FUEL is a big game. Like huge. The overall racing area covers roughly 5,000 square miles of terrain, from icy mountain tops, to arid desert lowlands. It’s ten (maybe twenty) times the size of GTA IV. The epic scope of what developers Asobo have created is incredible, but at the same time there’s a whiff of quantity over quality.
At the start, seeing all that map with all those races is intimidating. It’s like ordering a steak but being handed a knife and fork and pointed towards a whole cow lying in a bed of chips. Even after hours of play, you’ll feel as if you haven’t really scratched the surface – as far as exploring the world goes. Fortunately, the game does break down the racing into manageable chunks, so if you don’t fancy touring all 5,000 square miles, it’s possible to just hop between events. But where’s the fun in that?
Races themselves are a mixed bag, and, as you’d expect, they all involve getting from A to B quicker than either a pack of opponents, or the time limit set at the start. How you go about this is up to you… kind of. There’s far less freedom than promised by early hype for the game, and the best way to win most of the races is to stick to a fairly obvious series of roads and glaring shortcuts. That said there were several occasions where we came out on top by a long way thanks to a precarious shortcut down the sheer face of a mountain, or through a densely packed forest. It’s here where FUEL really shines, but for us, these moments are a little too rare.
The vehicles are a mixed bag too, and the type of motor you’re driving has a real effect on the quality of the experience. The bikes and quads are the pick of the bunch because they let you take full advantage of FUEL’s off-road racing, whereas the more traditional muscle cars and the oh-so-slow trucks are utterly frustrating. Sadly, you don’t get to mix and match the vehicles with every race as you do in MotorStorm (there are a few exceptions where you can race bikes and quads), which seems like a fairly glaring omission. Mixing it up would really take advantage of the scale and supposed freedom of the game’s map.
When you’re not competing, you can scour the map in a free-roam mode, searching for new challenges, liveries and other bits which are littered around the map. Winning races unlocks new sectors, so you’re not just dumped into the middle and told to get on with it, and completing the challenges grants you fuel to spend on new rides. As you’d expect with such a massive area, there is a mind-boggling amount of stuff to find. Still, it can be a bit tedious driving for ten minutes to get to your actual race or to unlock a flaming skull motif for your ATV, so the free-roam mode does start feeling old fairly quickly.
There’s no doubting you get value for your money with FUEL – there’s more than enough to feast on here. However, it’s a mixed bag of quality, and if we had to make the choice we’d plump for short sharp bursts of brilliance in MotorStorm: PR or Colin McRae’s DiRT over the lengthy forays of FUEL.
Jun 3, 2009