There’s Fuse in Them There Hills, or How a Genre Gets Gold-Rushed to Death
For the actual review, check out Slant Magazine. I’d like take a moment just sitting right here to point out that the thing I felt most while playing Fuse was an eerie sense of similarity to Mass Effect 3 and Gears of War and quite a few more squad-based, cover-hugging, semi-generic war stories. And while there’s one interesting thing that Fuse does, such as the ability to swap between otherwise AI controlled characters so as to whip them into shape, it’s not enough to change the fact that I’ve played these tropes before and that while I understand a studio’s need to follow the money (Insomniac’s Spyro, for instance, was Crash Bandicoot with wings; their Resistance trilogy is an FPS like any other; Ratchet and Clank started cannibalizing itself in endless sequels before beginning to swap genres on itself), it doesn’t excuse the fact that when everybody’s attempting to mine the same concept, the returns run dry rather quickly. Good ideas are the fossil fuels of video games, which is to say that they run dry and play to diminishing returns. Something like Halo 4 may get better mileage than most, but you can see these end products getting diluted, stretched thin, and running out of steam in their later acts. Had Fuse chosen to embrace the outright lunacy of its stereotypical Russian, Chinese, and senatorial villains, and to go over-the-top with its action sequences and comic quips, the game would at least function as playable satire (like Conker, back in the day); instead, it’s a functional alcoholic. It can get you through the day, but it’s not going anywhere over time, and there’s nothing memorable here to sustain the online community it’d need to make its tough-as-nails Echelon mode (survive 12 waves!) remotely playable. In high schools and America, the current message being promoted is how it’s OK to be different. I think video game developers are the ones who most need to understand and embrace this concept; we don’t need more of the same, however pretty it looks and smoothly it plays.