Overstrike was announced during EA’s 2011 E3 press conference to much fanfare. Insomniac Games, a studio most known for working incredibly closely with Sony on numerous first party titles like Spyro the Dragon, Resistance, and Ratchet & Clank, was now branching out with their first multi-platform title. The trailer showed off snarky one-liners, cartoon-styled graphics, and a bombastic Hives song, getting everyone pumped for a new intellectual property from a studio well known for their lush, colorful worlds and exotic, over-the-top weaponry.
And then – nothing. Not a peep for over a year. No announcements made at E3 2012, no mention from EA. Nothing until a brief tease from Ted Price, CEO of Insomniac Games, at PAX Prime for a game called Fuse. Was this the same game they showed off last year, or some new idea? What happened to Overstrike?
To unravel the mystery, I made my way to Insomniac Games in Burbank, California. It was a gray, overcast day, and a light rain began to form as I walked from the airport to the building that housed the independent studio. As I exited the elevator, I was greeted by glowing blue walls covered in screens showing off clips of all of their great achievements, a veritable shrine to their creations. Moving through the entryway adorned by a life-size statue of Ratchet, I made my way to a meeting room with several other journalists who were all probably wondering the same thing I was: what exactly were we going to see here? Ted Price entered the room, dimmed the lights, and showed off the first mission briefing from their new game. This one video summed up the tone and concept for their game. Gone was the campy dialogue and cartoonish atmosphere, and in its place was a much more serious game. One thing was clear: Overstrike, as we knew it, was dead. In its place, Fuse.
A Different Direction
This still doesn’t answer the million dollar question: Why change the name to Fuse? The titular Fuse is an alien substance recovered back in the 1940s from a crashed UFO; a swirling, writhing, gold blob being held in an underground research bunker. It is a highly volatile and incredibly destructive substance. An evil organization known as Raven has stolen the substance, and it is up to the Overstrike team to retrieve it before certain global destruction. Originally a MacGuffin to drive the plot along, Overstrike became Fuse the moment Insomniac decided to integrate the substance throughout the entire game. Fuse permeates the weaponry, the story, gameplay mechanics, special abilities, everything. Also, never one to shy away from double entendre, Fuse represents the concept of working as unit of four unique and capable special operatives.
Each player must take advantage of their unique abilities to work together and make their way through the game. Fuse points are awarded for each kill, with the person who actually makes the kill receiving the most experience. Assisting your teammates also grant Fuse points, rewarding players who work together, and working together is the most interesting part of the game. Lets say, for example, that Dalton uses his Magshield to block incoming fire. Izzy uses her Shattergun to shoot through the shield and freeze the enemies and pop them out of cover. Jacob then uses his Arc Shot to to melt the frozen enemies. Jacob gets a bunch of experience for killing them, but Izzy gets points for freezing them, and Dalton gets points for assisting Izzy. As players gain Fuse points, their character levels up, allowing them to unlock skills and improve stats. I wasn’t able to delve into what skills would be available to players as of yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, there are three skill trees for each character, and each skill will increase the firepower of your chosen operative. Fuse points and levels earned are persistent, meaning that your abilities will carry over from the campaign mode to an as-yet-unnamed “other” mode (most likely some kind of other multiplayer option, but no details were given during my visit). Players will be able to play with up to four human controlled players, or players will be able to leap to other characters that aren’t being controlled by a human, allowing one to three players to handle any situation the game throws at them.
Thrust Into Battle
Suddenly, alarms sounded, and the base was overrun with Raven soldiers. I made my way to the entrance and set up a shield near the front, throwing grenades at groups of enemies. The guy playing as Izzy kept firing her Shattergun, popping enemies up in the air, while Naya launched singularites, sucking each of the enemies up and shattering them to pieces. After taking out a couple waves of bad guys, the door unlocked, and we made our way to the next room. This room was beset on both sides by two enclosed offices, the path to the elevator was guarded by two giant turrets. Two of our teammates kept the turrets busy while another teammate and I climbed onto the glass wall on either side of the room, shimmied around the corner, and dropped into one of the offices. We both hacked the terminals at the same time, shutting down the turrets and removing the final obstacle to the elevator.
The game jumped forward at this point to an outdoor patio. At this point, a giant mech leaped out of nowhere and began attacking our group. I set up shields and took cover behind a planter while the rest of the team attacked the mech from all sides. It began launching rockets and grabbed Naya and opened its chestplate, preparing to fire a laser at her. I ducked from behind cover, switched to my assault rifle, and began firing into its chest. After taking a ton of damage, it dropped my partner. The rockets it had launched hit me though, and I was down. Luckily, Izzy was ready with a healing crystal, threw it my way, and revived me. Jacob had enough Fuse built up to launch our team into Fusion mode, we quickly mopped up the mech, and the demo concluded.