Fuel is an interesting concept for a racer, but unfortunately, I don’t think the game ends up being worthwhile. It certainly starts off with an interesting concept. Global warming has wrecked the planet, created horrible storms, and most of humanity has retreated into protected cities. This leaves vast stretches of the country uninhabited and a perfect playground for racers. Right off the bat I thought this was interested. An “end of the world” type scenario where, for the most part, the world didn’t actually end but instead turned into a playground. So not so much Mad Max per se, but something a bit more light. The world has an very blasted/ground up look to it. Forest fires, flooding, and storms have taken their toll and the game reflects this well. The closet example I can think of is the world of Fall Out 3. Both games do a good job with the environment. So what’s the actual game like?
Fuel is basically an off-road racer. You have a couple different vehicle types (motorcycle, 4 wheeler, a car, etc) and various different race types. You have your traditional A to B and N lap type races along with interesting variations, like beat the helicopter to landing pad. Some races feel like typical rally racing (and frankly I still don’t get why folks watch NASCAR when you watch people drive 60MP+ through mud and snow next to cliffs) while others will have you racing through burned out woods trying your best not to face plant against a tree. The faces are well balanced and for the most part, don’t suffer from the “one screw up and your done” factor that other games (Burnout) have.
The vehicles are handled well. The motorcycle and 4x4 scramble quickly through the environment, while the larger vehicles require completely different strategies or you’ll end up overdriving the course. As a racer, I can’t complain.
It’s off the course where things get… well weird. The game is advertises as having the largest playing area of any game created. According to Wikipedia, a whopping 5,560 square miles. I believe it too. The Free Roam range goes on for what seems like forever. Unfortunately, it is a complete and utter wasteland. While Fall Out filled filled itself with creatures to kill and at least interesting destruction, Fuel is empty. Racing around freely quickly begins to feel like those incredibly long and boring road trips you took as a child. Remember how the highway was basically road+trees for hours on end? Well that’s Fuel in a nutshell. You do run into another vehicle every now and then, but they simply ignore you. I thought perhaps I could engage in some violence crashing around or something, but nope, if you get hit too hard you simply reset a few yards away.
The weather, at times, is kind of cool, especially the storms, but some of the effects are so bad looking I thought I was playing a last-gen game. At one point black ‘splotches’ flew past my screen. I thought it was a bug. I finally figured out that this was the games way of demonstrating leaves and debris flying in a wind storm. Um, ok.
Oh, and the music? I think there is one song total in the game, and I heard it so much during the few hours I played I wanted to pull my ears off. It sounded like something a high school garage band would come up with.
At this point, I don’t think I can recommend it. Maybe check it out as a rental, but I’d say give it a pass.