CODEMASTERS’ LATEST RACING EFFORT (from a pedigree including Dirt, Grid and even the popular Micro Machines series from way back in 1991) set a world record before it was even released: the largest in-game environment in gaming history at over 14,400 square kilometres. Fuel attempts to apply the sandbox formula to the racing genre, allowing the player to explore an expansive game environment. In between races, you can free-roam in search of new challenges and opportunities to win precious fuel in a post-apocalyptic setting where fuel is scarce and the currency of choice.
Fuel’s open-world environment is perhaps more Fallout than Grand Theft Auto; it’s certainly more of an open expanse of wasteland than an environment teeming with life and activity. There aren’t many landmarks as such, and the whole environment begins to blur into one large and relatively uninteresting sandbox. Aside from uncovering new races and challenges, there’s little further enjoyment to be gained from this newfound freedom.
The novel side of this open-world setting for a racer, however, is that Fuel does away with the barriers (quite literally) that restrict most other racers. Your course is loosely guided by an overhead route indicator, but there’s nothing to stop you from off-roading it and making your own way to the next checkpoint. Sometimes it pays dividends, and other times it will actually impede your performance to stray from the beaten track.
There are a variety of race types, from your usual checkpoint-based race to ‘Raid’, where you’re free to make your own route to a fi nal destination, to ‘Chopper Chase’, where you must beat a helicopter to its landing pad. Thankfully, where most of the open-world environments can be rather bland, Codemasters has made the actual race tracks themselves interesting, detailed and fun.
While the open-world aspect is a bit of a missed opportunity, the game gets it right in providing fun, accessible, arcade racing action.