Fuel Review

August 13, 2009 at 1:33 am | Posted in Reviews, Xbox 360 Reviews | Leave a comment
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Link to review

Racing games have been a little scarce lately, and with Playstations more than popular Motorstorm it was about time the Xbox 360 got its own share of multi vehicle off-road mayhem which is loved by so many, but has FUEL rocketed ahead of the racing genre, or just running on empty?

For a change we have a racing title with a story. Well, it’s not really a progressive story, but more of a history to excuse the setting. Here, Global Warming has taken full affect in the US. Whilst populations have moved together in large central cities using clean and renewable energy, a select group of people have decided to use the abandoned landscapes as a playground for a series of no holds barred competitive off road racing. Only it’s not the other racers you’ll have to worry about. Mother Nature will also be around the corner waiting to catch you out.

Unlike most racing games, FUEL takes a leaf from games such as TDU and decides to give us a free roam option to keep you interested and going. However, this map is a little bigger than you may think. With 14,000km2 worth of free roaming terrain to cover, the game ensures you’ll probably not get bored of all the scenery. You may, however, get a little bored of driving there.

From the beginning you have complete roam around the entire game. The map is split into areas, each has its own camp like HQ and from there you can take part in specific races or challenges, the more races you complete the more stars you get to unlock the other areas and take part in more races. There are also collectables hidden all over each area varying from new designs for your vehicles to vista points where you can soak up some of the scenery. If you keep your eyes out, you’ll also catch some of the bonus cars hidden around.

Races vary from simple circuit tracks, to checkpoint style runs where you can take your own route. Your own GPS is there if you need it but sometimes it pays off to go a little lone wolf and make your own way. Although…sometimes, it doesn’t.

The vehicles are the main attraction in this game, whilst not licensed cars, there’s realistic and creative takes on modified vehicles varying from Muscle cars and ATV’s to Monster trucks and Buggy’s. The full roster of off-road and asphalt based cars are here. Most races are limited to certain vehicle type. Within that type your limited to the cars you own which run best on either Asphalt or Off-road, depending on how much the race your about to compete in will cover. This gives you the opportunity to use more than just your favourite vehicle. You will get to look into trying new ones, and will learn which ones are better for what terrains and what cars just aren’t good for anything.

The racers difficulty curve is a little unforgiving. With each race having 3 difficulty types, once you start the second or third difficulty your going to need a little more quicker vehicles and some a good sense of direction to get yourself around, the A.I. can be a little stupid in the sense of they don’t really pay much attention to your where abouts and whilst the game isn’t based on aggressive driving such as Motorstorm or Burnout there can be some nasty collisions leaving you worse for wear.

It happens rarely, but on occasion usually after you’ve been leading the race for a fair time, but opponents will suddenly seem to earn an engine upgrade somewhere through the race, and normally on the last checkpoint you’ll find yourself maxing your vehicle out like you have been all race only to have half the pack tear straight past you leaving you unable to do nothing as your already at your peak, this often left me felt a bit cheated and since the races are quite long, a little bit like I’d wasted a hell of a lot of my time.

The game looks really great. When you first realise how big everything is in comparison you will be taken back by it all. The day night cycle is fairly short but is pretty fun to drive around during it. The dusk and dawn settings and lightings are beautiful and once the moon is up its just you and your headlights guiding your way, which is really fun considering a lot of games don’t use the headlights to much effect, FUEL does and even in online free-roam/races each players headlights are all in real-time.

Along with that, the game features some nice weather effects including rain, snow and thunderstorms. Mid-race you’ll also come across Tornados and dust storms, whilst the tornados are cool, they have a very scripted feel to them which often ruins the fun, not to mention there only in races which have the word ‘Tornado’ or ‘Twister’ in them. Yawn.

I recently came across a race in which we were racing inside giant dust storms, the graphics were great and I couldn’t see a thing in front of me yet when we cleared the dust storm I saw the giant wall of another storm and it definitely gave you one of those ‘Woah!’ moments.

With all these, it would be even better if they randomly appeared during free-roam either offline or even when you’re driving around with friends the hazardous weather could be fun; however the worst you’ll get is a bit of drizzle and some shock treatment if you’re lucky.

Whilst the annoying struggle of your first vehicles gearbox to find second gear will possibly put you off, the sounds of each vehicle get louder, better and more realistic from the roars and purrs of your open hooded muscle cars to your motocross bikes scrabbling for grip across a gravelled turn. It’s all here and all adds to the atmosphere. Sadly the soundtrack doesn’t follow suit. With an expected soundtrack similar to that of Motorstorm and Pure, I was greeted to the same tone of music, but unlicensed and made in house, even worse was there wasn’t enough of it, so hearing the same songs became boring leading to a nice heavy dosage of my own music to join.

The game itself will keep you going for a very long time, and that’s just driving from one camp to a neighbouring camp. Whilst you have all the races to complete on the hardest difficulty alone, there’s also all the liveries, Vista points, hidden cars and challenges which must be completed to get the full 100%. It will be interesting to see if the game will get any DLC in the future.

FUEL is a great racing game. However the races can be too up and down in case of difficulty and variation, the large scale of the game is almost a little too much making just a simple drive to unlock a new livery a 15 minute trek. The games chaotic weather only happens during scripted races and the most you’ll get as a random event is a storm, which gives a bit of a slap to the face of most of us expecting our long cruise through the countryside to turn into a Tornado dodging speed fest. A creative idea, which sadly takes a hit from its lack of variety and its freedom.



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