Harmonix, an expert studio in musical and rhythmic games and creators of the rock band franchise, is about to triumphantly return to the stage with Fuser, a track in his favorite genre that suggests players create fun mixes for virtual turntables. This latest project appears to be the studio’s most ambitious yet, as it encourages expression and creativity, and gives users a handful of tools and controls to tinker with during their sessions. With songs by Rage Against The Machine, Dolly Parton or Lady Gaga, their musical selection is impressive and spans different genres and decades.
Enjoying Fuser is easy thanks to its intuitive controls and tutorials on offer, but that doesn’t change the fact that the tools we have got a lot of chicha behind them. At the top of the screen you can see all the topics that are in your suitcase. Creating a mix is as simple as selecting one of these themes and pressing the appropriate button to add the component you like best. On Xbox One, each component (voice, percussion, bass, and main melody) is assigned a different color and corresponds to the X, Y, A, and B keys. After “merging” some mixes, I didn’t even have to look. I left the order alone.
At the end of each session, you will be rated more or less stars depending on how you did it, and that rating will depend on several elements. First of all, you need to make sure that you are making all the transitions at the right moment as this title is about rhythm. Above the mixer is a timeline that is divided into the beats of the bar. So you have to try to set the transitions right when one of these steps begins. During the sessions, the public will ask you about songs and more, and you need to listen to them at the right time to gain their support. You can see how everything is going with a meter that shows audience satisfaction. If it’s on the floor, you’ll need to flush the stage because they’ll throw you off the place.
One thing I loved about Fuser is that it encourages players to experiment and be creative, unlike other music games where you just keep pressing buttons like combos or QTE without stopping. You have absolute freedom to fill your box with the songs you like the most, and there is no guideline to follow in order for everything to go smoothly without doing anything else. It is impossible for one player to create a mix that matches that of another as the title gives us a wide range of tools that encourage creativity and allow us to personalize each element. Users can record their loops, adjust pitch and tempo, and show and hide input for each of the four components in the mix. Creating something that sounds good and attracts the audience is the milk, and I’ve felt things that no other music track could (no, not even DJ Hero).
You’ll spend most of your time in Career mode, where you can DJ on six different stages and meet other DJs who will mentor you and teach you their own tricks. Unlike Rock Band, the game has a good story and every character you encounter in your quest for fame has a quirky but personal character. I think Career mode is super fun and I think you will love it and be the fastest way to unlock new tracks and cosmetic items, but it has one big problem: the pace (in the forge …). Most of the time I felt like I was trapped in an endless tutorial, like I wasn’t left alone and kept digging into new techniques and forcing myself to use them over and over again. I understand that Fuser is not an easy title and has to offer us explanations and tutorials, but I think they could have slowed the gas down as they put a lot of effort into this topic.
In addition to the career mode, the game offers two other modes: multiplayer and freestyle mode. The latter is what you can expect from a title with these characteristics. All of the tracks and tools you’ve unlocked are available here for you to experiment with in any way you want. In this mode, you are not limited in time, nor do you have a tired fan asking you to play their favorite 90s song. In terms of multiplayer, it’s a shame I couldn’t try it out as I was playing before it was released. , but I really soaked it up at the September pre-release event. Basically, the mode revolves around a live performance where you take turns with three other players to have your golden minute behind the mixer. While you wait for your moment to prove your worth, a few emoticons are a great way to make inquiries and express your opinion. The truth is, I love the concept behind this mode as it is reminiscent of a typical festival session with big names.
The Fuser soundtrack, which includes a bit from each decade, found me brilliant as it portrays very different genres and includes songs from stars like 50 Cent, Post Malone and The Clash. Harmonix has spectacularly put together a catalog of songs that have in common how catchy they are and how well their parts can be shared. Take, for example, Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”: He has a very catchy melody and can be perfectly recognized if you only hear his bass, his synthesizer, or just his voice. Well the soundtrack is full of songs like this and shows that they worked for hours selecting the songs from the catalog. What’s coolest is that it adds more songs to the 100 that the game ships with from the start. For example, the VIP version is included with 25 additional themes, which you can also buy separately if you wish. You will also add more songs over time.
Another thing I really like about Fuser is the community that the studio wants to create through in-game events. Each week there is a different in-game event that has a special theme and rewards players with new cosmetics that are only intended for their participation. The event currently taking place in the title plays in the genre of synthesized pop and urges players to create mixes using only voice, percussion, guitar, bass, and synthesizers from the 80s, 90s and 00s. This reminds me a lot of what the guys and girls at Media Molecule tried with Dreams, and I can already see that they will add a feature later that will allow them to see iterations of the mixes which will be great fun.
Not all was going to be rosy at Fuser, however. I wouldn’t say they get in the way of the gaming experience that much, but the graphics on this one are a little dated. The characters in the title appear to be taken from the Sims and the audience of the concerts of a car game. They are more robots than humans, they do not give the impression of being real. Yes, I already knew a music game wasn’t going to be the cure-all of the visual, but it doesn’t take much with Rock Band 4, and we’re talking about a title that was released in the early stages of PS4 and Xbox One.
Fuser is undoubtedly one of those musical works that I had the best time with and that has everything necessary to transcend the genre that it was labeled with. I like the way it encourages creativity through its various tools and the soundtrack seems very complete and not a decade or genre is left out of the box. The graphics seemed bad to me though, and the career mode has the flaw of not knowing how to spend just enough time on the tutorials. That said, Fuser is undoubtedly a very ambitious project for Harmonix, and I look forward to playing it again when they release a DLC with more themes to play and enjoy.