Fuse: A slamming squad shooter

By Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

'Fuse' promises to take console shooters in a new direction, with 'crazy weapons' based on a mysterious alien substance. Photo / Supplied
'Fuse' promises to take console shooters in a new direction, with 'crazy weapons' based on a mysterious alien substance. Photo / Supplied

Brian Allgeier, creative director on the upcoming co-op shooter Fuse, distinguished himself in Sydney with an anecdote about a local tradition: the Tim Tam Slam.

"It's this awesome, chocolatey biscuit. You bite off both ends and you suck the coffee through it. Then you have to eat it before it dissolves in your hands, so there's a bit of a risk and reward there, kind of like a good video game."

Insomniac Games is taking a risk of its own with Fuse, its first fully-owned intellectual property, and also its first title on the Xbox 360. Up until now, the studio has been a PlayStation loyalist, with a long legacy of success on Sony's platforms. Now the studio is branching out and there is still work to be done.

The veteran developer said he could see himself working on another Ratchet and Clank game someday, but at the moment he is revelling in the challenge of developing a whole new IP.

How much does insomnia actually influence the studio's development process? "More than I'd like," Allgeier admitted.

"Many people at Insomniac could tell you that they'll wake up in the middle of the night because they're trying to solve a difficult problem or thinking of a cool idea.

"It's always tough when you're developing a game and keeping it under wraps. Often we'd have to say 'no comment' because you don't know where an IP is heading as you develop it. It's definitely an experimental process where you're exploring many different ideas."

Fuse was initially announced in 2011 as Overstrike, a four-player co-op shooter. That much still remains, but Allgeier felt there was something stale about the direction the game was taking.

"To us, it was like we were developing 'Mission: Impossible The Game' and we wanted to push it in a new direction that felt really fresh.

"We started focusing on this alien stuff called 'fuse' and thought of the rich, fun possibilities that we could do with the weaponry - and really integrate it into the fiction and the gameplay.

"That's when we shifted course and realised we had to call the game Fuse."

Realistically, the title reflects a marriage of the best ideas from two of the biggest hits in the Insomniac back catalogue: Resistance, and Ratchet and Clank. The clever, possibly sentient, alien gunk becomes your enabler of mass destruction and justifies some of the creative attacks and defences available to your gang of four.

Allgeier said Insomniac wanted to keep the Fuse universe grounded.

"We don't want to go too far out on a limb and make up wacky science. The cool thing about fuse is it's this alien substance and you can do anything. That gave us license to come up with crazy weapons and not worry too much about making them part of the normal world."

Like great RPG characters, each of Fuse's soldiers has a unique purpose and skill set, but must work as a team. The most brutal handiwork is that of Jacob Kimble, whose crossbow fires fuse-enhanced projectiles that can piece enemies' bodies and pin them to walls. Once embedded, the bolts can be detonated remotely to deliver a particularly sick coup de grace and an easy frontrunner for gaming's most blood-chilling headshot.

On the day of the interview arranged by Electronic Arts, Allgeier said his favourite character was the resident sneaker, Naya Deveraux.

"I was playing her today and it was just fun going invisible, using a shotgun and blasting enemies. I also like her main weapon - the warp rifle - and creating all those black holes. A chain reaction happens, and all those enemies just get blasted to pieces."

Taking the squad element one step further, Fuse allows players to leap from one character to another at the push of a button, opening up a plethora of tactical options.

Allgeier, who decided to forge a career in game design after discovering Steve Meretzky's Planetfall in the 1980s, said the action movie ethos of that era fed into Fuse's style.

"I really enjoy watching movies like The Expendables. I grew up in the 80s so I like those tongue-in-cheek action movies with lots of explosions, and that was something that inspired me and the team in developing this game."

Fuse is due for release later this year on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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