Tag Archive: Insomniac Games


Usually when people think of Insomniac Games, over-the-top action and insane weapons are the first thoughts that come to mind. In a creative field like video games, though, patterns are meant to be broken and comfort zones are meant to be stepped outside of—and that’s what’s being done by a fifteen-person team within Insomniac. This small group of staffers is hard at work on Song of the Deep, a side-scrolling metroidvania-style passion project that definitely moves away from what some may consider the studio’s bread and butter. I was recently able to play about 30 minutes of the game, and you’d think Insomniac had always been working within that genre.

Song of the Deep follows 12-year-old Merryn, a young girl whose fisherman father has been lost at sea. When Merryn has a vision seeing her father trapped on the sea floor, she decides the only way to save her dad is to find him herself. So, she puts together a makeshift submarine and sets off to explore the murky depths. What she soon realizes, however, is that all the old bedtime stories her father used to tell her about the sea might actually be true, and only by navigating various hazards will she ever be able to bring him home.

Dropped into the middle of Merryn’s adventure, I began by trying out the variety of tools and weapons that her sub has to help it navigate its surroundings. A grappling hook can be used to tether the sub to craggy surfaces in strong currents, pull and carry objects around a level when solving puzzles, or even to try to punch enemies. The sub also featured sonar with pulses that can stun certain enemies, a turbo booster which can really crank up the engines on the sub, and lasers and torpedoes to either defend yourself with or destroy crumbling walls for entry into submerged ruins.

Speaking of ruins, as I explored the world around me, I began to realize that some of the story was being told via the vibrant environments I was navigating. Large tendrils of seaweed acted as window dressing on larger set pieces, but also at times visually obscured hidden pathways. Intricately-carved stone, long lost to time, had eerily been preserved in the deepest recesses of the ocean. Unknown clockwork technology still operated when Merryn interacted with it, opening up new wonders to explore. Song of the Deep is nothing short of beautiful when it came to providing a visually captivating experience.


As I began to make headway during my hands-on time, I soon came across my first upgrade. It was a special suit that Merryn can wear in order to freely exit the sub. Being much smaller than the sub, the suit allows her to explore tiny crevasses and pathways that lead to special items or solutions to different puzzles. It basically serves the purpose of Samus’ morph ball from Metroid, but Merryn is far more vulnerable in this mode than Samus ever was, leaving Song of the Deep’s heroine open to far more danger.

And danger is something Song of the Deep is fraught with. Being underwater, Merryn and her sub provide a unique twist to other games in the same genre in that there is no platforming. Being submerged, you can always move in every direction as long as there isn’t a wall or other obstacle in your path barring progress. This means bottomless pits or spike traps aren’t on Merryn’s list of concerns, but in their place, Insomniac needed other ways to provide challenge along the adventure.

One way of doing this is to fill each level with hostile wildlife, with jellyfish, urchins, and other sea creatures trying to turn you into dinner if you’re not careful. Another way of upping the difficulty is with puzzles. Navigating labyrinthine corridors with jet stream currents trying to toss you to and fro, using your grappling hook to throw items through narrow openings in order to open up ancient, rusted gates, or working steampunk-like machinery to reflect light at different sensors were just some of the head-scratchers I came across in my time with the game. Although not impossible to overcome, they definitely added a welcome challenge to the adventure.

Although my time with Song of the Deep was short, its appeal is evident. Whether a longtime fan of metroidvanias, or just looking for another endearing digital story to experience, the team at Insomniac is showing their pedigree reaches far past extraordinary weaponry and mind-blowing action. Song of the Deep should be a game to keep an eye out for when it releases sometime before the end of the first half of 2016 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.


Ray Carsillo goes one-on-one with Insomniac Games’ Director of Brand Development, Ryan Schneider, to learn more about the upcoming open-world third-person action shooter Sunset Overdrive!

All four one

Nowadays, it seems that whenever a developer wants to make a shooter, they have to include four-player co-op. Some franchises simply make controllable clones that fade away whenever a cutscene or button-prompt event triggers. The better ones, like Borderlands or Gears of War, actually try to create unique individuals for each player. But rarely does the core experience ever deviate, whether playing alone or with friends.

