FUEL - Pole position
Dave Cook talks to Phil Wright about how FUEL rewrites the racing game rulebook
When you think racing games, you picture unaffordable sports cars tearing around tracks based on real-life circuits in exotic parts of the world. FUEL is different. It rips up the rulebook and delivers something more ambitious.
Set in a future where natural disasters have ravaged the earth, it lets adrenaline junkies compete in extreme races, brave the wastelands and freak weather outbreaks to compete with other aggressive racers. Boasting an enormous open-world area in which to race and tackle set challenges, FUEL breaks almost every racing game convention.
‘The technology drives the experience,’ says Phil Wright, producer at publishers Codemasters. ‘With a racing environment boasting almost no boundaries on a scale never seen before, players experience a huge diversity in terrain and weather, from snowy mountains to forests, deserts and salt plains.’
Even when racing along pre-set circuits, players are free to break off and find their own way to each checkpoint, discovering a host of hidden shortcuts and paths as they go.
The weather shakes up races even more. ‘The weather effects in free ride are dynamic but appropriate to the area,’ says Wright. ‘You’re more likely to get snow at the top of a mountain which thins out as you descend, turning to rain, then disappearing as you go further down. In career races, we set the weather deliberately for effect. Tornados scour the landscape, unpredictably wreaking havoc across the course, rain builds up to turn the tarmac into an ice-rink and dust storms create near zero visibility.’
As you hammer down vast mountainsides while the sun sets on the horizon, the weather and landscapes are breathtaking. French developer ASOBO has made everything in FUEL look larger than life and created a vast range of vehicles. ‘You will come across more than 70 vehicles to suit all conditions and terrain,’ says Wright. ‘Road-going bikes and cars, trucks, buggies, quads, SUVs – there’s a vehicle for every occasion. You notice each one reacting to the terrain, suspension taking in the undulations under wheel.’
The freedom to scream across an expansive game world, littered with jumps, dangerous corners and hazards, wouldn’t be complete without online play. ‘Online is integral to the FUEL experience,’ he says. ‘Free ride allows up to 16 players to explore and race online together, while all of the offline career-mode races and vehicles are available to race online, again allowing up to 16 players to participate. Last but by no means least, FUEL has an intuitive and flexible race editor, enabling players to create their own custom races anywhere in the 14,000km2 game world before taking them online to challenge other players. FUEL gives and gives and gives.’
FUEL is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC from Fri 29 May.