Fuser - Behind the Decks

Fuser is bringing festival season back this November.

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Due to recent world events, the festival season was sadly, but understandably, left behind this summer. Having the chance to find strange new music with your friends and being forced to camp out in the sludge and the bitter cold remains a distant memory. Being a huge fan of festivals myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Harmonix's latest title, Fuser, would be embracing the setting and would also be letting fans get creative on the decks too. Recently, I got a chance to play a preview build of the game which featured all core modes and three stages from the central campaign.

The preview allowed me to sample three different stages throughout the campaign which is the central mode within Fuser. Unlike Rock Band, for example, Fuser isn't a rags-to-riches story and from the get-go, you're playing major festival spots. Something I was pleasantly surprised to see was the campaign featured some story segments complete with voice acting. In each phase of the career, you'll receive a new mentor who will take you under their wing and school you in different musical styles and techniques. All three of the mentors we met were brought to life with their own kooky personalities, and their inclusion helped to break up what would have been an otherwise repetitive cycle between performances.

Getting started with Fuser was actually surprisingly easy and it wasn't long before I was blending instrumental tracks together and being pleased with the results. From the library of sounds within your record crate, you can layer a mix with up to four components at a time and these include vocals, percussion, bass, and a lead instrument. I played with an Xbox One controller and everything was colour coordinated beautifully with the X, Y, A and B buttons all representing different parts of a song. When you drop tracks in it automatically adjusts to the key and tempo of your mix, so it's easy to put together something that sounds good.

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What I especially liked about Fuser is that it enables freedom of expression, unlike other rhythm titles where you play along to preexisting material. Here you're sculpting your own mix and there's the freedom to add your own personality by layering up the tracks you like and also by creating your own loops on the fly. Your toolbox appears to expand over time giving your programmable instruments and effects such as lowpass filters so there's really a sense that you could create something completely different to another friend playing.


You might be wondering if there is so much room for expression then how do you get scored on each stage. Well, this is pretty simple: during your set, you will receive core objectives that you will need to complete as well as taking requests from members of the audience. You are also scored on your timing as switching tracks, muting tracks, and applying effects must all be completed on a downbeat. This is the real rhythm component of the game and it's pretty tricky to get used to at first, as you have to manage tasks whilst keeping good timing.

Requests from the crowd start simple, such as being asked to play a dance song and then become more complex as the stages progress. In the later performances, for example, I was tasked with applying a lowpass filter onto a vocal track and only had a fleeting amount of time to it. Your performance on these tasks will impact the crowd's engagement meter and if this is to hit rock bottom then your performance will come to a screeching halt.

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Just like any rhythm game, the strength of the tracks is really important here and luckily, I found the tracklist to be solid all-round and varied as it spans multiple genres. There's a mix of rock, pop, dance, R&B, and rap, and notable artists from the soundtrack include Rage Against the Machine, Amy Winehouse, Deadmau5, and 50 Cent. What is great too is that this catalogue is planned to expand further with DLC (you can get the absolute banger that is Mr Brightside if you pre-order the VIP Edition).

Fuser also features two other modes: a Multiplayer Mode and a Freestyle one. In Freestyle Mode you have access to all the records in the game's library and can just have fun and experiment without having the pressure to fulfil certain objectives. This is the perfect safe space to get used to switching records in time and it's good for getting to know all the tracks. Mixes created in Freestyle Mode can be saved, shared, and exported to social media. After your mix has been shared other players can choose to like and follow your account and be notified on future uploads, a lot like in Dreams.


In the Multiplayer you can jam with up to three other players and here and you all take it in turns to stand in the spotlight and take control of the mix. Those who are watching can react with a set of emojis and can also make specific requests for the active player. You can play this mode by either inviting your friends or by joining an active session with other players online. I really like the idea as it functions as an interactive live performance, but it's a shame that multiplayer is only online and not also available locally.

One thing that I really enjoyed about Fuser was how much flexibility it gives players with regards to customisation. As well as being able to customise their playable character, players can tweak the look of the entire stage setup. You can change what is displayed on the monitors, the on-stage effects (like pyrotechnics, for example), and even what the crowd is holding in their hands as they cheer you on. What we would have liked, however, is the option to change the weather to rain, just to channel some UK festival realism.

Fuser stood out to me as having potential beyond just being a simple rhythm title. It inspires players to be creative and offers them a platform to share their mixes with a community of other like-minded music lovers. Making a mix was simple to grasp, there's an abundance of customisable options, and the soundtrack is varied with many notable artists present. I'm very much looking forward to mixing some new tracks when the game launches on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One on November 10, 2020.


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