The biggest gripe where I can see many players, especially the purists express bitterness, lies in the combat element of the game. While it's been said the engine was tweaked, the AI remains relentless, and is bound to leave you annoyed or frustrated. Not only do they have the tendency to use their weapons more frequently than you, but there will be occasions when you're faced with multiple attacks from AI competitors. "Warning, shield energy low…" Too late…contender eliminated. Not fun, especially after you've unlocked the Super Weapons - giving them an even greater advantage to take you out of the race. Fortunately, you have the option to disable weapons entirely and focus on the racing aspect of the game.
Speaking of which, Fusion introduces a new set of weapons to the standard compliment of missiles, rockets and the like. Grav Stingers, Gravity Bomb, and Pulse Cannons, to name a few, each with a specific function; you'll find some more effective and enjoyable to use than others. Personally, I miss the Force Wall and Reflector. They offered more flexibility to be put to use in any given situation; unlike the Flame Thrower, which I personally think sucks rocks. In my opinion, these were a lot better, and I wish Studio Liverpool hadn't tried to reinvent the wheel entirely. Quips aside, the rear-attacks are still in, joined by a new feature that allows you to fire weapons at different strike rates, using the R1 button. So, a light tap on the button will cause a weapon to come out slower and inflict higher damage than faster button presses. This feature draws the best results when used with weapons such as Quake and Missiles; and above all, certainly gives this aspect of the game added depth.
Fusion offers a modest selection of extras (new game modes, teams and weapons). A gallery mode features a vast collection of pre-rendered conceptual art designs of the F9000 racing rosters along with some impressive CG portraits. As highlighted earlier, the Zone is hands down, one of the most addictive features Fusion has to offer. Taking things back to basics, you'll compete in 10 courses, maintaining a speed of 1000kph, which gradually increases every 10 seconds. You'll also accelerate faster as you successfully complete laps and hit the speed pads positioned on the track. Although you're awarded a gold medal upon reaching level 30, the levels in the Zone are limitless. So you'll be able to compete as long as you can endure the insane speed as you warp around the track. An appropriate title for what can be considered as a true test of your senses, and one of the most challenging features within the entire package.
Taking a brief walk through the other modes: Time Trial and AG League are basically the same and straightforward if you've been familiar with any of the previous editions, much like the Arcade Mode. While the Challenge Mode, consists of various events such as eliminating a pre-set number of opponents, or qualifying within a predetermined time. In addition to the Zone mode, Fusion features a new Custom League Mode, allowing you (and a friend, should you get into the multiplayer mode) to choose from any of the available circuits and engage in intense, competitive matches. Of course, there are a new selection of weapons exclusive to this mode, all which I have found to be bad-ass, and it's a shame they can't be used somehow in the single-player modes.
Despite a few flaws, underneath the surface lies a very enjoyable game. It's odd that Fusion still feels like an unpolished product, given the length of time Studio Liverpool had on its hands. Nevertheless, I've spent extensive time with the game, and thus far, it's delivered hours of enjoyment as I am sure it will for any fan of the series willing to quell their skepticism. While XL and Wipeout 3 are excellent in their own right, Fusion offers an extensive level of features and flexibility that motivates me to play over and over again. Renting the game would be an injustice. You owe it to yourself, whether you're a casual fan or a purist, to add this to your collection, today.
Article originally published on The Next Level