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Back in E3 2011, something wonderful happened. Gamers the world over were shown a trailer for Insomniac’s upcoming game, Overstrike. It showcased eccentric personalities, colorful action, an enthusiastic spirit, and a plot that allowed the mercenaries to become relatable and fleshed-out characters. Sure, the game’s title was a bit underwhelming, but nothing that could sink this intriguing project. For a while, it seemed that gamers were in for a treat. Then, some changes came. The title was changed to Fuse, The aesthetic was completely re-hauled, and the entire premise was re-envisioned. Thanks to Insomniac and/or EA, the whole game was utterly crapped on.
Now, everything looks different. Dalton has transformed from a witty and sarcastic leader to a generic grumpy meathead. The original rogue mercenary plot has been abandoned in favor of a hackneyed alien scenario that takes itself way too seriously. The environments have lost their color and now resemble grey urban sludge that any modern FPS barfed out.
What happened? Why did such a promising new IP turn into a “me too” clone of Gears of War and every other successful shooter out there? The answer should be quite obvious…
Yup. Either EA demanded that Overstrike be a thousand times more bland in order to have more mass appeal and be marketable to people who probably aren’t interested in video games in the first place, or Insomniac didn’t have enough confidence in their creativity and decided to neuter their IP in order to play it safe and have a shot at hanging out with the Big Boys Club (read: Gears of War and Call of Duty), not realizing that the Big Boys Club is fine as it is and doesn’t need any more members. I’m not sure which party is to blame for this. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Whatever it is, though, it succeeded in making Overstrike into what will likely be another forgettable shooter.
Sure, some may argue that we don’t have any right to complain yet. After all, we’ve only seen tidbits of Fuse so far from screenshots and videos. However, the damage has already been done in my eyes. I can usually spot soulless stories easily and early during a game’s development. Inversion, Quantum Theory, and Red Faction: Armageddon were just a few examples of games wherein it was clear from day one that the developers forgot to add something to their games in addition to the graphics and the gameplay: soul.
Believe me, no such soul is evident in Fuse. Don’t believe me? Look at some of the screenshots. Take a look at the character models as they do now; can you tell anything about their personalities or mannerisms? Anything to suggest that they’ll be worth investing in emotionally? How about the environments? Is there anything about the bland urban buildings that draws you in and makes you want to discover more about the game’s world? Because it sure doesn’t excite me. All I see is layers of afterthought, the kind of stuff that developers intentionally ignore or set aside because they simply don’t care about those aspects of the game. We all know Insomniac is capable of doing better; they already have done better back at E3 2011.
That’s not to say I’m calling out EA and Insomniac as some sort of exception to the rule. This generation, we’ve seen countless games in which the developer and/or publisher have decided to homogenize their project in accordance with the rest of the market. They’re so afraid that a game might not be taken seriously that they’ve stooped to intentionally cutting off flow to the creative parts of their minds, thinking that ultra serious material is the only kind that sells while anything that dares to approach the realm of lighthearted and humorous is ‘immature’. They seem to think that gamers are on the same bandwagon they are, attempting to gain respect from society by playing it cool and presenting themselves in the most bland and straightforwardly polite way possible. Are we gamers like that? Do we only buy games that are serious and are emotionally one-note and depressing like some emo teenager? I’m not really sure.
There is one thing I’m definitely sure of, though; I won’t be getting Fuse at launch. Not unless leprechauns magically make their way into Insomniac’s studio and rewrite a vast majority of the game’s code. There was a time when Insomniac could be counted on to deliver fresh, unique games that oozed charm and personality. I still remember playing Spyro 2 for the first time as a kid and smiling throughout. There was also a time when EA were interested in originality, believe it or not.
However, those days seem to be long gone. Games are so expensive to make these days that risks are no longer possible. Every game is doomed to have the most plain settings and the most plain characters imaginable in order not to push any boundaries. Despite Fuse‘s title, there doesn’t seem to be a climactic explosion at the end of it all; just a dull whimper in an overly saturated market.