Fancy yourself pretty good at shooters, do you? Prepare to be schooled: Fuse is a game that rewards thinking as much as twitch reflexes; demands communication; and punishes those foolish enough to venture in unprepared.
"I see a lot of comments online about how easy games have become. We’re all hardcore gamers at Insomniac. Fuse is challenging. It’s built for four players, and we tune it based on how many humans are in the game. When there are four humans in the game, it’s tuned pretty tough."
"It's not a run and gun game at all," Insomniac CEO Ted Price told me when I mentioned how frequently my Fuse preview session had been punctuated by near-death experiences.
Even in the linear campaign mode, Fuse rewards tactical, mobile play. Elevation can make or break cover. Every room is filled with multiple paths. Enemies will co-ordinate to put you in crossfire zones, and sneak up behind your sniper's perch. It's a game where you and up to three buddies have the potential to dominate by communicating, moving, and pinning your foes down.
"Flank and spank," I suggested. "Absolutely," Price agreed.
My favourite Fuse character was Naya, and not just because of the very proper way she spoke as she mowed down a legion of mercenaries. Her Fuse weapon is unique in that it does not ever run out of ammo; instead, it's prone to overheating, so with careful management you can keep firing almost forever.
By "painting" groups of enemies with Naya's weapon, and then letting them have a full clip's worth, you can set off chain reactions of explosions, putting down crowds just as they arrive unexpectedly to upset your carefully formed plan of attack.
Each of the four characters and weapons have their own idiosyncrasies right off the bat, but start exploring the skill tree up to each character's second unique ability and things get really interesting. Returning to Naya as our example, we find that she has the ability to cloak briefly.
You remember what I said about flanking, right? Yeahhhh. Each character has access to a generic set of skills applicable to non-Fuse abilities and can carry two standard firearms in addition to their Fuse weapon. You're at liberty to min-max these across the team, leaving you with a unique crew of specialists, with persistent progress across single- and multiplayer.
"I see a lot of people in the office putting points into Naya's shotgun abilities," Price said. "And a lot of points into her invisibility spec, so that she has longer invisibility, and it helps recharge Fuse while she's cloaked.
"When you put points into shotgun it makes it even more powerful, so she becomes a great rogue. She can take out setups in a pretty cool way when she's got the shotgun and her stealth ability."
For those more interested in straight-out blasting, the team's generic marine-type tank is a lot more than a meat shield.
"Personally, I like using the burst rifle with Dalton, and putting points into his deployable shield, because I can drop a blind - basically like a duck blind - and fire through it," Price said.
"He's generally a short range guy, but you can make him a really good long or medium range guy who has that portable shield. It means you can stand out in the battlefield and be protected, while taking down enemies at medium or long distance."
I was quite tempted to keep these tips for myself until after I've climbed the leaderboards of Echelon, Fuse's most difficult - and competitive - mode, which has players surviving against waves of foes before racing to grab rewards ahead of their comrades.
"We don't blitz Echelon. It's still pretty tough for us too," Price admitted.
"I'm sure it's something that will generate a lot of polarising reactions, where some people say 'wow this is really hard', and others will say, 'Yes!'" - he pumped a fist in the air - "'A game that's really hard!'
"I see a lot of comments online about how easy games have become. We're all hardcore gamers at Insomniac. We like all types of games. Personally, I like easy games I like hard games. Fuse is challenging. It's built for four players, and we tune it based on how many humans are in the game.
"When there are four humans in the game, it's tuned pretty tough."
Fuse is due in late May on playStation 3 and Xbox 360. Look out for more coverage in the weeks ahead.