When I spoke with the developers over at Harmonix about their upcoming “rhythm-action” game Fuser, they did all of the things a development team does during one of these E3-style meetings. They told us about their goals (“make music more accessible”). They told us about their inspirations (“Each game at Harmonix feeds directly into the next. There’s a lot of DropMix [in Fuser]”). They told us what the game was coming out on (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC). The game comes out this Fall. The usual stuff.
What they didn’t tell me is that they would let me weaponize Macklemore.
Fuser is a game that encourages you to learn about music by breaking it. The game will feature over 100 songs at launch, and each of them has four discrete components — vocals, drums, and two instruments. Combining these components births something new, each time. Pull the bass line and synth from billie eillish’s “bad guy”, the claps and drums from “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers, and the lyrics from Migos’ “Stir Fry” and you get this incredible track that would be right at home in a spin class. Or you can grab the drums from “Mud On The Tires” by Brad Paisley, and the banjo from “Mud On The Tires” by Brad Paisley, and the guitar and vocals from “Mud On The Tires” by Brad Paisley and then listen to “Mud On The Tires” by Brad Paisley.
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If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s basically what freestyling was like in DropMix, Harmonix’s 2017 collectible trading card/music game hybrid. You keep messing around with sounds until you get something that sounds fun. Fuser takes that one step further though, with mid-mix challenges and requests coming in from the audience. You’ll be asked to play something from a song released in the 1990s by one person, and then be asked to play the drum segment of a rock song the next. The game is constantly pushing you to explore and discover new sounds, and even allows you to create your own using the instrument loops.
The game’s current setlist is pretty diverse, with the 34 currently announced tracks spanning a handful of genres. Harmonix has said that DLC songs are in the works, if there is demand.
Listening habits have changed drastically since the launch of Rock Band, with the music industry’s shift from physical media to iTunes and then to streaming services like Spotify contained entirely within the last 13 years. Fuser – in both aesthetic and practice – matches the genre-hopping, single-driven moment that we’re in. If you’ve heard a song on TikTok, it’ll probably be in here. It rewards music literacy and is eager to help you fill gaps in your knowledge wherever they may be.
And while it’s doing all of this – asking you to mess with keys and tempos, letting you create your own sounds on the fly – it is marrying these songs together in a way that always sounds good. The game perfectly bottles the euphoria of a DJ mixing some truly dumb shit together in a way that you end up replaying in your head for months after.
Fuser releases this Fall.