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Fuse – Lighting the match to play with fire

Fuse is Insomniac Games’ take on the recent love affair with co-op action shooters. Creative director Brian Allgeier talks about how Fuse sets itself apart.

Co-op action shooters are, seemingly, part of the current gaming zeitgeist, even going so far as infiltrating the solo horror-loving likes of the Dead Space universe. But while series such as Call of Duty and Gears of War offer cooperative modes as an optional extra, Fuse is branding itself as a title whose campaign is best served with friends. Creative director Brian Allgeier discussed the ins and outs of how Insomniac Games is planning on setting Fuse apart from the pack.

VG247: Why should a grown adult care about this game?

Brian Allgeier: I think everyone’s got their interpretation of what being grown-up means. For instance, there are people who like The King’s Speech with Colin Firth.

I love that movie.

Which is a great movie, and they might call that mature. It’s for grown-ups. Then there is certainly the more blood-and-guts-type stuff you get in The Expendables.

I love that movie, too.

Me too. So Fuse is a cross between The King’s Speech and The Expendables. Obviously, I’m kidding. Essentially, we set out to make a game that’s fun for gamers. There’s a lot of depth of the progression system in Fuse, and we’re focusing a lot on our class-based characters.

So what exactly is ‘Fuse’?

"Everyone’s got their interpretation of what being grown-up means. Fuse is a cross between The King’s Speech and The Expendables."

Fuse is an alien substance that’s combined with all these different things, which gives our characters some very unique weapons they can use. All the different ways which you can use these characters and how you progress them, I think that’s going to provide a very rich experience for people.

Fuse has come out of the previously announced Overstrike game, right?


You can still see the DNA of Overstrike in Fuse; what wall did you hit with Overstrike where you decided that you needed to reimagine parts of it and rebrand the game?

Essentially, the original inspiration for Overstrike was Mission: Impossible: it was a team of spies or agents who have their own unique abilities, but we ended up hitting a wall because it felt like it was Mission: Impossible – The Game. We kept asking, ‘How do we take this in a direction that’s unique?’ So we started looking at this big story element called Fuse, and all of our operatives were after it. When we started thinking more about that, we thought why not really tie this into gameplay—make this more integral—and it really freed us up in how we thought about the weapons and who our characters were.

We started coming up with much more aggressive weaponry that felt more powerful. We liked the idea of the feeling that you’re playing with fire. This is a substance that humans are never meant to have, so we looked at movies like District 9 and, the more we started drawing inspiration from those kinds of weapons, we ended up with this alien marriage, and the game started to feel more unique. That’s when we decided that the whole game revolves around Fuse; it just makes more sense to call it that.

"We ended up with this alien marriage, and the game started to feel more unique. That's when we decided that the whole game revolves around Fuse; it just makes more sense to call it that."

Insomniac has a history of creating unique weapons. What’s your formula?

Everyone’s a designer at Insomniac, and they’re allowed to participate with ideas, and any idea is encouraged. There’s not a limit. We just let people go nuts and go with whatever they want. It’s often, at times, been great for Ratchet & Clank games, but the tough part is—and I don’t envy our designers—being able to balance all these crazy ideas and have them work as a team. Once we had a long list of ideas that we came up with [for Fuse], we had to narrow it down into our different classes to make sure that each class felt valuable, they weren’t overpowered, yet they weren’t weak, and they worked together.

Are you worried that a fixed class structure will limit player choice when they’re playing cooperatively?

It really comes down to your choice of how you want to play. So for people who feel limited by a class, they certainly always have that option to ‘Leap’ [to another class in single-player]. The other option they have is they can always pick up other weapons in the field. So, say, Dalton [the protagonist] wants to use a shotgun, he can do that; if he wants to use a sniper rifle, he can do that as well. You’re not so limited to being the close-range tank guy.

Why would anyone want to use a shotgun, sniper rifle or even a mini-gun they found in the field when there are these crazy class-specific Insomniac Xenotech weapons on offer?

The Xenotech works really well but, as you get into tougher battles, you’re going to want to mix it up. So, for instance, Dalton can drop down his shield, switch to a sniper rifle and hang back: be protected and take enemies out. There are a lot of situations where you’re going to have to be more strategic. Naya can cloak, and she’s great for sneaking up on single enemies and taking them down, but she can’t move around as fast if she cloaks and uses a shotgun to blast two or three enemies at once.

When you’re creating an action co-op title, how much room do you have to move outside of the familiar action co-op tropes such as cover, blindfire, sprinting, melee attacks that we come to expect?

Watch on YouTube

This is Overstrike - the project that later
became Fuse. Note how cartoony it seems.

We wanted something that was very easy for people to pick up and play, so there are a lot of similarities to other cover shooters, and we think that’s great, because anyone can jump in. It’s not like you’ll be teaching your friends all the controls when they start playing, but we provide more depth with the Fuse weapons and the Xenotech. They’ve got both their alt-fire and their special that they can use when they upgrade them, and the primary weapon is different for every character, which is what distinguishes them from the group. That’s really what’s going to separate us from a lot of other games, as well as the fact that you can progress each operative and build up their skills.

How much of Ratchet & Clank and Resistance is in Fuse?

There’s probably quite a bit. It’s part of our DNA. We love exotic weapons, we love injecting humour, but we also love aliens. It’s a mixture of both.

You love killing aliens as well.

Oh, of course.

There seems to be a real emphasis on story and character as well as gameplay. Why is story and character so crucial in an action title which seems to be more geared towards pick-up-and-play action?

Story is very important, even if people just want gameplay. Story helps create context. It’s innate inside all of us that we love stories. Most people can remember complex things if it’s in the form of a story, so it’s almost like our brains are wired for that. Part of our history is creating in-depth campaigns with exotic locations and rich stories, and that’s something that we thought we could bring into the co-op space. You don’t see a lot of that. There are games like Gears of War, but that’s about it. That’s something where we thought there was an opportunity to create a really rich experience for co-op players.

Watch on YouTube

And this is Fuse.

You’re pitching Fuse as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol meets District 9. Do you think it’s easier to compare games to movies instead of comparing games to other games?

Yeah, I think the biggest challenge for us is we’re coming out with a new IP towards probably what is the end of the console lifecycle. There are tonnes of gamers out there, and I think everyone just wants to know what Fuse is all about, and it’s easier to make a movie comparison. I think people get it faster when they can understand the direction we’re going for, and being able to talk about what inspired us really helps inform people on where we’re heading.

So movies inspired you, but why not compare Fuse to other games?

Movies, I think, are better at summing up tone and they create more of a context, whereas games complicate things because people start thinking about the gameplay. So if we were just to say, ‘It’s this game plus this game,’ people start getting into the weeds and thinking about, ‘Oh, is it these mechanics, or those mechanics?’ We really wanted to separate out what the tone was, and movies are good at that.

Fuse is a game best served in co-op, with plenty of patented Insomniac insanity, to boot. It’s available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in March, 2013.

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