What makes Fuel so promising and so ambitious?
The Fuel Game World
For starters, Fuel’s game world is gorgeously rendered, and it’s huge. With over 5,000 square miles of terrain covered, Fuel’s developers claim that its game world is the largest ever created. But size is not the best part of the Fuel game world: the best part is that players can drive anywhere in this world without limitations.
There are no invisible lines on the screen that players bump up against, ruining both the illusion of racing through a fantastical world or leading to frustration of not being able to “off-road” when desired. In Fuel, there’s the beaten path – there are plenty of roads and dirt tracks to race on – but players can leave the beaten path at any time, for any reason. All 5,000 square miles of Fuel are drivable.
The story line behind Fuel goes something like this: in the not so distant future, the American west is ravaged by climate change, rendered unlivable. People abandon places like Salt Lake City and San Francisco, leaving desolate, decaying ruins behind them.
Gradually, deserts, forests, and glaciers have swallowed these areas whole, and even now, the climate is unpredictable and untenable. At any time while drivers are racing, a huge sand storm might blow drivers off course; multiple tornadoes might appear out of nowhere; blizzards might make visibility nearly impossible. Driving both in broad daylight and at night, drivers race against one another and the inhospitable climate through familiar landscapes that reflect a gritty and cynical post-apocalyptic near future.
With such a huge terrain to drive, a GPS is a necessity. In Fuel, the navigation system appears as floating red “this way” arrows that appear at the top of the screen, making it easy for drivers who have gotten off track to get back into the race. In some race types, for drivers who are doing well, a “short cut” GPS option will reveal itself.
Game developers say they’ve created this terrain from genuine satellite data, so it maps with near perfect accuracy to America’s actual western landscape.
Fuel Vehicles and Game Play
In this post-apocalyptic world, the vehicles look like something off the set of Mad Max – the old Mel Gibson movies in which Gibson is constantly on the run from crazed desert bandits driving makeshift, cobbled-together vehicles made from cannibalized parts. Even with the grungy look of the vehicles, Fuel has all the different vehicles a racing enthusiast could hope for.
There are muscle cars and bikes, bizarre monster trucks and ATVs. With seventy total vehicles to choose from, it will take a long time for players to get bored with the choices Fuel has to offer.
Fuel has several different race types to choose from: circuit races, raid races (which have only a start point, finish point, and a race against the clock), and checkpoint races. And once the game is out, it will be easy for Fuel players to play against the computer, or go online and compete head-to-head against other Fuel players.
Although Fuel has yet to be released, it looks like Fuel has hit the racing game jackpot, and will set a new precedent both for Xbox racing games and racing games for all gaming platforms.