Author Topic: [Video Game] Fuel  (Read 962 times)

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Offline setrataeso

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[Video Game] Fuel
« on: July 22, 2009, 01:25:36 PM »
Name: Fuel
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Asobo Studios
Genre: Racing

This generation of consoles has grown with several game-changing themes that will go down in history as belonging to certain genres. Quick-time events will belong to the action games. Awkward console controls will belong to the strategy ports. Now, turning genres into open world games has been something that developers are really striving for in this generation. Already, we've seen open world action, shooter, RPG, and racing games. Now one of those seems a bit odd. Yes, open-world racing games. Remember Burnout Paradise? That game proved how open-world racing games could work. Giving the player the ability to always have something to do wherever they go is what Burnout did really well. Now Fuel, attempts to revive that same magic that made Burnout Paradise so fun. Did Fuel succeed? Read on...

Codemasters is known for their well made racing games. Dirt was a blast and a half and put Codemasters on the map for developing interesting new racing games. Grid was one of the hardest games I've ever played, yet was still well built and showed that Codemasters could make lightning strike twice. Fuel is published by Codemasters who handed off the developing reigns to Asobo Studios, a new developer who's only mainstream developing contribution is the tie-in game for WALL-E.

The visuals in Fuel have their moments. Quite often, the time of day determines how good the game will look. Times of day like night and sunset make the game look very blurry and cut off the draw distance. In the middle of the afternoon or right at sunrise, the game looks closer to the graphical fidelity of Dirt. During these moments you get to see more of the landscape, which can usually look pretty stunning. One neat thing to look for is some absolutely terrifying storms. You can drive alongside tornadoes and the like, which is one of the most thrilling parts of the game. However, not all of the game's visuals are impressive. In addition to the aforementioned nighttime hits the graphics take, there are some places in the game you will want to avoid to save your eyes much pain. I'm talking about shorelines. The water in the game is just awful, just horrible. It's so pixelated it looks as if the game was made about 6 years ago. The character models and cars all look detailed, but a bit chunky. Overall, the game has a half-and-half feel. Enjoy the nice moments, but shut your eyes for the scary parts.

Unlike the visuals, the audio is not a mixed bag of sorts. It's just all bad all the time. The cars and bikes all have this tiresome and monotonous revving sound that just sounds like a grinding noise or even a chainsaw on certain cars. Chainsaws are cool, but cars should not sound like them. Other than that, the only other sound you'll hear is the generic rock music that plays during races and load screens. The load screen only has one song that plays, and it's pretty awful. I believe there is one more song added to races, which brings the grand total up to about 2 songs for thw whole game. I don't know how they managed to make a racer sound bad, but Asobo accidentally the whole thing.

One thing that is cool with Fuel is the different cars that can be racing at the same time. Races are divided into vehicle type, so different motorbikes, or different ATVs will all race at the same time. Even though you can't have monster trucks racing up against dirt bikes, it's still cool to see different kinds of dirt bikes racing against each other. The AI driving these vehicles remains decent. The AI will make mistakes just like a human player, which is something that Codemasters is well known for pioneering in racing games. They swerve, crash, get stuck while trying to drive a hill that's too steep for them, and cheat. Oh yeah, they cheat. You see, unlike you, who knows nothing about the race outline, only where the finish line is and where the checkpoints are, if there are any, the AI drivers all know these mysterious shortcuts that don't seem to work when you try it. Example: I had to make a U-turn to get around a hefty patch of trees. Going around takes more time, but going through holds the risk of crashing into trees. I played it safe and went around, not knowing that the driver right ahead of me went right through without hitting a tree. Next time I was here, I was right behind this driver. I followed him into the dense patch of trees only to see him disappear right before my eyes. I crashed right into a tree, and he spawned ahead of the patch and continued on with the race. Moments like these made me furious at the game and especially the driver. Aside from these moments, the AI is fine. I will not let these moments go unforgotten though.

This is very very big game world. There is plenty to do, sometimes. All the open-world exploring and collecting is there to do, but the racing can actually be accessed from the menu, so you don't actually need to explore if you aren't up for collecting or sight-seeing. There are different challenges and career races to do. Races range from racing helicopters to landing zones to racing checkpoint-style. There are plenty of challenges and races to finish, and these usually take several tries to get just right. The landscapes vary from zone to zone. You can race in desert areas, or swampy areas. There are also lots of vehicles, paint jobs, and decals to collect. It may not be the most exhilerating part of the game, but at least the sheer amount of things to do is there to help give the game some weight.