With Fuse, Insomniac Games wanted to mix things up. Instead of giving us the same streamlined co-op experience in a shooter, the Resistance developer wanted to add elements that promoted co-op play as much as possible.

Fuse begins when a covert, four-person team working for an off-the-grid mercenary contractor named Overstrike takes on an assignment to destroy items left behind in a compromised military installation. These four agents quickly meet resistance from a rival gun-for-hire organization called Raven, which has been tasked with extracting the items. Only by tapping into some of the experimental weapons found at the bunker—powered by an alien substance called “Fuse”—can the Overstrike team hope to escape the now-botched operation with their lives.

Fuse’s story is as generic as they come. You’re given four characters who you learn about over the course of the game—but not enough to actually care about beyond the fact that if they die, your mission ends and you need to restart from the nearest checkpoint.

In fact, if you asked the three of us in the EGM office who played Fuse what the character names were, maybe through a combined effort, we could come up with all of them. Whenever we tried to use the actual character names, we just ended up confusing each other, especially with gender-neutral Izzy. It just became easier to call the protagonists “Shield Guy,” “Crossbow Guy,” “Stealth Girl,” and “Healer Girl,” because they were more defined by their weapons than the paltry character development Insomniac attempted here. Couple the forgettable characters with your standard “save the world” story, and Fuse won’t be winning any awards for its script, that’s for sure.

But where the story falters, the gameplay comes through. The best way to describe Fuse’s action is that it’s like a third-person bullet hell. Every weaponized projectile you can think of is constantly flung at your characters, filling the screen at times and making teamwork and cover a must—especially against the bullet-sponge bosses. This frantic, panicked pace gives the action an addictive quality I haven’t experienced in quite a while.

This gameplay doesn’t just permeate the campaign either. In order to wedge in some replayability and give you an alternate way to reach the game’s level cap, a Horde-like mode called Echelon is featured. Twelve waves of the campaign’s hardest enemies will come after you and your squad as you attempt to accomplish a variety of random objectives. It’s not exactly something we haven’t seen before, but the Fuse flare for fast paced action and the objective randomization is a nice touch.

The unique weapons Insomniac has crafted­–continuing to hone what many have called their forte for quite some time now—also complement the action. Dalton’s shield isn’t just a defensive barrier for the team, but it can also give boosts to friendly fire, and the shield can dissolve enemies if they get too close to it. Jacob’s crossbow can act like a sniper rifle, but should your shots miss or not kill, they can be strung together to envelop nearby enemies in liquid fire. Izzy has a special healing grenade that she can toss around the battlefield, and her assault rifle can encase enemies in crystal, stopping them in their tracks. Finally, Maya can create miniature black holes with her rifle and turn invisible to perform stealth kills. When you start finding ways to combine these powers, not only is it more effective at wiping away your enemies, but you also gather more experience.

Aside from the story, there’s one other huge flaw here: The action comes at one speed—no matter how many AI characters you have. This turns a 7-to-8-hour experience with friends into a 15-to-20 hour grind by yourself. It’s not that the AI is bad; it’s just that their priorities aren’t properly balanced. The AI is great at getting you back on your feet if you go down, but if you’re facing a room full of tough enemies or one of those bullet-sponge bosses, the fights become drawn-out and tiresome, as the AI will barely pull the trigger. Sure, you can bounce from character to character with just a press of a couple of buttons—but you’ll still only have one gun firing at the bad guys and actually hitting them, which seems like a torturous way to make you want to play with your friends.

Fuse has a fantastic foundation. The game looks and sounds great, while the RPG systems and frantic, arcade-like gameplay mechanics really pull you into the experience when playing with buddies. But I know how hard it is to get a crew of guys together to do most anything nowadays—never mind play games. Keeping that and the lackluster story in mind, Fuse makes a strong showing but falls short of being an elite shooter.

