FUEL Review

Codemasters has become a real contender when it comes to premiere racing titles, finding a nice balance between arcade and simulation. The last few years have seen the studio release a string of hits in the V8 Supercar series; the critically acclaimed Colin McRae Dirt series and most recently the successful GRID series. While we wait patiently for Dirt 2, we have been offered FUEL, an ambitious title that ultimately fails to deliver the quality in a racing experience we have come to expect from the developer.
FUEL is an open-world racer set in the not-so-distant future. The world has been ravished from the effects of Global Warming, leaving the planet in disarray. You race around thousands of miles of deserts, snow-capped mountains, and forests and explore the world at your leisure, competing in events to earn fuel (the currency in the game). It’s a grim outlook on the world that I’m sure the developers have put out there to bring peoples attention to the global issues at hand.
Unfortunately all FUEL offers are ideas and promises, it fails to deliver a solid experience in each and every avenue it pursues. The game’s claim to fame is the fact it has over 5,000 square miles of drivable land to explore. This is by far larger than any other title before it, but there is the issue that the 5,000+ square miles offered is boring as bat crap.
All the areas look the same once you experience them once: the deserts are plain and sandy, the forests are full of trees, the snowcapped mountains are white. Being such a large world, driving from one area to another can take over ten minutes, and your reward for such a long and boring trip isn’t even as good as a large meal from McDonalds. No, a new coat of paint for your ride will have to suffice. It feels like a waste of time and is totally unrewarding. Once you have unlocked the vistas (spawn points) you will more often than not just spawn at the points so you can join the races and unlock stars.
For a game that advertises such a large world, it seems completely idiotic to make the driving portion optional. The need to explore and drive across the world is totally removed thanks to a handy list that allows you to start any race within the game from a menu screen. The developers couldn’t even get this right, even though you can see all the races from the map screen, you can’t access them. You need to open up a separate menu screen and choose it from the text list, a boring and unnecessary system in an already failed system.
Who cares about the presentation, this game is about racing right? Well, fortunately, the bad design isn’t limited to just the presentation of FUEL, but with poorly implemented AI, uninteresting races and an unmistakable lack of speed. AI don’t pose much of a threat at all, often you will see them doing stupid things like trying to climb hills that aren’t even on the course. Each race plays out exactly the same, a few will floor it ahead while you stay with the pack. As the race goes on you’ll make your way through, before running ahead just before the finish. This happens EACH and EVERY race, making you less inclined to take risks and push yourself as the results are going to bring the same rewards each time.
Essentially FUEL is a lot like Motorstorm on the PS3. You will race in a series of off road vehicles such as buggies, bikes etc. Each handle roughly the same and there isn’t any real compelling reason to chop and change your vehicles to suit your racing style. While previous racing titles from Codemasters have featured realistic damage physics there are none in FUEL which is a damn shame, with such a large playground it would be neat to see some eye squintingly good crashes. One thing you will notice is the sense of speed in this game is severely lacking, it feels like you are going at a slow pace when you are meant to be maxing out your engine. In a racing game the sense of speed is what immerses you into the game, but FUEL feels slow.
Graphically FUEL is an okay looking title. It’s not going to make your jaw drop, but considering the immensity of the world, even though there isn’t much to look at, it runs well at a constant frame rate. The vista points spread out across the game world do offer some rather stunning localities to feast your eyes on…well as stunning as a dying world can provide. Audio is rather lacking, all the vehicles sound the same, and the tire screeching sounds ridiculously overdone. The music is okay but nothing too memorable on the audio front at all.
The Final Verdict
FUEL is an ambitious title, you have to admire the ability to create such a vast game world while tackling some of the world’s biggest issues in a racing title. Unfortunately, the vast world has nothing remarkable to explore, bad design choices backed up by bland racing, stupid AI, and sub-par graphics make it hard to recommend to racing fans.

Gameplay
4.8/10 This isn’t the free roaming racer we were promised, and even during the races it’s dull and boring.
Graphics
6.2/10 The graphics look decent from afar but you will notice a lot of nasty textures and pop up as you traverse the game world.
Audio
4.5/10 Nothing memorable, except for how terrible the tire screeching sounds.
Value
6/10 If you can look past the games vast majority of short comings, this game has potential to keep you busy for a long time, the question is do you want to?

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