- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Four elite agents work together to stop a terrorist organization from abusing an alien energy source in the third-person adventure Fuse (Electronic Arts and Insomniac Games, Rated Mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99).

Harnessed by this somewhat generic story, the explosive sci-fi shooter gives up to four players control of misfit stereotypes packing interesting armaments.

I’ve got to admit it folks, after the already bountiful year of shooter-style games, I’m not very enticed to embrace another round of endless firefights and stopping nefarious plans of world domination.

Still, with the development might of the guys who made the weapons for Ratchet, Clank and Nathan Hale, the game’s Fuse-inspired firepower has at least a handful of addictive possibilities.

That is if it can also capture a social segment of gamers looking to cooperatively, as well as creatively, slaughter the minions of the paramilitary Corporation Raven and rejoice at their successes

Our pointed plot explores the use of harnessing the alien-derived Fuse energy source that can combine with weapons and humans with intriguing results.

Life begins with a decision of who to control among the four members of the covert organization Overstrike 9. Each has skills to offer the team.

Take Dalton Brooks, a sarcastic, former Marine with a heavy-duty assault rifle in one hand and a Magshield in the other. That shield spouts a Fuse-infused force field that can protect his fellow agents and send out shockwaves to crush enemies. He can also position stationary shields as his skills progress.

Or, meet Jacob Kimble, a former LAPD homicide detective known for his vigilante tactics. Kimble eventually wields a crossbow called the Arcshot loaded with superheated bolts of a Fuse and mercury mix that can melt away an opponent or a group of opponents.

Next, the assassin Naya Deveraux handles a Warp Rifle that produces tiny black holes to suck the bad guys into and also has a cloaking device to sneak around locations.

Rounding out the team is Isabelle Sinclair, a technology expert and medic with the ability to set up healing beacons. She wields a Shattergun that encases enemies in a melanite crystal causing one ugly death as they shatter when her team let loose with a hail of bullets.

For the majority of missions, I stuck with Jacob. I carried a pistol, grenades and a sniper rifle (nicknamed the Harbinger). The rifle handled long-distance attacks that also complemented the Arcshot. Shooting those mercury bolts as traps to fry any nearby enemies was especially effective and as they began to liquefy, my trusty rifle relieved them of their misery.

During the majority of the action, agents blast away at enemies culled from a Halo death match or a Star Wars’ Stromtrooper parade and include flame-throwing maniacs called Elites, jet-packing troopers, cloaked killers, exoskelton-wearing brutes and Transformer-like Enforcer drones.

Don’t worry if you get tired of your initial team member choice. The game mechanics allow a player to Leap like a possessed spirit over to any other character not controlled by a real friend at any time.

Fuse also offers a generous supply of customization tied to skill trees for each warrior and perks for the group with points accumulated (for completing objectives) getting spent on the upgrades.

I was impressed with the wonderfully fluid cover system as a character ducks behind barriers and effortless moves around corners, climbs or jumps over obstacles, somersaults and dives like a gymnast to another barrier and shoots while under cover. He can as easily sneak up behind an enemy (for a silent melee kill) as climb a rock face.

I was not impressed with the dialogue that often fell flat as well as the indoor generic battle locations (outdoors such as traversing Pakistani mountains look gorgeous), a ridiculously awkward boss battle with a Russian madman addicted to Fuse and a general lack of difficulty, especially when playing solo.

Additionally, the design of the game reaches more toward, but never attains, the outrageous of Bulletstorm, and never has the urgency or impact of visuals such as Gears of War or Resistance.

My suggestion for the ultimate Fuse experience is find a group of online gamers ready to tackle the missions and appreciate some of the strategy of perks and combination of effects tied to those slick weapons.

For those in need of a more familiar multiplayer experience, Fuse provides Echelon. This “Gears of War Horde”-mode requires stopping waves of enemies in 12-round attacks with multiple objectives in each that require more offensive than defensive tactics to secure areas. I would highly suggest finding buddies to take part in the chaos, as I notice computer-controlled agents were not very effective.

Despite the lack of a Suck Cannon and Sheepinator (Ratchet fans keep grinning), Fuse and its weaponry tries desperately to distance itself from the cavalcade of co-op shooting brethren enticing a gamer’s dollars.

I never found enough varied action to totally get lost in its universe, but it might appeal to gaming brothers in arms inspired by the thrill of loud noises and coordinated combat. It’s best parts absolutely rely on the kindness and ruthlessness of fellow teammates.

Parental advice: The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), after watching a virtual soldier melt into a smoldering mass, a fellow team member crawl across a floor bleeding out (somebody revive this guy) and ducking globs of blood from fallen Raven minions, decided to label this game “M” and that stands for mature — gamers only 17 years and older need only take part in Fuse. So don’t let your 13–year-old convince you that “I’m learning about camaraderie with my fellow gamers by eliminating evil, faceless enemies trying to destroy the world.” A player must shoot and kill dozens of human soldiers on every violent mission of the roughly 10-hour campaign and that leads to quite a high body count.

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