There is no denying there are bad games on the Playstation 3, but what makes a bad game worse? … Having high expectations for it in the first place, and no other racing game on the glorious console has disappointed me more than Fuel.

Released in June 2009 by Asobo Studio… yeah… a game company famed for making the video game adaptations of Toy Story 3, Wall-e, Up and Ratatouille. So already, alarm should be ringing, but then, it was published by the daddy of all racing games, Codemasters. Whilst their experience in off-road games isn’t that high, they certainly know how to dish out AAA racing games for multiple generations and consoles, so we should be filled with delight.

…But this, this was just another horrible trick to entice loyal followers of the genre and company into its grip. The features of the game, mainly include a large open world area to drive through and explore, one that actual puts the game in the Guinness World Book Of Records for largest playable area in a console game. 5,560 square miles of pure driving brilliance, uninterrupted by load screens. Great, amazing, I love sandbox games, I love off-road racing, I love Codemasters, it’s got everything going for it.

Fuel Lightning

Shocking eh?

What’s this? A dynamic weather system? Tornadoes and sandstorms? Lightning and an accelerated day/night cycle? Oh jeez, this game really is starting to look like the bees knees. 19 camps throughout the environment which is 72 races overall, with 3 difficulties, and 75 vehicles to collect, including a hover-craft and dragster? Could this get anymore thrilling?

Vehicle and character customisation aswell? 16 player online races? Create your own routes? My Beelzebub this is getting exciting.

And even once the game was obtained things were still looking good, the case looked great, the manual was a healthy size and was very uniquely crafted, and there was a nice inside cover too, even the XMB music that played on the disc selection is one of the best… then… … it all went downhill quickly, as opposed to how you go downhill in the game.

When making a racer, there are just certain things… that need to be included in the game or it will fall flat at the first tiny hurdles.

  • A look back button. Something, this simple should never be omitted by a racing game, R1 and L1 are unused whilst racing, yet for some reason we have to turn the right stick to look behind us, and may I say, it turns much to slow to be a viable option.
  • On the subject of controls… it doesn’t let you set your own control layout… so if you like pressing circle for hand brake, or if you keep accidentally pressing triangle and reseting, tough luck kid.
  • Physics, … my lord… what did they do to the vehicles on this game? I don’t care if this specific car only has a dirt rating of 3, if I’m going 120 mph on tarmac, to then drive off the edge of a cliff, I should barrel down it at 200, not slowly drive down a sheer drop because the ground is a shade of brown not black.
  • But not only does the environment have a stupidly large effect on the amount of frustration this game gives you, the vehicles themselves have no real sense of being on the road, and the ratings for all vehicles are seemingly useless half the time.
  • AI … the computer opponents in a game is always going to be difficult to get right, but how they made them this incredibly unfair is beyond me. You can be first by a good mile or two on a point race, but out of nowhere on the final corner everyone can speed on past you at incredible speeds not known to man. This isn’t rubber banding, this is M&S rubber banding, it so extreme it makes Motorstorm look like Mario Kart.
  • Damage. Damage… is something Codemasters is famed for, crashing in a Codemasters game, and other off-road games this generation, like Motorstorm or MX vs ATV was half the fun. But nope Asobo decided there shall be no crashing, once your damage is done that’s it your car halts. Oh, but it gets better, bikes and ATVs have damage aswell, so you can drive into a tree full pelt and your damage meter goes into the red, but it’s ok, you can just carry on… that is of course until you do fall of your bike… but even that they have mucked up. There is a ragdoll physic engine in this game for your rider, we can see it when other vehicles crash, but when you come off there is a brief half a second interlude before it pits you back in the race at some strange location. Also, the damage meter itself, and what constitutes damage is nowhere near consistent enough. Monster Trucks can’t drive over a bush, a super car will explode on the bush, yet an ATV will merely go from green to orange.
  • And with this, comes the good stuff the tornadoes. Yes, a caravan flies at your screen, everything is over the top and amazing fun, you get caught in the wind and pulled towards your doom, but no, it resets you before any of the fun stuff can happen.
  • Restarting a race in racing games is essential for having fun… not every time I select a race I am determined to get on the leaderboards, most of the time it’s to experience their amazing weather storms, as they are only accessible via a very limited amount of tracks in the game… but when the game inevitably screws you over with its horrible handling, and you feel like a quick restart, no. You have to wait way to long for it to reset everything and watch that stupid scene with the helicopter every time.
  • Offline multiplayer is something many games are missing this generation, but it still doesn’t give them an excuse to emit it, I mean, its hardly unlikely to ever want to play this with someone else, as the thrill of knocking a friend into a tornado loses it’s appeal when they reset in front of you and your left spinning madly on a little smidge of mud because apparently your 3000 horsepower truck can’t find traction despite the initial speed you hit it at.
  • The spine of the case is upside down. It’s a small complaint, but every. Other. Game in my collection sits perfectly against one another with their spine reading downwards… yet Fuel sits there like the ugly duckling reading upwards, the puss filled pimple amongst my otherwise beautiful face of the PS3 cabinet.

I mean, it’s not all bad, the graphics are rather nice… until you close in on some of the forests… … and well, no, that’s about it. I can’t even comment on online play as it was practically dead from the start and games would not connect, so my experience has been pretty much frustration caused by things the majority of other racing games have been doing since the dawn of the commodore.

Fuel Bikes

Fueling my temper

But even the games gimmicks aren’t as you’d expect. As stated earlier, you can’t use the main selling point of the game as ‘open world with frigging’ tornadoes and shizz bro’ When 50% of the map is completely a waste of anyones time trying to drive through. And only having about 5 races include your groovy storms… and the sandstorms race…(s) are… unbelievably stupid. It’s a normal race, but every 3 minutes the brown game, gets so much brown on your screen it’s like you was sucked into the initial drawing board for Killzone 2.

And it’s the same problem with the vehicles, the dragster, is accessible for once time event. … I spent all this time trying to unlock it… for one checkpoint race with myself across the salt flats? Gee thanks game.

There are other redeeming features I guess, the collectables are nice, the fuel barrels are fun to find, the vista points are a nice little addition and the doppler trucks are unique. … But none of this helps the pure basic racing game problems. I wanted this to do wel so much… but from the moment I first started a race I could see there was going to be issues, but I never though leaving out the essentials from the initial meeting for the game, would have such an impact release. Remember, it’s always the little things which have the largest impact… much like those teeny tiny little bits of stone that cause your plugger to have a stroke.

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