'Fuser' Makes You Feel Like a DJ — Even If You Don't Know Who Billie Eilish Is

Fuser - Publicity - H-2020
Courtesy Harmonix

The game, in which you control a popular DJ and mix up hits from Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Smash Mouth and beyond, is a welcome return from 'Rock Band' studio Harmonix.

The central concept of Fuser, the latest from rhythm games Rock Band and Dance Central creator Harmonix, has you stepping in as DJ at a pounding concert, where you must appease the crowd and maintain their level of excitement as you mix together vocals and instruments from a variety of radio hits. For a guy who can barely tell the difference between tempo and pitch and who is still figuring out just who Billie Eilish is, it may not seem like the perfect fit. Yet, after sitting down with an early demo and spending some time learning the ropes, it's clear Fuser aims to reach both music lovers and the tonally-inept (like me), alike.

The actual mechanics of Fuser are quite simple. Four large slots at the bottom of the screen are used to drop discs onto — each disc featuring either the vocals, beat, bass line or main riff of a music track. The moment a disc is in play, that part of the song blasts in. For example, throwing down the vocals of "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO with the beat of "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash is not only absolutely doable, it also doesn't sound like an absolute trainwreck.

Once all four discs are placed down, they can be replaced to continue morphing your remix while completing challenges are requests from the crowd. With a selection of 16 tracks during the demo (and over 100 songs planned for the full release this fall on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC) it's hard to imagine repeating too many mixes.

The idea of mashing together something coherent (and actually easy on the ears) is a daunting one, but Fuser won't throw you under the bus if you're not familiar with the latest trends or aging classics. Everything you mix sounds new and interesting, and the main challenge here isn't so much to make something sound good, but instead to create something unique. If there's anything you should be worried about, it's meeting the crowd's demands and boosting your score, something that, thankfully, doesn't require unheard-of levels of musical talent.

Plenty of my demo time was spent flipping through the song list and trying to pick the perfect addition to my mix. It felt a bit concerning that the typically-hectic nature you'd expect from something like a Rock Band wasn't as much of a factor this time around. That thought quickly changed when I got to see a level situated much further along in the game's core campaign. Not only were requests from fans consistently coming in, forcing you to make on-the-spot changes, but the addition of BPM modifications and an emphasis on matching the beat made it clear the difficulty would continue to rise.

No peripherals are needed, just a standard controller with a straightforward control scheme. From my short time with Fuser, it's clear that trying to pair the experience with an extra attachment would only serve to complicate the game's already easy-to-grasp mechanics. While I didn't get to try any of the social or multiplayer features, the base game provides enough to make me confident these features will stand out. The social aspect — specifically the ability to share your custom music track from start to finish — is one I'm particularly looking forward to.

I rarely ever know the artist behind a popular song — sometimes I can't even pick up on the beat — but after just a short demo, I'm looking forward to the full release of Fuser. There's enough hand-holding to ease in people like me and achieving the core objective isn't just for players who live and breathe music. With what seems to be a steady campaign, a cool multiplayer opportunity and exciting social features, there's a lot to look forward to in Fuser. And, in the case of my musical limitations, I might even learn a thing or two.