Developer: Insomniac Games • Publisher: EA • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 05.28.13
It’s a technically solid game, but Fuse lacks a soul; the story and character development are bland beyond belief. The gameplay is a saving grace, though, and the experience can get quite addictive when working with a few friends—but it can also become a tiresome grind when playing solo.
The Good Fun action sequences and one of the best four-player co-op games available.
The Bad Poor story and character development; not as well-balanced for single-player romps.
The Ugly Arguing with friends over who takes control of which character.
FUSE is available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Lighting the Fuse

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us and that the calendar year is coming to an end. Usually, this is a great time for people to reflect on the events of the past year that have transpired. This is also a good time, however, to look ahead. And in that vein, EA held their ‘Naughty or Nice’ event in New York and allowed us to play some games slated for the next few months depending on if we’ve been good boys or girls (hence the name of the event). Some lucky few of us have been particularly naughty this year though and were able to go hands-on with Fuse, the upcoming third-person shooter from Insomniac Games.

In Fuse, you play as one of four misfit soldiers in the near future as part of a group called Overstrike 9 who work for the government after they start developing experimental weapons with an alien substance dubbed Fuse (hence the name of the game). Your objective is to then take down a corrupt organization known as ‘Raven’ with your new alien-powered weapons while also working as a cohesive unit.

What looks to separate Fuse from every other third-person shooter out there is not only the Fuse powered weaponry you acquire, but the ability to hop between all four members of the team should you be playing solo. This is critical as each member of the team has a distinct style and special abilities that will allow you to overcome the obstacles in your path. Of course, the game will also feature and encourage co-op, but gives you this option incase you’re like me and prefer to play games by yourself in a dank hole in the ground and the game can still therefore convey that feeling of being in an organized group.

The first character I tried was the fiery redhead Izzy. Her Fuse weapon’s special ability is to fire matter at enemies that freezes them in place, allowing you to focus on other targets or shatter them into tiny pieces with a melee maneuver and conserve your ammo.

Next, was Dalton and his ability was a special energy shield that not only prevents you and your teammates from being hit, but increases your ammo’s strength should you fire back through the shield yourselves.

Then came Jacob and he was one of my favorites. He has a special crossbow that not only allows you to impale enemies into the wall (think the Javelin Gun from Dead Space 2), but if multiple bolts are in the environment, you can link them together via an electric tether and then incinerate anything caught in-between the field. A perfect example of this was at one point in our demo a group of riot shield wielding thugs tried to storm the facility we just captured. In order to get them to drop their guard, I fired a bolt in front of the group, and two behind. I then activated the link and created a giant triangle of fire that killed many of the guards and the few who survived were so panicked that they were easy pickings for the rest of the squad.

Finally came Naya and she was another favorite of mine. Not only does she have an awesome gun that opens up miniature black holes from within enemies and consumes anyone close to it, which in and of itself is amazingly badass, but she also has a cloak that allows you to flank or sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and create havoc from behind enemy lines. I used this to get by many a turret in the demo and it saved me often as it’s easy to lose the invisible person in the midst of a firefight.

Aside from the brilliant gunplay, the game also features a cover system that worked well enough when compared to what is out on the market currently, and a simple free-running mechanic as the various characters could do things any normal soldier would do like hop over chain link fences to get to alternate pathways or to a breachable wall or door.

After infiltrating and wreaking havoc on the Raven facility, the group was met by a bi-pedal mechanized monstrosity reminiscent of something out of early Metal Gear. After taking trash to the group, the robot began pummeling us with lasers, missiles, and melee attacks as it hopped around the enclosed area we were fighting in. But with four people to attack it at once, it had difficulty targeting multiple foes and by literally running circles around it, we were able to turn the robot into scrap.

Although our time with Fuse was short, the game felt immensely satisfying as I played both by myself and with other people. The Insomniac staple of insane weaponry is evident clearly right from the get go and the unique abilities these weapons afford you looks like they’ll hopefully keep the game play fresh throughout. The only question now is if the story can live up to the off-the-wall fun the weapons provided and give us a wholly entertaining experience when the game is released in March 2013.