You'd expect that the moment you boot this game you'd be greeted with a certain Metallica song, after all, it'd only make sense. Hey, if Burnout Paradise kicks off with Guns'N'Roses, then why not give us some 'tallica? Ah, well, understandably, licenses are expensive these days. Anywho...this is Codemasters' newest next-gen racer, which, unlike DiRT and GRiD, boasts very little elements of realism. Simply imagine MotorStorm on a much, much grander scale. We're talking thousands of square miles grand here, folks. But despite the massive accomplishments, such as entering into the Guinness World Book of Records for the largest game world, does Fuel have what it takes to...er...pump your engine?
First off, I am terribly sorry for making the above pun. My brain said 'no', but my fingers said 'yes', and there's no turning back now. Having said that, Fuel is an impressive game, no doubt about it. I'm dropped into a world that is made up of 5000 square miles of drivable terrain, and that's absolutely incredible. Once the entire game world is accessible, as soon as you unlock all of the zones, you're able to see just how long it takes you to get from one side of the map to the other. And honestly, it takes a while.
The races are scattered all throughout the zones on the map, and you can either drive to those races or complete them in a linear fashion via pause screen. Each zone has its own set of races for you to complete, and upon doing so will unlock more and more. You are set to use a certain kind of vehicle per race, so there is a limitation of what you can drive in a race as it's selected for you.
You can customize the vehicles you have, but those customizations are very slim and do not include performance, so the aspect of personalization feels limited, which is kind of an anomaly for a game like this. The other problem I have with this game is that the story is largely absent and doesn't really comes into play. And before you find yourself surprised that there's a story, allow me to explain it to you. The story behind the game revolves around a group of daredevils and a world that's being attacked by never-ending forces of nature thanks to a global climate pattern that has been completely thrown out of whack. Tornadoes, sandstorms, thunderstorms, blizzards, lightning strikes, and many other dangerous weather effects come and go unexpectedly, complete with a day and night cycle.
You see, despite the massive terrain, which has actually measured at over 5500 square miles, there isn't a whole lot of fun to be had here. The story seems to be more of an excuse for a game world that is utterly deserted, as the only thing you'll see on the road is a transport truck of some sort every now and then and that's it. There is absolutely no life around you, no racers to drive up to and challenge, and nothing exciting to see, aside from the weather conditions that occur. Furthermore, the game suffers from a terrible case of rubberband A.I., where your opponents could be whipping you like mad all throughout, only to lose to you at the final seconds. Later on into the game, though, the rubberbanding changes as you'll end up passing every racer except for two or three of them, and man does it make this game frustrating. There is an online mode good for up to 16, and co-op for up to four, but none of it felt at all exciting, either. The bottomline is that Fuel feels hollow and those looking for an off-road game are better off sticking to MotorStorm and Pure for both the offline and online experience.
Even visually I don't find the game all too appealing. The vehicles are ugly as far as artistry goes. The muscle cars look like boxes with awkward shapes, where as the off-roaders are a bit less offensive to look at. As mentioned already, the game world is huge, and that means it requires a draw-in distance as far as the eye can see...which it has. But because the world is so empty of life, it's not such a difficult task to accomplish. On the other hand, there are some really nice monumental sights to witness, although they don't really help much. I do think that the floor textures are nice and environment (such as tress) looks pretty. The lighting is typical Codemasters and has a tendency to come off as too bright, causing you to lose track of where you're going in a race. There is also some aliasing to be found, but not much. Still, the framerate holds up consistently, ensuring that your races aren't compromised. But ultimately, Fuel doesn't spark a fire for my eyes...oh, there I go again.
The audio presentation doesn't fare any better, unfortunately. The game boasts a monotonous soundtrack that does absolutely nothing for excitement, and worst of all, there's no custom soundtrack support. Vehicles sound bland and generic and do not convey the same sense of personality that games such as MotorStorm and Burnout do. So not only do you drive around a largely dull game world, but you're also devoid of any aural presentation too.
All in all, a novel concept ultimately does not translate to a proper game, as Fuel is missing some of the standard gameplay traits that define a game like this. Despite its massive terrain, a barren game world, a poorly structured and limited scope prevents Fuel from being anything worth your time. Furthermore, with uninspired visuals and audio that fails to impress across the board this game doesn't even cause a spark. And with that pun, I shall end this review.
6/26/2009 Arnold Katayev