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Fuse game review: Fun with friends but short on new ideas

Fuse allows the player to leap instantly between

Fuse allows the player to leap instantly between four playable characters, each with their own alien weapon. (Credit: Insomniac Games)

After cutting through a ceiling grate, stealth assassin Naya activates her camouflage mode and silently takes out two armed guards before her squad mates burst into the room and the bullets start flying in full force. Squad leader Dalton Brooks activates his Magshield and the team gets behind him as enemy shots ping uselessly against the shimmering green force field.

After finding cover, tech-wiz Izzy takes aim at a group of soldiers with her Shattergun and freezes them in mid-air, leaving former LAPD homicide detective Jacob open to shatter them with his Arcshot crossbow.

If you’re thinking that this sounds like a fun multiplayer experience, then you’re correct -- Fuse offers exciting gunplay and tense combat for up to four players online or two players via local split screen. Insomniac Games’ latest shooter can be a lot of fun with some friends, but soon wears out its welcome with a generic story and unmemorable characters.

In Fuse, you play as part of an elite team of mercenaries called Overstrike 9 as you fight paramilitary forces. The game will feel familiar to anyone who has played shooters like Gears of War, and the game boasts the same tight controls. While Fuse’s story gets tired pretty fast, developer Insomniac Games utilizes its trademark mix of interesting weapons to make each of the four playable squadmates feel useful for different combat situations and unique enough for the player to change characters every few levels.

Each of the four playable characters has a unique alien weapon that allows them to crystallize enemies, light them on fire, destroy them with mini-singularities or shield your squad. The game encourages players to take advantage of these weapons by combining their powers to, say, light an enemy on fire with a crossbow bolt while creating an explosive chain of singularity blasts to knock down their allies. While each of the Fuse-powered weapons are cool in their own right, some are definitely more useful than others, and you may find yourself sticking to the same character throughout the game.

Fuse is not a bad game at all, but it does lack creativity when it comes to the game’s storyline. Your squad is a mix of assassins, mercenaries and soldiers sent in to several secret locations -- including an underwater prison and a space station -- by the government to destroy the evil paramilitary organization known as Raven that is trying to use Fuse energy to terrorize the Earth.

After a few hours, the “go there, destroy this” rationale for traveling to different locations gets pretty uninteresting. The player never really gets to learn anything about the characters beyond the fact that they’re either tough or have a shady past. The characters are never fully developed, which is unfortunate because they definitely possess untapped potential. After the first few levels, the game is saved only by its engaging, tight gunplay and fun squad dynamic.

One nice feature in Fuse is the ability to take advantage of local split screen co-op or four-player co-op online. The game definitely becomes more fun with a few friends because you’ll focus less on the story and more on setting up cool kills with a team of human partners. You’ll enjoy working together and finding different Fuse weapon strategies to take down the bad guys.

The game even allows you to upgrade your characters both online and offline, so you’ll always keep the perks and power-ups you earn. But if you prefer to play alone, don’t worry -- your squad mates are more than capable of taking care of themselves and will rush to your aid should you go down in the middle of a firefight.

The bottom line: Fuse is a decent co-op shooter that becomes even more fun with friends. The story isn’t very memorable and the characters themselves can be boring and one-dimensional, but Insomniac’s inventive Fuse weapons help keep the action coming quickly and furiously as you shoot your way through hundreds of military baddies.

Score: 3 out of 5

Tags: Fuse , Insomniac Games , video game reviews , XBox 360

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