Fuel Hands-On

We headed over to Bordeaux to see how Asobo's open-world off-road racer is shaping up in both single and multiplayer.

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Fuel (2009)
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Asobo has been quietly working away on its open-world climate-changed racer for some time now, and we were invited along to its studios in Bordeaux to see how the game is shaping up. Due out in the first part of this year, Fuel mixes up on- and off-road racing with 75 vehicles, including road bikes, dirt bikes, quads, pickup trucks, SUVs, muscle cars, monster trucks, and even big rigs, in what feels like an enjoyably frantic experience.

Fuel is the result of mixing extreme weather and off-road racing.
Fuel is the result of mixing extreme weather and off-road racing.

Fuel is set in the aftermath of major climate change, in a landscape that's virtually devoid of human life. It seems society has moved away to safer climates, leaving Mad Max-like survivors (sans the wanton destruction) competing in a series of unofficial races in a quest to win more fuel. Expect to see a wide variety of landscapes across the huge open terrain, including sand, desert, mountains, alpine, urban cities, ice, and both sealed and dirt roads. There's also a range of weather effects, including rain and fog, as well as a full day/night cycle. You'll encounter thunderstorms, sandstorms, blizzards, tornadoes, and even flooded areas left behind from costal tsunamis.

Asobo claims that no loading screens or invisible walls will halt your progress, meaning that your experience with the environment should feel seamless. You'll be able to race standard point-A-to-point-B-style races, either with or without checkpoints, as well as lap-based ones. One of the most interesting components looks to be extensive road network, and Asobo says there will be more than 100,000km of drivable road throughout the game. There are also some ambitious landmarks, including Washington State's Mount Rainier, Oregon's Crater Lake, and a bridge that looks inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge--all of which are apparently to the same scale as their real-world counterparts. In fact, the total size of the world is huge--reportedly 120km by 120km (14,400 square kilometres in total), which apparently would take two and a half hours to traverse diagonally corner to corner.

Playing the game itself, we found Fuel's arcade-style action to be instantly accessible and, more importantly, fun to play. In both online and offline modes, you can explore the world at leisure, much like in other open-world racers, and searchlights indicate the beginning of a nearby race. You'll also be able to "heliport" to helipads scattered throughout the game, and while you can't be dropped on, say, the top of a mountain, you'll be able to warp to a safe place nearby. If you're not happy with the races on offer, one of the designers at Asobo showed us how you will be able to design your own race with the game's track editor in as little as 30 seconds, and you can create races with up to 30 checkpoints in them.

We also took a ride in a Mustang-style sedan in a 15-checkpoint race through a stretch of road in a desert. The muscle car felt both powerful and responsive to control, while a huge tornado was brewing in the distance, evidenced by a loud whistling wind, blowing debris, and, most surprisingly, a flying truck that almost wiped us off the road. While the extreme weather effects aren't in every race, it felt like quite a novel experience to have to battle against not just other racers but Mother Nature herself. During our playtime with Fuel, we also encountered woodlands, coastal and lakeside areas, grassy plains, and a race that took place around the Yellowstone National Park visitors' centre and nearby area.

Your chosen race will determine which vehicle you'll need. Dirt bikes are nimble, helping you climb hills and weave through forests with ease, whereas muscle cars are much faster but better suited to asphalt or dirt tracks. One important note is that though Fuel is mostly about racing, tricks are triggered automatically when you hit jumps on a bike or quad. We weren't able to manually control which trick our rider would perform, and with no boost bonuses, the gameplay focuses purely on raw speed and exploring the world. Fuel feels like a mixture of Pure's gravity-defying racing and Burnout's insane breakneck speeds with a postapocalyptic dash of flavouring. It's certainly not Capital Wasteland from Fallout 3, but the extreme weather and the feeling of isolation give it an interesting vibe nonetheless.

Despite the wide-open world, there will still be plenty of asphalt to traverse, with around 100,000km of drivable roads.
Despite the wide-open world, there will still be plenty of asphalt to traverse, with around 100,000km of drivable roads.

Completing races scores you medals and kudos-like style points, allowing you to unlock new events. You can earn bronze, silver, and gold medals for each race, and by exploring the environments during or after races you'll uncover better routes to shave seconds off your time. There's an in-game GPS to help guide you to the next checkpoint, but to get the quickest times you have to find your own path to victory. When you win races you'll score fuel bonuses--the in-game currency. We're not entirely sure what accumulating fuel will allow, but this valuable resource is a scarce commodity in Fuel's future setting and may play an important part in your career progress. While we got hands-on with a few local eight-player multiplayer matches, Fuel will also support 16-player online racing. In addition to being able to play all of the Career mode tracks with friends, you'll be able to free-roam and share the tracks you've created.

With some solid arcade racing, a huge open world, user-generated races, and an interesting scenario, Fuel looks set to strike a chord with extreme racing fans when it comes out later next quarter. Stay tuned to GameSpot as we unearth more about the game in the coming months.

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