Like any open-world game, Fuel is big. It actually has the biggest maps of any game to date. With 5,000 square miles to explore, one would think it would take a long time to drive anywhere. They would be right. It usually takes about 5 minutes to drive 3 miles in the game. With 5,000 square miles, you would need to put aside your afternoon to drive from one corner to the other. The collection takes place in the free drive mode. You basically drive for hours picking up paint jobs. Not exactly the best reward for the tiresome work it takes to collect those things, but it gives the game value. Of course, there are the races and challenges which are plenty on their own. Fuel may not exactly give you the kind of value you're looking for, but the volume of it is unquestionable.

Fuel pretty much has the feel of Motorstorm mixed with Burnout Paradise. Paradise was a different kind of open-world racing game, because it had restrictions to where you could go in the form of roads and whatnot. Fuel is very off-road, much like Motorstorm. The racing itself is nothing new. Sure, there are a few different challenges in Fuel that aren't found in other games, but racing is racing and it's all been done before. The main innovation is coming from the fact that the game is open-world, which hasn't been found in many racing games, and that the world is bigger than any other. There is this whole theme that the game is a post-apocalyptic racer, but I really don't buy that. The post-apocalyptic idea is just another excuse to explain why they didn't populate the game world, and only brings up questions as to why the survivors feel like off-road racing is the best use of their time.

Again, the whole backstory is about post-apocalyptic racing, but there is no actual narrative to that. You are in an empty world aside from the occasional truck, and then you race. Racing games don't need a story, but Fuel tries to trick you into thinking you're getting one. The menus and maps are all pretty easy to navigate and give you a bunch of information to boot. The biggest issue is the load times. These load times are so long, I can make a sandwich, eat it, and solve world hunger in the time it to load a race. This is the double-edged blade of making an open-world game: big game = big load times. I didn't even find exploring all that fun, and yet I have to pay the price by waiting through these load times as well. Not so good Fuel.

Fuel does something neat with the difficulty. Unlike most games, where the races get progressively harder, or you just choose a difficulty at the beginning, Fuel lets you choose individual difficulties for each race. So, depending on if you have a better dirt bike and think that you can handle expert difficulty, or don't have much experience driving heavier vehicles, you can change difficulty right at the beginning of a race. The difficulty will progress as you get a better collection of vehicles, and your rides can handle harder opponents. Not too much wrong or unfair with the difficulty.

I knocked on the game a lot for the errors of being too big a game world and the issues it brought up, but it warrents one more mention. Fuel did not do the open-world thing right. It went too big, and crumbled under its own weight. Instead of having a fun, cool landscape to drive around in, you have just that, but you can't get anywhere in a timely fashion. Because of this, the game actually punishes you for exploring by having you go through that tedious process. The racing itself it pretty solid. The variety keeps the racing alive, and the difficulty changes keep it from being frustrating. As if it wasn't already obvious, the game is an off-road racer. The open world rules apply a little bit to the actual racing, by allowing you to pick your path to the finish line. Occasionally you'll be boxed in by checkpoint races and the like, but the racing mechanics don't take a hit because of it. Overall, if the open world issue hadn't crushed about half of the game's appeal, it would get the whole point. As it stands, it feels like half of a game.

What was fun:
+ solid, exciting racing
+ variety of races, cars, and environments

What sucked:
- lackluster visuals and sound
- game world is too big
- load times

Fuel had a lot of potential to be another stellar Codemasters creation. Unfortunately, it crumbles under it's own weight and becomes a bit of a mess. Half of the game, the actual racing part, remains intact and pretty fun. However, everything that makes Fuel unique is fraught with error. Maybe open-world is not suited for everyone. If you're an explorer, don't get Fuel. If you just plan to race, then I'd hesitantly recommend Fuel. Although that's pretty much Dirt, but not as much fun. Actually, on second thought, just get Dirt.

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Offline Space Invader

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Re: [Video Game] Fuel
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2009, 10:30:27 PM »
I agree with you on every front. Paradise is still the winner.
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