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With critically and commercially successful series such as Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance to its name, Insomniac Games has been one of Sony’s heavyweight second party developers for well over a decade. Its upcoming PS3 and 360 title Fuse provides a number of firsts: it’s the first IP Insomniac has owned, as well as the first title it will release on a system without PlayStation branding (thanks to the EA Partners program). We recently spoke with Insomniac creative director Brian Allgeier about his work on Fuse, how the title has evolved through development and how it will stand out amongst the competition.
I really like the spy genre. I also like the idea of teamwork where each character has their own distinct role. – Allgeier
Revealed in 2011 under the title Overstrike, before undergoing both an art design and name change, Fuse tells the story of Overstrike 9, a team comprised of Dalton Brooks, Jacob Kimble, Naya Deveraux and Isabelle Sinclair. Combining their unique weaponry and individual skills, these four must prevent terrorist organisation Raven from unleashing a devastating new WMD upon the world. Initial inspiration for the sci-fi shooter came from an unlikely place, Mission Impossible and James Bond films of the 70s and 80s. When asked about this, Allgeier states “I really like the spy genre. I also like the idea of teamwork where each character has their own distinct role”. This is readily apparent in the gameplay of Fuse, which allows players to shift between heroes on the fly using what Insomniac has dubbed the LEAP mechanic.
In campaign modes, LEAP will allow a player to take control of any of Fuse’s four distinct combatants at will, although this doesn’t mean that cycling through each of them will be a requirement to complete the game. Allgeier assures us that Insomniac is “a big fan of player choice” and has designed Fuse in such a way as to allow gamers to settle into the role of one character and let AI bots work alongside them if they wish. The LEAP mechanic again comes into play during two and three player co-op games as players, whilst unable to swap with one another directly, are able to switch to any of the AI controlled characters. An interesting aspect of Fuse is its use of a unified progression system, which allows players to carry experience points and skill upgrades with them wherever they go, whether it be simply swapping characters during a single player game or diving into Echelon, the multiplayer mode. As Allgeier explains it, “No matter what mode you’re playing, your team is upgrading.”
Allgeier readily admits that, despite concentrating on cooperative gameplay during the early stages of development, he and his fellow staff at Insomniac “really didn’t feel like we were breaking new ground”. This changed once focus shifted to the game’s storyline, which revolves around the discovery (and subsequent battle for control of) ‘Fuse’, a volatile alien substance capable of unparalleled destruction. Once this aspect was integrated into both narrative elements and gameplay mechanics, it became clear to Allgeier and his team that alterations in title and art direction were needed to more accurately reflect the experience on offer. Allgeier explains that the team thought that it should “really focus on this, and merge our idea of Mission Impossible with the kind of alien weaponry you’d find in a movie like District 9”.
Right now, gamers are becoming more and more fractured… it’s definitely a difficult time to know where players are going. – Allgeier
Although it is a highly respected and well-established company, Allgeier acknowledges that releasing a new IP for multiple consoles is still a risk for Insomniac. “Right now, gamers are becoming more and more fractured,” he says, “there are people playing on their iPads, phones, the Wii U and other consoles, there’s PC gamers and the whole free-to-play thing, so it’s definitely a difficult time to know where players are going.” Despite these issues, Allgeier is confident that Fuse will be able to stand out against the competition thanks to its use of flexible cooperative play, stating “people who like to play through an adventure with their friends and have a unique role on a team will certainly separate us from other games out there.” Single player fans aren’t left out either, as Allgeier promises them a “story rich campaign, where you get a sense of who these characters are”.
For long-time Insomniac fans, the one question really begging to be answered concerns the kind of arsenal that will be available in Fuse. With a rich tradition of interesting weapon designs spanning both the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance franchises, is there any danger that this might mark the end of such a signature inclusion? Thankfully, Allgeier reassures us that Fuse contains plenty of the “very unique weaponry you’d only find in an Insomniac game”.
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