Following titles such as GRID and DiRT, Codemasters have built a great reputation of delivering gamers with quality racing games. In their latest game, FUEL, which was developed by ASOBO Studio, they have made the bold move of creating the biggest open world ever in a video game. With a 14,000km arena to race on, 75 vehicles, 190 challenges and 70 career races included in the game, there is certainly plenty to do in FUEL. However, is FUEL another quality racer like GRID and DiRT or does it fall short?
FUEL is all about extreme racing. With such a wide open and diverse terrain to race on, there are a lot of different racing experiences in FUEL. With 75 different vehicles you will experience things like racing a muscle car down a mountain and negotiating a tight circuit on a quad bike. To add to the massive terrain and variety of vehicles is FUEL’s extreme weather. FUEL’s massive racing arena is brought to life with real-time extreme weather which includes blizzards, lashing rainstorms, lightning strikes, sandstorms and tornadoes that affect vehicle performance.
At the heart of FUEL is the career mode. In the career mode, the arena is split up into territories. Each territory has its own set of races. Territories are unlocked as you complete the races. Each race is selectable in 3 different difficulties. The only way to pass the race is to finish first. Winning each race also earns you money (FUEL) which will enable you to buy better vehicles for upcoming races. It also lets you customise your vehicles look.
Aside from the career mode there is the Free Ride and Exploration mode and Challenges mode. In the Free Ride and Exploration mode gives you the opportunity to explore the massive arena and also unlock things such a new look for your vehicle. You can also earn pre-set points to collect some of the most spectacular views the world has to offer. You can also unlock zones which gives you instant access to areas you have previously visited without having to drive there again.
In the Challenges mode you can earn more money (FUEL) by participating in the variety of challenges including Speed Run, Chopper Chase, Seek ‘N’ Destroy, Raid, Blitz, Knock Out and Endurance. All these test your driving skills in different ways and are a good distraction from the career mode.
While there is a lot to do in FUEL, it is unfortunate that you may not want to go through all of it as actually playing FUEL isn’t the experience that was expected. One of the problem areas in FUEL is the AI. Sometimes it will just make some insane decisions. For instance, sometimes the AI controlled vehicles will try and climb a hill that it obviously can’t. Along with the poorly implemented AI are the loose controls. What is meant by this is that you will find your vehicle sliding around more than you feel like it should which makes you feel like you are not in total control of what is happening on the screen. As well as these two factors, FUEL just doesn’t feel as fun and satisfying to play as other racers. There is just something about it that makes it feel very dull and boring. Don't get me wrong, the sense of speed is quite good, but whilst it feels like you are going fast, the exhilaration factor is just not there and it definately is not up to the standard of games like GRID or DiRT. This hurts FUEL quite a bit considering that the game is all about extreme racing.
FUEL’s multiplayer options are one of its highlights. In the multiplayer mode, all the career races are available to play. Once you go into the Free Ride area where you can explore the vast arena, you are placed in one of the main territories within a group of other players also exploring the FUEL world. Joining races is very simple in FUEL and the lag issue that plagues most games these days is not as evident in FUEL as in other titles. As well as racing the career races against others online, the Race Editor in FUEL lets you create your own custom races out of the territories you have unlocked in career mode. In Race Editor you can save up to 10 preset races which you can invite your friends to play in. Although there are some gameplay issues with FUEL, racing against other human opponents is about the most fun you can have in FUEL.
FUEL is a mixed bag when it comes to the graphics. When it first loads up you think that this game looks great as there is a decent amount of detail in the massive open environment you race on. However, as you play the game, issues such as, pop-in and bad texture work appear. You often find yourself half disappearing through a part of the environment, not behind it. This just makes you cringe and your opinion of the graphics drop.
Unfortunately FUEL is a let down in the sound department as well. The robust and realistic engine noises that we are growing used to from games like GRID, Forza and DiRT are just not evident in FUEL. The engine noises are bland and don’t give your vehicle any sense of power or speed and the other sound effects like the tire screeches are dull and lifeless. This is definitely not a game to turn up loud on a surround sound system.
After expecting so much from a Codemasters game, it is hard to believe how FUEL turned out. I guess having the largest game arena is not the makings of a good game. A disappointing racer that is hard to recommend.
AAG Score: 6.8/10
Reviewed and Written by Craig Cirillo