When I first heard of Fuser, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. The only context available at the time was that Harmonix, the developers behind Rock Band and Dance Central, were creating a new game that would allow players to simulate being a DJ. After having a decent experience with Activision’s DJ Hero almost a decade ago, I thought there was a good chance that this game would be similar, but I was happy to be wrong. Every set you play has seemingly infinite possibilities and is guaranteed to have you tapping your feet to the rhythm in minutes. Not only is Fuser one of the greatest rhythm games to be released in recent memory, but it’s also an amazing sandbox that you can easily get lost in.
Story – Learning from the Best
The first thing every player should do after booting up the game is to begin the campaign mode. The story mode is really a very long tutorial in disguise and will show the player how to use every tool in their kit effectively. Of course, you will need to start with the creation of your character. I found that Harmonix has offered a very diverse mix of body types and clothes for your custom avatar, so it should be easy to create a character that you feel represents you the most. Once you have created your DJ, you will be swiftly introduced to Danny Humbles, the first of six unique personalities that will guide you from the smallest stage to the biggest crowd in your rise to stardom.
Fuser‘s campaign takes you across six literal stages, with each stage having just under ten levels for you to complete before proceeding. Each level will teach you something new about how to utilize the game’s many features best. Between fading out songs and changing the BPM of your tracks, the campaign moves at a pace that never felt overwhelming. Once I finally got the hang of these new techniques, my mind started thinking of all the different ways to implement these tricks into my newest mix. This title does a phenomenal job of introducing new musicians into the world of mixing and providing similar tools that actual DJ’s use during their sets.
The campaign of Fuser is similar to the structure of older rhythm games. Each set you play will be graded on a five-star system. To achieve a full five-star ranking on any level, players must successfully keep their mix on the beat and take requests from the audience. The audience of your show can sometimes be a pretty picky crowd, often asking you to play songs from certain genres, decades, or to hear a certain instrument from any specific song. Focusing on both the level’s main requirements and completing audience requests is a balancing act that can sometimes be stressful but mostly remains fun.
Playing through the campaign also allows you to earn experience after every set. The game starts with plenty of songs unlocked initially, but you must level up your character to earn tokens to unlock more. Song tokens can be used to purchase more music from the game’s store, and Style tokens are used to purchase more customization options for your character and your stage set-up. The biggest complaint I have against the campaign mode is that each level kind of ends suddenly, even if you are deep into a great sounding mix. I wish the game would present the player with a warning that one minute remains in the set so you could decide how it ends.
Gameplay – Can You Kick it?
Playing Fuser is a blast and incredibly addicting once you begin understanding how it works. Before each set, you will need to select up to twenty-four songs to bring with you onto the stage. The library of music offered here is very dynamic, including tracks like Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name of” and a personal favorite, Lizzo’s “Good as Hell.” The player will pull the vocals, percussion, bass, rhythm, or brass from almost any song to create a mix that works harmoniously together. To drop a certain part of a song into your mix, the player will have to hit one of the face buttons, each one always dropping a certain section of the song. For example, hitting the square button over a song will almost always include that song’s percussion section. Hitting the circle button over any song will almost always add the vocals.
The core gameplay comes from experimentation. There are no right or wrong answers here, and once you learn the basics of playing different parts from different songs, the game begins to open up like a sandbox. You could easily spend hours using only this mechanic, but there are so many creative ways to evolve your mix that you will be eager to learn everything as soon as possible. The game also allows you to change the BPM, key, and mode of a song and play custom instruments. You can do many different things, and one of my few complaints about the process is how slowly the cursor moves across the screen. I felt like I was being held back slightly by waiting for my cursor to glide across the screen to access the tool I wanted to use most.
Aside from the campaign, this title also has a phenomenal freestyle mode. No time limits, no fan requests, just you and your favorite songs trying to create an absolute banger. The freestyle mode will also allow the player to record their mix to share on social media. For some reason, though, every time I uploaded one of my mixes to Twitter, the audio would cut-off halfway though. I have been super proud of the mixes I uploaded but was upset to find out there was an error in the uploading process each time.
If you were to ask Daft Punk, they would probably tell you it’s not very fun to DJ alone. While the lack of local co-op is surprising, players can join a server with their friends to access a shared freestyle session. Each player will be given a minute to put their influence on the track before it switches out DJ’s. While I didn’t end up playing this mode much, there is a spectator mode that I found to be quite fun. This will let you watch another group’s session and give you the power to make requests. I had no issue joining people’s rooms and requesting Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” until I heard that catchy piano melody.
If you feel like you would rather work against someone than with someone, Fuser has you covered. The game offers a Battle mode that allows players to face-off either casually or in a ranked match. Both players will be given similar tasks, and whoever can pull them off while balancing requests from the audience will take the victory. While a neat idea, it is currently hard to find an opponent only weeks after the game’s launch. The game also offers online weekly themed events. Player’s can submit their mixes every week if it fits the theme, and other players online can vote for their favorites.
Graphics and Audio – The Stage is Lit
Fuser is a good-looking game, but players will be too distracted looking for the right song or tool to sit back and really appreciate it. Fortunately, the game lets you customize the stage your performing on with an amazing range of different lights, effects, and fireworks. Depending on what kind of mix you feel like making, having the right colors and effects can really help immerse the player in their show.
Every song included with the game’s soundtrack is officially licensed and cleared for mixing with other songs. It is hard to complain about the variety with over one hundred songs included. Still, after playing for about fifteen hours, I am getting a bit tired of hearing the melody of Coldplay’s “Clocks” playing over every tenth song I make. While DLC is currently guaranteed to be released every week, it will be important to continuously add new songs to improve the title’s longevity.
Fuser was reviewed on PS4. A key was provided by Kartridge PR.