by Keaton Arksey
previewed on PS3
Yeah, It's That Big
In this post “Fast and the Furious” world, souped up cars and drifting have become the mainstays of racing games. By following the same formula, many games feel stale and derivative, and run out of replay value. When a game comes along featuring a few junker cars instead of Porsches, you tend to take notice. Fuel, developed by Asobo Studios and published by Codemasters, is based on an old tech demo known as “Grand Raid Off-road” from way back in 2005. Asobo Studios might not have the triple-A record other developers have (their last two games were based on the Wall-E and Ratatouille licenses), but Codemasters’ recent track record (pun intended) is stellar, with the hit Colin McRae and DiRT series.
In Fuel’s world, Al Gore was correct; global warming has wreaked havoc on our little planet. The effects of global warming are felt throughout the area as weather effects like tornadoes and sandstorms ravage the landscape. Expect to brave these elements in a variety of vehicles, from quads and motorbikes to muscle cars and hovercrafts. In all, Codemasters plans to have over 70 vehicles, with each type of vehicle better suited to a certain type of terrain. The game will be open-world, with a 5,000 square mile map. For reference, that's 312.5 times larger than the map in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, 259 times larger than Far Cry 2, roughly 139 times the size of Mercenaries 2, but only 1/1000 the size of Canada. Go Canada!
Canadian self-promotion aside, 5,000 square miles is A LOT of real estate, and that much desert is bound to become an eye sore before long. Luckily, trailers have shown a wide variety of locales from forests and deserts to mountains and canyons. There will be a variety of landmarks and locations most people should recognize, like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. The developers have also claimed that the draw distance should be around 40 km. This means that from any given point, you can see (and travel to) any other point within a 40 km radius.
Forget About Left Turns
Being able to quickly traverse areas without getting lost is a big concern, so Asobo has placed red arrows that constantly point you towards where you need to go. If you want to race without help, you can deactivate the arrows, which is a nice feature because they can be fairly obnoxious. However, if you do use them, the GPS is aware of what type of vehicle you're driving, and will give you the best route for your car (or hovercraft, if you prefer). Graphically speaking, the vehicle models look detailed and polished, and the developers have claimed that there will be no loading time, which is pretty amazing considering the map size.
Because of the whole tornado-ripping-through-countryside thing, you won’t encounter pedestrians, but there are other groups of racers. These groups form camps, the hubs from which you can start races with other people. Online modes will also be included, and are reportedly similar to those of Burnout Paradise. This means that offline and online should be seamlessly integrated. With no word on the number of players that can play online, one would hope that the number is fairly high. 5,000 square miles for only four players seems to be fairly low, especially if players can go off on their own. A race editor will also be included, and will allow racers to pick start and end points for races, effectively creating their own courses in the game. (It's practically guaranteed that someone is going to start a race around the perimeter of the map just to tick everyone off). Fuel will also make use of cross-platform multiplayer, allowing PC and 360 players to race against each other (sorry PS3 owners, but you're stuck by yourselves).
Outside of straight checkpoint races, other events are planned, with over 100 missions to be included in the game. Expect events such as raids and helicopter chases, as well as a Free-Ride should you just want to chill out and explore. Since it appears it will take four hours to cross the map, that’s a lot of personal time.
A New Type of Racing
5,000 square miles is a big task for any game, and when you base your entire concept on that, you have to worry that the gameplay might come second. However, with a great pedigree and a variety of events, online modes, and vehicles, Asobo studios and Codemasters might be looking at their next big racing hit.