|Developer||Harmonix Music Systems, Inc.|
|Platforms||PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||November 10, 2020|
Harmonix is back once again with Fuser to put the power of the DJ in your hands. With over 100 songs across six decades of music, you will be challenged to create the ultimate party mix. This game is a dream come true for me after playing DJ Hero back in high school. I enjoyed the soundtrack in that game but I always wished I could make my own mixes. Fuser not only allows you to come up with your dream mixes, it proves to be a more complex beast than you’d expect.
Disclaimer: Fuser has over 100 songs from different artists with their own message and themes. Personally, the nature of the game will make it difficult to focus on the lyrics of some songs and therefore, suitable to play with anyone. If you are concerned about the content of the songs in the game, please refer to the game’s official website which lists the main tracklist (https://www.fuser.com/en-us/songs) and the DLC currently available.
Drug/Alcohol References: While never explicitly mentioned, there are instances of hinting at consumption from NPCs. Drugs and alcohol are referenced in some songs.
Explicit Language: Some tracks have coarse language. You’re gonna find the whole spectrum dropped here: “H***”, “d***”, “s***”, “motherf*****”, etc. There is also use of the Lord’s name but the lower-case term is used specifically.
Suggestive Themes: Some tracks have suggestive themes. Some costume pieces are suggestive, i.e. bikini tops, hot pants, tights, a jacket with no inner top.
Fuser is a freestyle DJ simulation game with three game modes. A freestyle mode with the choice of single or co-op, an online battle mode with ranked, casual, and seasonal events, and a robust campaign mode, similar to Guitar Hero. Fuser is easy to pick up but difficult to master. You may feel inclined to jump right into Freestyle or online to make the most epic of Rick Astley remixes. However, I strongly recommend playing through the campaign mode first.
The campaign takes you through six venues that focus on an individual mechanic: selecting tracks, using instruments and effects, cuing and switching tracks, changing tempo and musical keys, and using transitions to change the mood and tempo of the mix. Each campaign has an introduction scene with an in-game DJ guiding you through each set (stage). The core gameplay involves playing and switching four tracks of songs in your crate (inventory) throughout the set. Each song’s tracks are split up into percussion, lead instrument, backup instrument, and vocals. Through the set, you will be given tasks to complete within a certain time limit. You will also be requested certain tracks or songs to be played during the set. After all, good DJ’s play to the crowd, not just themselves.
Your performance is rated by a max of 5 stars, much like Guitar Hero. Scoring points works similar as well. In Guitar Hero, you were awarded points by hitting notes accurately and consistently. In Fuser, your score builds up loosely based on how seamless your mix progresses through the set. There isn’t a combo meter but you are lightly penalized for not staying on beat with your changes and transitions. In truth, you could play the entire set, never changing the tracks but that will result in a low rank. It’s also boring because you’re not doing anything.
In all seriousness, aside from self-afflicted performance anxiety, there is incentive to perform well in each stage. You earn in-game currency which unlocks new songs, costume parts and colors, as well as customizable stage effects for online Battle mode. You can also level up which unlocks more songs, costumes, and stage effects. By the end of the campaign, I reached level 10 and was nowhere near the lowest level requirement of 30 for a song. This is, unfortunately, the only external motivator to keep playing unless you really enjoy the Freestyle or Battle mode. Freestyle mode lets you share any mixes you make in-game or on social media. Battle mode apparently struggles with sync lag online. I can’t verify as I had trouble finding players. (I was playing late at night, which probably didn’t help…)
The musical variety leans heavily into the pop, EDM (electronic dance music), and Hip-Hop/Rap but still covers a good amount of Rock, Country, and Latin/Caribbean songs. You’ll find yourself relying on three or four songs as you play through the campaign and will take with you in your tracklist for Battle mode. In my case, I relied on good ‘ol “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi, “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons, and “In Da Club” by 50 Cent. The song selection isn’t too bad though the addition of songs like Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and O-Zone’s “Dragostea Din Tei” (made famous by the “Numa Numa” meme) seemed odd to be added just because of their memetic history.
I was surprised by how well the vocal tracks from Country songs meshed well with my mixes in the campaign. In fact, the audio mixing for the songs and effects in the game have been mastered very well. It is very difficult to accidentally make a bad mix since there are a lot of popular hits available. Though I suppose one may find it a challenge to incorporate Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” into a cohesive remix.
By the time you reach the final part of the campaign, you’ll find the style of how you want to play your mixes. In my case, I didn’t use the instruments or effects a lot. I preferred cuing tracks and switching between them to achieve a snappy mashup sound as well as transitions to maintain or change tempo. I really appreciate the campaign’s methodical approach to each mechanic per venue because, by the end, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by any of them and even did my own piano solo during a mix. Taking your time with Fuser will engage players creatively appreciate the talents of modern DJs today.
The Bottom Line
Fuser offers a surprisingly comprehensive DJ simulation experience with a variety of tracks that will tickle your nostalgia and broaden your tastes. (maybe)