Posted by Tim on August 29, 2009

Fuel Review: A Great Big Game…and that’s it.

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Fuel

Developer: Asobo Studio

Copy Reviewed: PS3 Version

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Eifel 65, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Twisted Sister, and Wild Cherry. Anyone know what the four aforemention bands/artists have in common? Other than having almost nothing to do with video games, these four bands all fall in the categoy of “one-hit-wonders,” or to use another label, they were one-trick-ponies. They rested on one leg, so to speak, when it came to their careers, and once that leg gave out they found themselves flat on their face and forgotten. The post-apocalyptic racing game Fuel is also a one-trick-pony, and that one trick is the unbelievable size of the game and the amount of things to do in it. Without a doubt, there are few games if any out today, especially racing games, that offer as much as Fuel does: it’s bigger than anything else (over 5,000 square miles!!), and it takes longer to complete than almost anything else. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no reason I can think of to actually do all the things in the game. It’s incredible size is matched only by its incredible boredom. Don’t worry about skipping this title because other than saying you played the biggest racing game ever made, there is nothing else interesting about this game.

The point of the game is to collect fuel by either finding hidden items/places, or winning races. Fuel is the monetary source in the game, so the game progresses as you collect more and more fuel. But collecting the fuel is extremely tedious, as you only win fuel for taking 1st in races, and finding one drum of fuel in a 5,000 square mile map is daunting at the least (good thing there is more than 1 of them). You start out at a base in one small section of the map and slowly make your way into other sections, each of which also has a base, or headquarters. It really is amazing how long it takes to drive from one base to another. Luckily, they put a fast travel method in the game, where you can take a quick helicopter ride which gets you to any base in a much shorter amount of time. Still, it takes a long time just to get around within each section, and there is well over a dozen sections that make up the entire map. There are multiple races and things to find in each section.

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We’re talking colossal scale for this game.

There is not a ton of variety when it comes to the racing genre to begin with, and most developers counter act this negative by delivering some solid race mechanics. However, Fuel does neither. The story is disconnected, and the actual racing is just bland. There is a compass that ‘helps’ you by showing the way to the finish via roads, but go ahead and just turn it off during racing because its completely pointless as the game is an off-road exploration game. Some races are a race against time, and some are against opponents, but the AI in the game is dumb, which only contributes to the boredom that is systemic in the game. The sound effects are terrible, as the engines hardly sound realistic. On top of that, its almost impossible to discern how fast you are traveling, as 40 mph seems a lot like 80 mph; acceleration hardly feels like acceleration. This lack of sense really takes you out of the atmosphere in the game.

Additionally, the races require that you pass through check-points, which totally limits the ability for you to just freely choose your path. While most of the time the check-points are spread out enough to give you a decent amount of freedom, it often times creates an annoyance and hinders your ability to roam. What’s the point of having an uber amount of mileage when you can’t even use most of it during a race?

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The compass does come in handy when trying to reach far off corners of the map, or track down some tough to find ‘vistas’ and vehicle paint jobs. And this part of the game is probably the only fun part of the game, as it adds a dimension of geocaching. But this fun quickly runs out when you realize you have to drive around for a very long time to find some of the more hidden and far off items.

If driving around for hours wasn’t boring enough, add in some glitches to the game just to make things a little more frustrating. One time, while attempting to drive from one base to another in order to get one of the trophies in the game, the game froze up when I was only a few miles from the finish. The kicker is it took me 30 minutes to get that far, 30 minutes of nothing but driving through field and forest. To get a good idea of how big this game actually is, the base I was driving to was the one in the closest section. Who knows how long it would take to actually traverse the entire map. Suffice to say, I was not the happiest once I found out my 30 minutes of effort were wasted thanks to a glitch.

Other than a map that would take you hours to cross, there are many other things that will take you oodles of time to complete. There are over 500 drums of oil across the map, 150 vehicle liveries, 50 Vista Points, and 40 vehicles to collect in the game. Tasks that will certainly keep you busy for way more time that you will be willing to invest in this game, and things get pretty repetitive pretty quickly. And while Fuel pushes the limits of size for video games, it lacks in quality of things, even the graphics. Many objects look 2-D, as the game looks like an HD version of a PS2 game.

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Asobo Studies certainly stuck to the American mantra of “bigger is better” when making the racing game Fuel. Unfortunately, they did not invest in any other aspect of the game, as the focus was certainly on the quantity, and not the quality. The racing is boring, the graphics are sub-par, and the fun is all but absent. The game is almost a hybrid geocaching/racing game, with more of the fun in just driving around. But even that gets old quick. Fuel certainly is a one-hit-wonder, as the size of the game is something to marvel at, but the rest of the game is poorly done, making this an easy one to pass up.

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One Response to “Fuel Review: A Great Big Game…and that’s it.”

  1. John says:

    “It’s incredible size is matched only by its incredible boredom”

    CLASSIC!!! Awesome review, wonderful writing.

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