After taking the Rock Band franchise to its limits with four main iterations and a good few special editions, Harmonix are now looking to expand in other areas, moving away from one specific genre to open the musical world up to a host of others. That is where FUSER comes in, giving players the opportunity to embark on a DJ mixing career that should see their name up on lights. Party people, unite.
FUSER works by giving you total control over the music at hand, putting you behind the decks of a non-stop virtual music festival. It is here where you’ll be found working the crowd, working the music, and working the set, combining some of the finest real-world tunes of recent (and older) times. The collaborations you create, the mixes you merge and the performances you pull off won’t just be found getting the crowd worked up, but you yourself will fast become one with the tunes, fully immersed in the entire experience. And even though FUSER is an entirely different beast to what Harmonix have previously created through the Rock Band and Dance Central franchises, probably being slightly more aligned to the much loved DJ Hero, there’s still most certainly a place for this tune twister in the gaming scene.
From the off you’ll realise that FUSER is all about the party experience. Pushed through the career mode via a number of excitable, enthused, yet slightly annoying, promoters, you’ll discover the chance to find your feet in the opening sets before becoming the headline act in front of thousands. And how you go about that is pretty much up to you.
The vast majority of your time in FUSER will be in the utilisation of numerous discs, drops, and tunes, and much like Harmonix’s previous options, FUSER isn’t left wanting in this department. There are more than 100 songs available at launch, bringing together some of the most well-known, and a few obscure, tracks from the world’s leading artists. There are dance tunes from the likes of Basement Jaxx, Donna Summer and Paul van Dyk, rolling alongside hip-hop hits including In Da Club from 50 Cent, Naughty By Nature’s killer O.P.P., and even a bit of Salt-N-Pepa and Push It.
The pop genre covers a ton of bases too – none more so than Ace of Base, Carly Rae-Jepsen, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, LMFAO, Pharrell Williams and even a bit of Rick Astley – yes, Never Gonna Give You Up is in the house. Harmonix aren’t shy in adding a bit of rock either: The Clash, Coldplay, Megadeth, Rage Against The Machine and Smash Mouth all star, literally.
You’d think those four genres would be enough for any proper party to hit the bass, but FUSER keeps them coming with country tunes – Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Sam Hunt for instance – a bit of latin focusing on Bad Bunny and Sean Paul, and across to the R&B spectrum where Amy Winehouse and Bobby Brown star as good old Otis Redding sits on the dock of the bay.
It’s obviously the music which has been a main focus for Harmonix and the FUSER development team, and at no point will you ever be left wanting by the options that are available to you. In fact, I’d go as far to say that if you can’t create an atmosphere with what you’re being given here, then perhaps a DJ’s life isn’t one you should be embarking on.
In order to find success in FUSER, it is up to you to work through four different channels, ripping out the vocals, the beats, the melodies, the guitar solos and more from each track, dropping them on to your deck and seamlessly combining them together. With four decks available to deliver the power of music, and each element of every tune easily attached to your face buttons, it’s an utter cinch to take a moment from one song, a vocal from another, and a guitar riff from something entirely different, before bringing them together as one. The opportunity to then mute, eject or solo these when the time calls for it is just as easy.
Keeping the tunes flowing, nailing certain objectives given to you by your promoter in the hope that it keeps the crowd entertained, answering calls from the masses for certain tune types or songs from a specific decade, and ensuring these changes are perfectly placed, and FUSER will see you keeping the party vibe rolling, allowing you to grab points and experience as you head through the career. Nail a set and you’ll move on to the next, each of which gets a little more complex, a little more testing; coming in need of a bit more variety and personalisation. It is here where you’ll also be able to add in additional, more personal, loops, change up your set visuals and more. The deeper you head through the career, the more your party starting skills will come to the fore, and the more cash you’ll find yourself earning, allowing purchase and unlocks of even more tunes.
The career is well-delivered, helpfully walking you through every single element of FUSER as and when they are required. The entire experience can fast become hugely complicated and credit has to go to Harmonix for delicately handling each and every addition. Honestly, if you’re going into FUSER and not taking in the career first and foremost, I could easily see the whole thing becoming hugely overbearing, with crowd calls ignored, and success never found. Thankfully the career is deep enough, and immersive enough, to ensure that you’ll want to continue on through, putting the beats down and working your own uniqueness into proceedings.
Alongside that though and FUSER covers a variety of other bases. There is the Freestyle mode that lets you mix and match to your heart’s content without any outside pressure, with a ton of customisation options that allow you to bring your own personality to the fore, and the chance to share your performances with the online world. There are also a number of multiplayer options too – notably weekly social events, cooperative freestyle mix-offs and Battles – letting you either collaborate with, or compete against, others from around the globe; it is here where your disc skills really will come to the fore. When it works, it’s great too and it’s comforting to see the online population within FUSER being fairly hefty; just be ready to put up with a few little server errors when trying to join ranked matches though – things aren’t always particularly stable on that front. Whatever you are attempting though, FUSER works really well, and it’s great to just be able to fire the game up for 10 minutes, pull your favourite tunes from their sleeves, mash up a mix and leave happy. It’s a super little time killer in that respect.
With bright, colourful visuals, promoters who try to inject a bit of enthusiasm into proceedings (although they don’t always hit the mark) and a user interface that really allows things to flow, there’s not much to complain about with FUSER. Being picky I’d say that away from spinning the tunes that are included, the addition of personal loops and individual mixes of specific beats fail to really work, complicating matters just as the flow takes hold. Perhaps that’s a personal thing and a lack of imagination on my part, but I’d much rather spin the discs given and be done with it.
There’s also a bit of a price issue to consider here, and whilst I understand licence issues force the need for a £100 asking price for the FUSER VIP Edition – an edition which contains 25 additional tunes on top of those present in the base game – that’s a level that is going to be way out of reach of many gamers. It’s obvious this is due to the many tracks that are held within the game, but even if the Standard Edition of the game could have included these, or the VIP Edition was a little cheaper, it would be a bit more bearable.
If you have money to burn, are missing the party scene or just want to attempt to head off on a mixing career for nothing but personal entertainment, FUSER on Xbox One nails what is required. The control scheme has been well handled, the visuals are bright and colourful, and the plethora of tunes included will hit the spot for many. With a deep career being the highlight, and many other options available for those looking to go beyond that and into the online scene, Harmonix have hit the sweet spot with their latest music franchise. It’s certainly one to consider involving yourself with.