Last year, Insomniac Games surprised the gaming world by showing up at EA's E3 2011 press conference with an all-new game called Overstrike. Once the shock of seeing the PS3 stalwart studio outside of a Sony event wore off, the buzz on Overstrike was high, thanks to the developer's trademark sharp humor and trademark weapon design.
Then it disappeared for more than a year. Until two weeks ago.
During a PAX talk by Insomniac CEO Ted Price, viewers and attendees got a quick glimpse at a game called Fuse. Almost immediately, speculation bubbled up as to whether this was yet another game incubating at Insomniac or a mutation of Overstrike.
It's the latter. Fuse is, in fact, Overstrike. Some things about the co-op shooter are the same and others are very different. But it still looks like a compelling evolutionary shift from the team responsible for the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance franchises.
A trailer that would have given folks a first real look at the game was supposed to go live this morning but that plan hit some snags. Earlier this week, Insomniac took me on a virtual tour of Fuse—which is due out next March—and here's what I can share.
- Things aren't so funny anymore. When I spoke to Price earlier this week, he described Fuse's tone as more grounded in comparison to the slapstick. The game's quartet of secret agents still have the same names but they've gotten visual tweaks that do away with the exaggerated cartoon features we'd previously seen.
- Fuse refers to a highly volatile alien substance coveted by clandestine organizations all over the world. It wreaks powerful molecular changes on any substance it comes into contact with, often to explosive effect.
- The extraterrestrial element also powers the four experimental weapons that players will wield in the game. Each weapon's abilities are a result of fuse bonding with other materials and they let the Overstrike team embody the characteristics of various multiplayer classes.
- Team leader Dalton uses the Mag Shield, a fuse+ferrofluid weapon that emits a gant shield. It absorbs all the kinetic energy of projectiles fired on it and can discharge that energy into powerful shockwaves that shred enemies to bits. So, yeah, he's the tank.
- A combination of liquid mercury and fuse generates the white-hot bolts of the Arc Shot, a crossbow that turns Jacob into a sniper. The Arc Shot's ordnance burns people to death once they're tagged, making it a particularly nasty piece of business.
- Stealth is where Naya comes in, thanks to the Warp Rifle. The antimatter+fuse ammo fires off lethal miniature black holes that tear bad guys apart. She's also the team's sneaky neck-stab specialist since the weapon also lets her become invisible.
- Shattergun is the perfect name for the weapon that Izzy uses. When enemies get hit with the crystalline melanite paired with fuse, they become shard-encased statues that crumble from subsequent shotgun blasts. As the bad guys' bodies stiffen, they pop out of cover, making them easy pickings for teammates.
- Groups of players will be able to swap between any of the characters at any time, a feature that Insom is calling Leap. Fuse is being designed with this feature in mind. One part of the walkthrough video showed off a section of the game where a player leapt from Jacob to Dalton to withstand a hail of bullets while cross an exposed walkway. When it's three people or less playing, they can each rotate into the empty team member slot. When it's a team of four players, Leap can be made at specific sections of the game. However, if the person playing as Naya wants to hold onto that Shattergun, they can refuse a Leap.
- All the game's weapons can be used with interlocking strategies and when you use what's being called Lethal Teamwork, the XP points you earn from co-op assists get shared amongst partners.
- Fusion Mode, a powered-up state that players can enter when the Fuse energy in their weapons get overcharged, offers up more damage and more XP when you mow down antagonists.
With memories of Overstrike still releatively fresh from last year, I asked Price if he thinks they showed the game too soon. "Every IP goes through changes," he answered. "What we showed at the time was what we expected the game to be. But as we continued to go further into production, we realized that the game would be better all around if we didn't hold back."
Price also said that moving away from Overstrike's exaggerated look freed the dev team up to make the weapons more hard-hitting, since they were no longer going for a Teen rating. From what I've seen so far, Fuse looks like it's riffing off of the symbiotic mechanics of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. The multiplayer isn't tacked on; it's the entire experience. Fuse looks like all of the inventive weapon ideas that Insomniac is known for wrapped around a design that encourages co-operation and creativity. The name may have changed but Insomniac says that the game they showed a year ago is still in there. It might even be better.