For a game named Fuse, the latest title from Insomniac Games does fittingly merge a plethora of ideas to create a satisfactory experience – but we're not sure that such meek praise was on the developer's agenda when it embarked on its first multiplatform project. This is a competent third-person shooter that ticks every box in the cover-based action checklist, but it doesn't leave any memorable impressions at all. Given that this is the latest release from the studio behind the Ratchet & Clank series, that's a massive disappointment.
As with most entries from the Burbank-based studio, the weapons are at least a blast to use. Each of the four playable characters – this is a predominantly co-op focused affair – has access to a unique firearm, infused with an ill-defined and unexplained alien substance named, er, Fuse. This grants the gaggle of otherwise ordinary human agents with some unique abilities. For example, team leader Dalton can wield a devastating shotgun in conjunction with a shield, providing mobile cover for the entire squad. Meanwhile, Jacob, the team's marksman, is equipped with a crossbow and bolts capable of melting enemies. Naya, the unit's covert specialist, has a cloaking device and a warp rifle that opens miniature black holes in the world. Finally, Izzy's weapons crystallise enemies, freezing them in place.
The characters are deadly alone, but working together makes the team practically unstoppable – at least they would be if the artificial intelligence that governs them understood the concept of teamwork. If you're playing solo, the game offers a desperately isolated experience. Wave after wave of enemies flood each environment, and it becomes a repetitive slog killing them off. Your team is often nowhere to be seen, hanging out from the side of the battlefield while you do all of the work.
You can switch between protagonists at any time, so you at least have access to the entire roster of weapons. Should you die, though, you'll be at the mercy of your computer-controlled teammates, who'll rush to your aid about as fast as a tortoise with a walking aid. It's frustrating, and it slows the already sluggish pace of the action even further.
Fortunately, the experience fares better in co-op. Bring another player (or three) along for the ride, and the tactical options of your team adopt a much more meaningful guise. Ordering covert agent Naya to sneak up and slit the throats of a bunch of enemies while you save ammo is a fun option – even if you are free to pick up and use any weapons that you find. Meanwhile, gathering behind Dalton's shield as you merrily snipe your enemies with flesh melting bolts is sinisterly satisfying. Playing with others definitely elevates the experience, and it's the only way to really derive any fun from the game.
Outside of the main campaign, there's a secondary option named Echelon, which allows you to take on waves of enemies in addition to various themed objectives. All of the aforementioned issues exist if you're not playing with friends, though, and above all else the action just gets tiresome after a while. It's nice that the experience points that you gather in this additional mode carry across to the campaign, but powering up your weapons doesn't feel like a particularly compelling incentive when the gameplay is so bland.
It doesn't help that the presentation is as dull as dishwater, either. Despite being pitched as a humorous spy adventure with a vibrant aesthetic, Insomniac Games bafflingly opted to change direction mid-development, culminating in yet another gritty shooter awash with grey textures and featureless corridors. It's completely devoid of charm, and while there are a few amusing lines of dialogue tossed in to hold your attention, these cheeky quips don't really gel with the game's otherwise serious tone. Unsurprisingly, the narrative is about as exciting as a cucumber sandwich, too.
Fuse is a boring game that just so happens to be tolerable with friends. Aside from some idiotic AI, there's nothing necessarily wrong with the shooter – but it fails to ever do anything to justify its existence. If you have a group of buddies willing to commit to the experience, then you may find a glimmer of fun here. Otherwise, expect one long, dreary slog.