If you know anything about Fuel, you’ll know exactly what you want to do first: grab a buggy and strike out north until you can’t head north any more. You’ll be forgiven for forgetting how many thousands of square kilometers the racer is supposed to have crammed into it, since Asobo kept changing the numbers while everybody else did their math wrong and started thinking it had a playing area greater than the surface of the sun.
If you want to know how big Fuel is, the answer is “big enough.” You’ll get bored of trekking steadily towards the edge of the map before you get anywhere close to it. Fuel is so big that limits cease to matter. And if you’re wondering how big that is, we’ve just looked it up. It’s 14,400km squared, which is a square 120km wide. Very big.
Weather plays a part in that too. Any given bit of that map can be subjected to torrential storms, blinding snowfall and winding tornados that tear up scenery and bring it crashing down onto the track in front of you.
So that’s Fuel’s strength: a large… make that a ridiculously large, procedurally generated wonder-map. In races, particularly the longer ones with widely spaced checkpoints, Fuel allows you to meaningfully choose your own path through the world. Either you’ll want to stick to the decrepit remains of the asphalted primary roads, or when those roads inevitably stop leading you directly to your destination, you’ll want to pull away into one of the millions of back roads and dirt tracks that realistically criss-cross the landscape and take a more direct route instead.
You race to win fuel (which is about as logical as working in a money-burning factory), completing challenges to unlock more challenges in new areas of the map. A wide roster of vehicles can be purchased, and clever vehicle selection based on the terrain you’ll be racing on is touted as the key to success. Superbikes, for example, bolt down highways, but scream in pain the second they touch mud and refuse to budge. Conversely, buggies and quads are typically slow, but have the traction to go cross-country when required.
In theory it’s brilliant, and when it works as intended Fuel is a uniquely exciting racer. Blasting down a steep cliff face in a rickety buggy towards a 10 mile-wide lake, dodging rocky outcrops as the waterline creeps slowly towards you is easily one of the most exhilarating moments of any racer. The scale on show is simply incredible: draw distances are unfathomably huge, and every point on the horizon can have a car pointed at it and subsequently be arrived at, even if it takes an hour.
So that’s fantastic. Well done Asobo! You guys certainly deserve a big congratulatory party with cake and balloons and party poppers, and a midget version of Condoleezza Rice who goes around the room on a tiny locomotive letting people snort cocaine off her ass. But hold on! Stop the celebrations! Somebody’s leaping out of the giant cake! Damn that shady catering company – it’s Professor Rubbish AI and his evil sidekick Shit Physics. And they’re shooting everybody in their faces! Oh dear, now everybody’s either dead or writhing in agony as their life slides out of them, and it’s all because Asobo didn’t give due attention to Rubbish AI and Shite Physics. And there’s cake everywhere.