Fuel was hailed as having the biggest racing sandbox in gaming. It is a whopping 14,000 km squared arena. You can race anywhere you want but getting to the finish line is still the ultimate goal. Has Codemasters given us another racing gem or does Fuel run out of fuel in comparison to the competition?
I had high expectations for Fuel. It was a Codemasters published game, it was huge and promised 16 player online racing. I dove right into it head first.
Graphically Fuel totally surprised me. It’s breathtaking. It has a full, photorealistic day/night cycle. The lighting is some of the best I’ve seen in a racing game. It’s picture perfect. The day/night cycle can be seen easily when you are free riding but races usually end to fast to see it. If you make your own lengthy point to point race you might see the cycle. The cars are beautifully rendered as is the environment. When you are driving through the forest it actually looks like one. It seems that Asobo Studios spared no expense in the graphics department. This is the closest thing you’ll get to Motorstorm on your 360.
Gameplay is rock solid. The cars and bikes handle well. Some of the bigger, slower vehicles take more time to get used to but they still control really great. There are races that take place all over the sandbox. As you beat the races in an area, you can unlock a new area and get access to new races. Fuel is used as currency in the game. As you win races you earn fuel. Fuel can be used to purchase faster vehicles.
I checked out the online modes and was disappointed to see that no one plays this game. You literally have to create a game and hope someone gets online and joins it. I was able to get into one online race while reviewing this game. At the end of the race we went into free ride mode and several other people joined in. Which brings me to one of the negative points of the game. You can free ride all over the map if you like. As big as this sandbox is, you would have figured that there would be AI characters roaming the area. I expected to see farmers, people driving the country side, animals, butterflies, birds and spectators. There was nothing. The huge 14,000 km map is desolate. Part of the fun of cruising GTAIV is the living, breathing city. Fuel is just a barren wasteland. It makes it absolutely no fun to free ride.
My biggest gripe for Fuel was the difficulty level. On most games I’ll play normal. I never play easy at all. I was killing this game on normal. I was doing so good that I thought I was playing on Easy. Not once during the race was I challenged. Motorstorm keeps you on edge the entire race. Fuel is a walk in the park. If you want to have any kind of challenge you have to play the hardest level and even then it’s not too bad. One of the things I love about racing games is fighting for the win. Fuel just didn’t give me that.
On paper, Fuel is solid. In execution, Fuel is very sharp. The presentation is high calibur but the easy difficulty level and lack of any life on the map really disappointed me. This is a game that could grow into something spectacular with a little extra work. If you do pick the game up, remember to crank up that difficulty.