Why did Insomniac choose to turn fun, colourful Overstrike into bland, brown Fuse?

Why did Insomniac choose to turn fun, colourful Overstrike into bland, brown Fuse?

When Overstrike was revealed at the Electronic Arts press conference at E3 2011, there wasn't a lot to see. There was only a teaser trailer, and the trailer was entirely pre-rendered, with no live or pre-recorded gameplay on display.

Still, what we had was enough to get excited about. After all, this will be Insomniac's cross-platform debut, after over a decade creating games solely for PlayStation consoles. Their two flagship IPs, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance, rank among the best-selling and highest-rated exclusive released for the PS2 and PS3, plus they created the early PlayStation mascot Spyro the Dragon.

Despite the trailer being an all-CGI affair, there was a lot to like. Overstrike would be built as a four-player co-operative experience from the ground up, with each of the four characters having a unique look and personality and diverse skills and weaponry. These characters could also combine their powers to become even more powerful.

Gone are the exaggerated features.

Gone are the exaggerated features.

Better yet, it was not a standard serious shooter. Visually, it was somewhat reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, bright and colourful, and featuring somewhat cartoonish characters with exaggerated facial features and big hands. The trailer was packed with witty dialogue and over-the-top slapstick violence, and the gaming world was left in eager anticipation of more details in the coming months.

No details came. Overstrike remained just a fun trailer for a year, and was oddly absent at EA's 2012 press conference. Then, a month or two ago, came the news: Overstrike had been radically re-designed and given a new name, Fuse. Fans of the original teaser trailer who wanted to know more eagerly watched the new videos, and their jaws landed in their laps.

Fuse is, in a word, bland. The vivid colour palette of Overstrike has been replaced with a overwhelmingly brown colour scheme with a urine-like yellow-orange tint to it. The big chins and oversized hands have been shrunk down to lifelike proportions, the 1960s James Bond design aesthetic has been wallpapered over with standard near-future military drabness, and all the humour seems to have been excised.

What looked like something fun and different now looks like almost every other shooter on the market. Insomniac CEO Ted Price told Joystiq that the changes were all about making the weapons work better. "The weapons lacked heft, they lacked impact, and they lacked that fun factor that we believe is at the core of every one of our games," he said.

Fair enough, but why eject the humour that made the original so appealing? Why throw out the entire paintbox, except for a few shades of brown? According to Price, Insomniac is "happier with where the characters have gone in terms of their backstories and the humor, because the humor is less campy than we had originally. Now we have humor that's more sophisticated, it's drier."

I suppose all we can do is trust Insomniac. They've made colourful-and-silly with Ratchet & Clank, and they've succeeded at brown-and-shooty with the Resistance franchise.

Still, the change of tone is baffling to me. It's one thing to re-engineer how a game plays, and something else entirely to throw out everything about it that people found appealing about it.

You don't have to take my word for it, though: watch the two trailers for yourself, here and here, and make up your own mind. Personally, I feel sad that Overstrike will never exist, as it looked like something refreshingly different and fun.

 - James "DexX" Dominguez

twitter DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez