The biggest question on my mind while playing Fuse was "why the change?" Overstrike had the potential to be something wacky, as a game that wouldn't take itself seriously. At least that's what I interpreted from the trailer. Fuse has a shot at being great, but it's going to have to do a lot to help differentiate itself from the somewhat realistic approach you see in most shooters.
Brian Allgeier, creative director at Insomniac Games, told me that the game was originally going to be "a more spy themed-inspired game" when it was still Overstrike. But as the team began to focus more on the story and the Fuse alien substance, the more the team "realized that [Fuse] could potentially offer a very unique identity to the game and create a real cool substance to focus on that would help drive our character motivations and the design of the weapons.
"As we began to develop these Fuse weapons, we realized we wanted to push the limits, push the boundaries, and make them do all sorts of things, from creating wormholes that suck dudes into it to Magshield blasts that liquify enemies. And at that point the game started to take on more of a serious tone. This was something that the team responded well to and we were getting a lot of momentum, and we realized that Fuse became much bigger than just the small team [you play as].
"This game had themes around what happens when humans get their hands on this alien technology, and we wanted to explore that more, and not focus it so much on this 'A-Team' type group."
Ted Price, CEO and President of Insomniac Games, addressed the changes to Fuse, stating that they've "gone through an evolution" and "a better direction for the game." The team makes changes with all their intellectual properties -- they iterate, and make little decisions as they go. And Fuse "has been probably the least changed of all our IP," according to Ted.
What surprised me the most was that Fuse's changes allowed the team to really let loose with the weapons. "We love crazy weapons at Insomniac, and with this new direction we can just take the handcuffs off and go for it and do crazy crap to enemies, and it feels really good when you're playing this," said Ted.
What hasn't changed is the deep focus on the four-player co-op. Ted told me that their "focus from the very beginning has been to create a four-player cooperative game that's different from all the other four-player, or even two-player, cooperative games out there. I think that we've stuck to that even despite a tonal shift in the game. At its core it offers four completely unique characters with different skill sets that offer a very different combat experience.
"The characters are not clones; they have abilities that you as a player can use in very different ways in all of the different combat scenarios we put you in. Especially when you're playing with three other friends, the emergent gameplay that comes out is unique. That's what we have focused on, more than anything from the very beginning. I think that with the weapons that we showed off and the characters who are using them, I do think we stand out."
One can't help but hold some apprehensions, however, largely thanks to the trailer from E3 last year. I know I'm not alone in this, and Ted understands the reaction. But he also believes that "when people play the game and when they get a taste of the different weapons and the different secondary abilities that each of these weapons affords, it will stand out, and I'm confident in that."
So does he have any regrets with revealing Insomniac's latest game so early? "I don't regret anything we've done," Ted told me. "I think every new IP goes through change, it's inevitable. At some point you're going to reveal what it is to people, and if you have to change it, you do it for the good of the game.
"What we care about most is releasing a game at the end with which people will have a whole lot of fun. We were able to introduce a brand new IP at a time where there aren't any new IP, or not very many IP. And it was a way for us to say look we're doing something different in terms of we're near the end of a console cycle releasing a brand new franchise. So it changed a little bit, but we're still doing the same thing in terms of a brand new franchise in a sea of sequels."
Like I said in my preview, I can't but help remain cautiously optimistic for Fuse. What I played was solid, but I need to see more to really know if Fuse can standout in the sea of sequels.