Friday, July 12, 2019

Eric Vs. 365 - Day 12 - FUEL

As a games journalist it isn't your job to champion certain games, but sometimes it feels like a waste of your position not to try to draw attention to overlooked games that deserve better. In my case it was always the redheaded stepchild of Codemasters' racing games, FUEL. For Day 12 of Eric Vs. 365, we show off some of the coolest bits of FUEL to hopefully, maybe, convince some folks to give it a try. Continue reading for more.

FUEL is a post-apocalyptic racing game set in a barren wasteland after some sort of environmental disaster. You run races to earn fuel, which is the currency of the world, in order to buy better vehicles and earn more fuel. No word on how anyone actually survives, but who cares since you have races to run. The races are a mix of roads and offroad with vehicles ranging from motorcycles, ATVs, dune buggies, race cars, monster trucks, and many more. Events include circuit races around tracks, checkpoint races, helicopter chases where you have to reach the landing zone before the chopper, cross country raid events where you can take any route to get to the checkpoint, and more. There are hundreds of events and challenges to complete. You can also freely explore the open world between races.

One of FUEL's most appealing features is the sheer size of its open world. The game's marketing touted a world of 5000 (yes, five thousand) square miles, which makes it one of the biggest (non procedurally generated, single planet based) games ever made. The world is made up of a couple dozen different regions with each one having a distinct look and terrain and environment, so it isn't all just one huge gray brown blob of a map. I would say the map probably actually is 5000+ square miles, but it is condensed in such a way that your odometer counts at an unrealistically fast rate. That isn't to say the world isn't frickin' huge, I just don't think it's a true 1:1 scale. With that said, it still takes a good 30+ minutes to drive across a region in the game, and driving from one side of the map to the other will definitely take 3,4,5+ hours due to the rough terrain, relatively slow pace of driving offroad, and the fact you have to drive around giant mountains and canyons and stuff.

The other main draw of FUEL is that it routinely features extreme weather during events. These are some of the absolute coolest moments during the game and are a big reason why the game has stuck in my memory for this long. Raging thunderstorms and swarms of tornadoes tearing the world apart as you race are just a couple of examples. I show off a couple of these events in today's video.

So why was FUEL overlooked back when it launched in 2009 when it had all of this cool stuff? It was a combination of things. It was a Codemasters published racing game along the lines of DIRT and GRID, but wasn't made by Codemasters itself so people had expectations for it to be like those games but it was something else. It wasn't as polished gameplay-wise and not as pretty graphically, so it got pooh-poohed by reviewers and ignored by the public pretty quickly. I suspect that most reviewers didn't actually get very deep into the game before passing judgment, but that's just my theory. I gave it an 8/10 for back in the day, but it has a 64% average on GameRankings.

With that said, after playing it again recently in order to unlock the cool events I wanted to show off in the video, it isn't quite a cool as it was in my memory. The extreme weather events are actually fairly few and far between and the rest of the game is sort of normal races, but when the thunderstorms and tornadoes do show up it is still pretty darn impressive. I'd say it is still pretty solid overall, though, and considering it was released in 2009 it is kind of mind blowing.

If you want to give FUEL a try it is backward compatible on Xbox One and looks and runs pretty good. You can get a physical copy for cheap pretty much anywhere or buy it for $10 digitally.