|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Asobo Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Codemasters||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Leon Hendrix III
March 16, 2009 - I'm an optimist. I like to think, among other things, that maybe the Avengers movie won't suck, maybe the Chicago Bears will win a Lombardi trophy in the next five years, and maybe this whole global warming thing won't be so bad. Think about it, longer summers, shorter winters, what's not to love? Of course, I've been wrong before.
Codemasters seems determined to prove me wrong again. Teaming with Asobo Studio, the developer of the Ratatouille and Wall-E movie adaptations, Codemasters is showing us the future of climate change. It's a dangerous, degraded, angry world of disasters and devastation. It's Al Gore's worst dream come true, but when Fuel hits the store shelves you could be thanking you're lucky stars for those greenhouse gasses.
In terms of gaming genres, burned rubber is definitely an acquired taste. Recent racing games have found fans with gimmicks like police chases and crashes in slow motion. Fuel could refine the racing scene for its fans. The innovative racing IP could bring gamers back to the good ol' days when racing was about making it to the finish line. Fuel will take gamers around the world (literally) and with up to 16 players online, some enviable visuals, and a focus on arcade style racing in a wide range of locales, it could bring in a new generation of racing enthusiasts.
Asobo has put considerable effort into making this game the most expansive racer in history. Beyond that, the development team has promised to deliver the largest open world environments on a console to date. The early videos seem to indicate they may do just that. In early development, Asobo had expressed hopes to scale the entirety of the United States (probably using Google Earth). It was an interesting thought, but I suppose the idea of driving from California to Florida in a video game was about as appealing as doing it in real life. Back at the drawing board, Asobo figured that getting rid of the more mundane states (Idaho, we're looking your way) and centering on the hot spots would be much more engaging. The result is intriguing; players will rip their way through the plateaus and peaks of the Grand Canyon in the southwest, while power-sliding through frozen paths and dodging twisters in the Midwest.
Along with the new lease on life, Asobo's creative muscle has also put some flex into the weather department. While trekking cross-country, Asobo's dynamic weather and day transitions will be your companion. Watching debris swirl through the air on sandy whirlwinds or seeing a bolt of lightning shatter the sundown serenity in the distance is a welcome substitution for the old Cruisin' USA 'dodge the street signs and pedestrians' formula of most contemporary racers. Altogether, the visuals along with some pretty neat particle effects are incredible.
Gamers will zip around nearly twenty different areas with recognizable landmarks and geography underfoot. Asobo has managed to squeeze some very impressive set pieces out of the new-gen consoles. Towering skyscrapers fill distant skylines, trees indiscriminately line jagged rockfaces; it's all very well drawn and the landscapes provide an amazing atmosphere. With a reported 100, 000 square miles of in-game ground to cover, gamers will literally feel like they own the road. It may seem like a lot, but don't worry, Asobo has been kind enough to include a GPS system that will keep you on the right track, so to speak.
In the beginning, gamers will have access to a motorcycle and throughout their journey they will come across over 70 vehicles in six different classes from motorcycles to monster trucks. It's a good thing too, because each of the classes has its own strengths and weaknesses just as each of the game's 19 race areas provides its own challenges. The GPS will show you the best paths for your vehicle; for a muscle car it will find the best roads, but for an ATV it might take shortcuts through the dirt. Aside from the obligatory career mode, gamers will challenge themselves in around 100 special races, including helicopter chases and raids, free ride, and even set their own checkpoints to challenge other players online. Some races will be open and others will be tighter-focused checkpoint tracks, coupled with the handful of other play modes, Fuel looks to provide a little bit of variety in a racer that's primarily focused on visuals.
Leon Hendrix III
CCC Freelance Writer