Codemasters Fuel review
Fuel is a racing game set in a dystopian future in which climate change has wreaked environmental havoc.
The irony of this situation isn't lost: dark humour is abundant, and although the game lacks any sort of plot, its vivid nightmare vision is compelling.
The game is set in the largest open world ever created in a game, with 5,560 square miles of terrain to explore. There's a huge variety of vehicles, from dirt bikes to monster trucks, and you must earn Fuel points to buy better models. This is achieved through a linear career mode, which includes simple races, point-to-point time trials, helicopter-chasing challenges and seek-and-destroy missions.
As you progress through the career mode, you'll find hidden challenges dotted around the map. You can also choose to drive around freely and explore, in which case you can find other drivers, unlock paint jobs and participate in challenge races. Everything you unlock, including bonuses such as new clothing for winning races, you can save to your online profile, which provides an RPG-style element to the game.
The variety of terrain, weather and day and night conditions is astounding. There are races in which you dodge freak tornadoes, and one course takes place around a beach covered in stranded oil tankers. You have to adjust your driving style for each type of vehicle - more throttle control for road racing, and more braking for quad biking, for example.
A satnav system helps you navigate the map, and can help during races too, but it's hit and miss. Sometimes it's perversely off-course, telling you to go the wrong way. For short distances it's a life-saver, though, and can help you to dodge obstacles on the road. The same is true of the AI drivers. Often, they simply follow the road, ignoring short cuts, and in many races this is the key to winning. At other times, following the computer-controlled cars is the only way to find short cuts.
The interface can be confusing, but it's packed with features, including multiplayer and a level editor, both of which promise to add variety to the game. The well-pitched rock soundtrack adds momentum to races without grating.
Racing simulation fans will complain that the arcade-style driving isn't realistic, but this misses the point that it's great fun. We haven't enjoyed a racing game this much in ages. The simplified handling won't be for everyone, but the over-the-top manoeuvres you can pull off are well worth the hand-holding. If you're looking for fun on four wheels, Fuel has a full tank of it.
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