, we were given the option to split up and break in through the side of the building or enter through a nearby sewer. This would give us the opportunity to ambush the enemy from opposite sides.

When we were done clearing out hordes of incoming enemies using our own weapons and nearby turrets, the scene shifted to a facility courtyard, where we were confronted by a giant Enforcer robot. The rocket-powered mech had more bark than bite, as we all took separate sides and fired away until it was scrap metal.

Fuse's shooting mechanics worked well and the co-op was loads of fun, but that's not to say there weren't a few issues. Teammates would occasionally fall and need reviving, but there wasn't a clear indicator as to where they were located. Reviving teammates is critical, as one dead comrade results in a mission failure.

When outside the realm of four-player co-op, players can take any of these characters for a spin through Fuse's "Leap" feature. Leap allows players to occupy any open player slot and switch with the AI. This can help players clear out areas faster by taking a more personal touch, but can also help players earn more FP for a specific character. Anyone that wants to join a solo player can do so through drop-in/drop-out local and online co-op.

Fuse represents a potentially large jump forward for shooters. It features a brand new engine that allows the game's programmers and artists to update assets much quicker than they could in the past, while allowing players to take full control of characters at all times, rather than find themselves stuck in certain animations. It's also an entertaining four-player experience that retains Insomniac's penchant for outrageous weaponry.

Fuse will release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2013.

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