Burn as much fuel as you like

No Sunday drivers allowed!

As the price of gas in the real-world soars, one can take comfort in the fact that videogames will always be there to fill the need for a mechanical adrenaline rush without draining a large portion of your wallet. Fuel, developed by Firetoad Software and published by DreamCatcher Games, hopes to capitalize on these thrills by putting gamers behind the wheel of an ATV, watercraft or off-road vehicle.

Fuel is all about a race to the finish regardless of how you end up getting there! The single-player component has you gunning to complete an entire Fuel Cup circuit, unlocking vehicles and characters along the way to help your climb to the top of the pack. You can collect additional Fuel Points along the way by performing various stunts and using your skill and determination to run competitors off of the course. These points allow you to gain helpful Fuel boosts which in turn propel you further along your way to the final victory.

A variety of multiplayer choices is offered in the game. These include standard racing modes, an Elimination mode (the last place player on each lap of the race is eliminated), and Tag and Chase (you're IT!) modes among others. A very unique Point-Goal mode sees competitors vying to earn the most Fuel Points within a certain period of time. The multiplayer options will definitely add to Fuel's longevity after you've wrapped up the single player storyline.

Vehicles and tracks

No racing game is anything without a good set of wheels (or skis!) and Fuel delivers more than 35 vehicles to choose from. They fall into three categories: Off-road, ATV and Personal Watercraft and each and every vehicle perform differently and have their own unique personality. As an example, if you want a quick and nimble off-road vehicle then give the Bumblebee a try - just be sure not to run into anything! Conversely, if big and bad describes your motoring style then take a tour in the Rhino and mow through almost everything in sight albeit at a bit slower pace.

Course-wise, Fuel allows you to race through 30 distinct environments around the globe including tropical, tundra and swamp-like destinations. The environments are all of an open nature, allowing you to take whatever path you desire in order to get to the finish line first. Different routes through the levels are available and what may seem like the fastest path may not truly be the quickest way there. It's only with exploration and a bit of luck that you'll be able to take advantage of one of the many shortcuts available. Additionally, the levels all lend themselves to the vehicle-type being used. Obviously the watercraft environments involve travel over swamp, lake or another body of water but ATV and off-road courses still feel different in style and structure and add a deeper level to the driving experience.

Drivers and their challenges

The drivers are yet another unique component of Fuel. You play as one of 10 multinational characters, each with their own competitive personality and charms. For example, Angus the Scottish sheep farmer is the man's man, while Jamaican-born Desmahn is laid-back and American cattle-rancher Annie rides like she's at the rodeo. The history and personality that Firetoad has developed for each definitely adds atmosphere to the game.

Another element of Fuel that appears to be interesting involves Firetoad's creation of a Skill Based Difficulty System. The idea is to throw game levels and concepts at the player as they become increasingly more familiar with the game's functionality. It balances the game's difficulty allowing gamers of any skill to pick it up and play. The gamer will feel as if they are being challenged at a level appropriate to their skill-set which should simply make the game fun.

A wild ride

Fuel has had a long journey. Originally conceived as Everglade Rush in the late 1990's, Toronto-based publisher DreamCatcher Games picked up the game in 2001 and is finally set to ignite Fuel in May this year. The demo is anticipated in the next few weeks. If, like a fine wine, Fuel has aged well with its long development cycle this could be one to keep on your radar.