There’s not a whole lot of variety in the two-stick shooter genre, but to be honest, I’ve never really seen the point. They’re often pick-up-and-play titles with little compromise toward the kind of depth we tend to expect of our games nowadays. Games like Smash TV and, recently, Renegade Ops, have kept me entertained for ages with only the most cursory nod toward elements of other genres. So it was with a fair degree of interest that I began a rather confusing and frustrating journey with Fusion: Genesis. Sadly, it wasn’t a journey I felt compelled to finish, and while the elements that I’m going to describe in the following paragraphs may excite those sensitive, ticklish gaming areas, you’d be hard pushed to get much more out of it than that.
The composition of Starfire Studios is definitely one with a fair pedigree, despite this being their first title. With a significant chunk of former Rare employees, you can begin to understand Fusion: Genesis’ main problem. If success is ninety per cent perspiration, and ten per cent inspiration, Starfire has got the mix somewhat muddled up. This is a title that smacks of too much compromise, too many ideas and not enough hard work.
It’s kind of like eating barbeque ribs from a family of hamsters: each of the individual, tasty ribs is a succulent joy, but the meal as a whole doesn’t fill you up, and it’s a bloody pain in the arse to eat. Fusion: Genesis is absolutely rammed full of ideas. There is an MMO element, a multiplayer with a twist, an RPG focus, and resource management, to name but a few. Simply put though, none of these work particularly well.
Take the RPG element, possibly the most sensible, or at least unsurprising, of the lot. Far from being an aspect of the game that challenges you to continue exploring, or regularly changes the way you play the game, it takes the worst of the genre, and offers nothing to balance it. It’s almost as if the RPG side was simply thrown in as something to hobble you at various stages. There’s some arbitrary levelling up, which means very little until you reach a point in the game that kicks you in the balls, steals your pocket money and tells you to go get some friends before you come back. It’s at these points that you feel utterly disenfranchised with the game. At pretty regular intervals it orders you to grind to a degree that seems entirely at odds with the nature of a two-stick shooter. Worse than this befuddling necessity to grind, is that there really isn’t much of a benefit. You’re really only given what’s necessary then shooed back into the world with no sense of satisfaction. Grinding can be fun, sure, but there’s nothing fun about this kind of grind. For the most part you’re simply mining asteroid fields for ore. Yawn.
Then there’s the meat of the game: the campaign. Again, this separates the worst kind of missions and throws them into your face while laughing. “Here, have seven of the same mission in a row,” it says, or, “Hang on, you didn’t think you’d be doing anything interesting on this mission, did you?” Asinine missions are abundant, and often consist of just hauling ass to a jump gate, poking around and coming back. Sure, this is a fairly standard way to familiarise gamers with the world, but at some point you have to let them run free and enjoy themselves. Combined with the grindy nature of the RPG side, this has the end result of making you feel like you’re just slogging through your daily routine at work.
But, there are some excellent ideas here. The varying factions and their unique abilities really show the potential Fusion: Genesis has. The same is true of the MMO parts. Being able to hook up with three others and form a squadron is a lovely idea for a lengthy title like this. However, both of those elements have been implemented so badly that they’re both more trouble than they’re worth. The same could be said of the innovative auction house mechanic and the sentients that follow you around.
In addition, very little is explained to you. In keeping with the idea that Starfire is flinging stuff at you, you’re forced to endure some pretty patronising, and seriously dull set pieces, but when you need some kind of explanation, the game’s round the back of the bike sheds snogging someone else. And this happens a lot. It’s not even as if this comes across as a considered thing, as it’s perfectly happy to rattle on about game mechanics and HUD elements that we’re all familiar with, but when it adds something new to the genre, nada.
Don’t buy Fusion: Genesis. It’s got a load of cool-seeming stuff in it, but the watery nature of each element, combined with what appears to be pure laziness makes it damn near unplayable at times. I can’t really think who would like this. Fans of titles like Elite will find it far too basic, and those after something a little more visceral will simply be disappointed by the lack of depth of so may elements.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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