Fuse PS3 preview: Squad shooting with questionable chemistry

[Update: get new Fuse screens here.]

Stifle that yawn, because although Insomniac’s co-op squad shooter might appear to be playing it safer than Sunderland’s back nine now it’s been re-launched sans comic book stylings, there’s practically a surplus of great ideas bubbling away in the ways the four of you can team up, combine weapons and co-op the heck out of anyone who gets in your way.

The eponymous Fuse is an alien substance that’s been kept under lock and key by the government in Hyperion Base since it was discovered in 1947 after some manner of Roswell-esque shenanigans. Everything’s gone LV-426 inside Hyperion, which is why your team of easily recognisable action movie stereotypes known as Overstrike 9 has been called into action.

The art style’s considerably more realistic than when the game was revealed as Overstrike, but it’s still stylish post-redesign. There’s something subconsciously pleasing about all the clean cut lines in Hyperion Base’s design and the blend of Tom Clancy and sci-fi. It reminds us a bit of the Mass Effect Universe, and its plethora of steel storage crates.

We’re in control of Dalton, a gruff chap who carries the Magshield – a mobile shield powered by fuse plus ferrofluid. We move around absorbing enemies’ bullets and blasting back a release of kinetic energy that turns them quite literally to rogue paramilitary jam, gaining XP not just for the kills, but for every bullet a team-mate fires through the shield. That’s team work. Dalton’s downright tankiness makes him destined for multiplayer squabbles as everyone tries to inhabit him: and as long as there’s on slot free, you can hop between characters.

Soak up energy from all the bullets that pass through your magshield, then release it in one messy blast.

Three-way combos are possible too: Izzy’s packing the Shattergun, which predictably enough crystallises enemies into a highly shatterable state, raising them into the air. Meanwhile Jacob wields the Arcshot, a crossbow fuelled by fuse plus molten mercury.

Ignoring the fact that mercury liquefies at room temperature, imagine the gratifying moment when the three’s special abilities combine: Izzy fires the Shattergun at a pair of enemies through the Magshield, then Jake turns them into bits from afar using his scope.

All three get XP, while fourth character Naia’s Warp Rifle looks so brilliantly overpowered that she’s basically fine on her own, chaining enemies into black holes. Really. It looks and plays like Mass Effect 3’s combat, minus the pause button. And while it looks a long way short of the former’s narrative, we’re genuinely excited to experiment more with Fuse’s unique, combo-based co-op play.