FUEL is a big game. Like huge. The overall racing area covers roughly 5,000 square miles of terrain, from icy mountain tops, to arid desert lowlands. It%26rsquo;s ten (maybe twenty) times the size of GTA IV. The epic scope of what developers Asobo have created is incredible, but at the same time there%26rsquo;s a whiff of quantity over quality.
At the start, seeing all that map with all those races is intimidating. It%26rsquo;s like ordering a steak but being handed a knife and fork and pointed towards a whole cow lying in a bed of chips. Even after hours of play, you%26rsquo;ll feel as if you haven%26rsquo;t really scratched the surface %26ndash; as far as exploring the world goes. Fortunately, the game does break down the racing into manageable chunks, so if you don%26rsquo;t fancy touring all 5,000 square miles, it%26rsquo;s possible to just hop between events. But where%26rsquo;s the fun in that?
Races themselves are a mixed bag, and, as you%26rsquo;d expect, they all involve getting from A to B quicker than either a pack of opponents, or the time limit set at the start. How you go about this is up to you%26hellip; kind of. There%26rsquo;s far less freedom than promised by early hype for the game, and the best way to win most of the races is to stick to a fairly obvious series of roads and glaring shortcuts. That said there were several occasions where we came out on top by a long way thanks to a precarious shortcut down the sheer face of a mountain, or through a densely packed forest. It%26rsquo;s here where FUEL really shines, but for us, these moments are a little too rare.
The vehicles are a mixed bag too, and the type of motor you%26rsquo;re driving has a real effect on the quality of the experience. The bikes and quads are the pick of the bunch because they let you take full advantage of FUEL%26rsquo;s off-road racing, whereas the more traditional muscle cars and the oh-so-slow trucks are utterly frustrating. Sadly, you don%26rsquo;t get to mix and match the vehicles with every race as you do in MotorStorm (there are a few exceptions where you can race bikes and quads), which seems like a fairly glaring omission. Mixing it up would really take advantage of the scale and supposed freedom of the game%26rsquo;s map.
When you%26rsquo;re not competing, you can scour the map in a free-roam mode, searching for new challenges, liveries and other bits which are littered around the map. Winning races unlocks new sectors, so you%26rsquo;re not just dumped into the middle and told to get on with it, and completing the challenges grants you fuel to spend on new rides. As you%26rsquo;d expect with such a massive area, there is a mind-boggling amount of stuff to find. Still, it can be a bit tedious driving for ten minutes to get to your actual race or to unlock a flaming skull motif for your ATV, so the free-roam mode does start feeling old fairly quickly.
There%26rsquo;s no doubting you get value for your money with FUEL %26ndash; there%26rsquo;s more than enough to feast on here. However, it%26rsquo;s a mixed bag of quality, and if we had to make the choice we%26rsquo;d plump for short sharp bursts of brilliance in MotorStorm: PR or Colin McRae%26rsquo;s DiRT over the lengthy forays of FUEL.
Jun 3, 2009