Dancing in the Moonlight
Masters of the virtual music festival Harmonix are heading back to the main stage with their latest release, Fuser. Become an up and coming DJ, as you set off on an ecliptic mix to keep the party pumping and wowing the crowds with showstopping drops. Releasing on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PC, Fuser is available as both standard and VIP editions. Let’s spin that virtual vinyl.
Harmonix has a strong track record with rhythm.
In 2001 Harmonix released Frequency on the PlayStation 2, it was their first major release and, unknown to them, laid the foundations for a plastic peripheral revolution. Players were able to remix a selection of songs by matching button presses with on-screen prompts while flying down a virtual tunnel. Frequency was met with critical success and spawned a sequel, Amplitude, which refined the mechanics. But this was only the beginning, after partnering with peripheral maker RedOctane in 2005 for Guitar Hero they finally completed their band in a box vision with Rock Band. The two franchises were global hits, racking up millions of units sold and copious plastic instruments produced.
Although the Guitar Hero franchise has switched between developers, the now independent Harmonix are still very much supporting Rock Band and providing new experiences without the need for dedicated equipment with Fuser. It’s not the first time they have ventured into hassle-free music experiences though, Rock Band Unplugged released on PSP and Rock Band Blitz provided the same core mechanic on PS3. They have even dipped a toe into the ill-fated Kinect, VR and mobile platforms over the years while fine-tuning their craft. And it has certainly paid off.
Superstar DJ, here we go!
Partnered with publisher NCSoft we now come full circle with the release of Fuser. Featuring a massive library of songs from a variety of genres and decades your task is to create the perfect mix and finish each set with maximum points. For fans of previous Harmonix titles, Fuser will be instantly recognisable and welcoming.
After the obligatory tutorial and simple character customisation, its time to define your destiny in Story, Solo, Multiplayer and Freestyle. Irrespective of mode, the core gameplay mechanic remains the same. Begin by selecting a loadout of songs from the available tracks and set the stage lighting and pyrotechnics for maximum effect. Through progression, in the roughly eight-hour story mode, XP and currency are awarded for success and can be spent unlocking the full library of tracks and new cosmetic items.
The in-play hud is split into two key areas. The top houses the tracklist, as album cover style tiles, and the bottom area is home to your DJ equipment. The deck has room for up to four discs, that can be dropped in or swapped out at any time, as well as the ability to activate modifiers used for combos as you aim for a five-star rating. Each of the tracks is split into key sequences mapped to one of the four face buttons, vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard or whatever the track allows for.
The key to success is in reading the crowd and reacting, be it playing a requested track, artist, genre or instrument at the optimum moment. On-screen prompts will help guide and timing is essential for hitting the higher scores. Additionally, each story mission requires specific criteria to be achieved which becomes more and more challenging as you progress through each concert. Queuing and removing discs, hitting up and downbeats or setting the BPM can initially seem an overwhelming concept but Fuser makes every move feel right and Freestyle is a great way to perfect your craft.
Eccentricity, Experimentation, Explosions
Whether your latest mix is worthy of a top ten position or fails to make the charts one thing is certain, Fuser works. And that’s no mean feat, the amount of work that is going on in the game’s design to ensure all of the tracks, from all of the genres and all the decades seamlessly blend together is testament to the developers’ passion for the genre. And who cares if your unholy fusion actually sounds good, that’s not what it’s about. The audio department is perfectly tuned and of the highest quality and it needs to be with a title that’s primary focus is on music. The soundtrack faithfully recreates all of the songs and will most definitely introduce you to some new artists during your playthrough.
The Greatest Duo
Another aspect where Fuser shines is multiplayer. Adding other players, up to twelve, brings back the memories had from that first full band experience with Rock Band. Co-op and battles keep the limited, but immensely fun, gameplay loop fresh and elevates Fuser to the next level. Games are easy to set-up and find taking advantage of the clean UI. Fuser also includes several social features that make it easy to share your best, and worst, mixes with the world or sit back and take inspiration from others.
The customary online store is ever-present too and going by past Harmonix releases this will allow Fuser to grow and evolve over time as even more tracks are added, for an additional charge.
We managed to test Fuser on the original Xbox One and both the Series X|S, performance was flawless across the board with the newer machines benefiting from a smoother feel and faster loading times. While not the most graphically intensive game, Fuser looks great with bright colours and larger than life characters.
As alluded too earlier, Fuser is available in both standard and VIP editions. Both iterations contain the base game but the VIP edition, as you would expect from the increased price tag, includes a host of extra content. It comes packed with additional 25 tracks and clothing items to download.
Fuser is genuinely a blast to play and a testament to Harmonix’ continued experimentation with the music genre. The core gameplay is accessible and addictive with a sublime soundtrack featuring a wide range of genres that mesh together seamlessly, even though they really shouldn’t. Fuser provides endless fun and challenge with mixes only limited by your imagination.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 10/11/2020
No. of Players: 1-12
Category: Music, Party
Download link: Microsoft Store