I have been a fan of Harmonix since they launched Frequency back in 2001 for that Playstation 2. I, like many other gamers, discovered my love of challenging rhythm games all those years ago and I have been faithfully playing and attempting to master Harmonix games ever since.
My fandom reached maximum levels when, for a job, I would play Guitar Hero 3 outside of malls and video game stores. People would see me complete challenging songs on expert, sometimes without looking at the screen, and feel inspired to try/buy the game themselves. They saw how much fun I was having while performing that, they too wanted in on the musical experience.
However, for as amazing and groundbreaking Guitar Hero was, it wasn't the music experience that Harmonix "truly" wanted to deliver. Guitar Hero and Rock Band (and other games like them ) are pretty rigid simulations of what it is like to "actually" perform music. There is little room for exploration and the game reminds you harshly whenever you miss a note. There is little room for creative input from the player and peak joy occurs when players "forget" they are just playing a game and fall into the trance-like state of hitting buttons with 100% accuracy.
Fuser is a game about the joy of musically "nailing" it and, also, about total musical expression. Revolutionary is a term you don't throw around loosely when writing about video games, but after touring that Harmonix studio in Boston during PAX East 2020 and being shown more than just the Fuser floor demo, I'm convinced that this game has the potential to change the music genre permanently.
Sandbox meets Music
Fuser is played on a standard controller (though I can imagine a unique Fuser controller being made eventually) and places players into the role of a professional DJ performing at major musical events. Some of your gigs will be corporate, some of your gigs might be more laid back, but Fuser is always about one thing: making awesome mixes and keeping the crowd happy.
But here is where Fuser earns its revolutionary status. 16 tracks (the game will ship with"more than 100 songs") from a variety of genres and time periods accompany players each level. These tracks, carefully curated by developers to ensure maximum synergy and creative expression, can be selected freely by players at any time during their performance. Each level has different tracks and I was ensured by Harmonix staff that there will be "tons...tons" of music to play with when the game is released.
Each of these tracks is comprised of different elements that players can experiment with. Like the vocals of Bad Guy by Billie Eilish? What if you combined it with the beat of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult and the guitar from Old Town Road by Lil Nas X? Chances are it is going to sound great and, as long as it satisfies the audience's requests, your score increases and the show moves on nicely.
Virtually any gamer who enjoys music can get into the groove and enjoy the game on a variety of difficulty levels. While many gamers got to experience Fuser during PAX, what they were really playing can best be described as a tutorial (and a very well made one at that). I played this version my self and, before I knew it, I was nodding my head and jamming out to my own mix. I thought this was the stand-alone game at first and was already impressed.
But there is so, so much more.
Advanced controls for total freedom
Hardcore music game enthusiasts and those familiar with mixing music will love Fuser. As previously mentioned, I was shown a more complete version of the game at Harmonix Studios and I was blown away. There are many, many different ways and shortcuts available to control your mix and players who master Fuser will be impressive and fun to watch.
They will be controlling the tempo, placing tracks on the perfect downbeat, highlighting the most unique aspects of songs creatively, recording and mixing in their own sounds live while playing. all the while, they will be set up that perfect "drop the beat" moment that whips the crowd into a frenzy.
Harmonix, in addition to creating an amazing sandbox music game, has also created an incredibly innovative method to mix music and "actually" perform as a DJ. It is only a matter of time before someone masters Fuser, gets their hands on a modded version of the game that allows them to use any tracks they want, and proceeds to DJ at real-life events using a Playstation 4 controller.
A new gaming experience
When I played Fuser, I was totally lost in the music (headphones are a must for this game). My first thought after putting the controller down was how I wanted to make an entire gaming station in my apartment dedicated to playing Fuser and nothing else.
It really was that fun. At first, I chalked this up to how much I enjoy music games in general, but after talking to the Harmonix staff demoing the game, I realized how this was pretty much everybody's reaction after playing. Even gamers with no prior interest in music games had to admit that, once they got the hang of out, creating music just feels good.
To me, that is the boldest part of Fuser and why I am already such a big fan. For decades, music games have asked players to meet the challenge of matching blisteringly fast button presses and complex rhythms. To people like me, the challenge is fun and rewarding.
But, is there anything less exciting than a music game on the lowest difficulty? Watching one of those slow, almost patronizing colored notes slowly drip down the screen only to still be missed by a new player isn't fun for anyone and is easily the worst part of the music video game genre. The "zone" state where the player's actions are in sync with the music -- that is something enjoyed best a harder difficulty and a lot of gamers don't have the time or the patience to reach.
But Fuser feels totally different. Anyone who has ever tapped their foot to music or had fun dancing can sit down with Fuser and truly feel like they are making music. The idea of making gaming highs more accessible to the average consumer has, traditionally, been a very successful game development model.
We have seen this idea play out successfully in virtually every genre of game and, for a while, mainstream gaming culture was dominated by Rock Band for its ability to do just that. Rock Band gave players of all skill level the ability to feel like they were part of a real band, and that was a truly memorable experience.
Fuser will change the music game genre in the same way. Playing it feels like you are really making music. Grab a pair of headphones and enter the world of professional DJ'ing -- chances are you will want to stay.
Inven Global conducted an extended interview with Harmonix's Daniel Sussman. Sussman served as Project Manager for Fuser and claims that now "is the perfect time in human history to suggest that a music game can be very different." Stay tuned for this interview to be released shortly.
FUSER will release in 2020 for PlayStation®4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC. The game’s official website is now live at www.FUSER.com.
Warcraft 3 is my one true love and I will challenge anyone to a game of Super Smash Brothers Melee.