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What's it about?
Most racing games, however authentic the handling or realistic the visuals, limit players to staying on short courses and preset tracks. No deviation is allowed, should you want to explore the environment at breakneck speeds. And then there's FUEL, Codemasters' latest driving game that delivers a massive, go-anywhere racing world and featuring a wide range of terrain taken from satellite data. In fact, Fuel is so big that the Guinness World Records has recognized the game as the \"largest playable area in a console game,\" featuring 5,560 square miles. While not a flawless racer, it delivers a memorable offline and online experience for fans of the genre.
The story tell us of a world devastated by the effects of global warming, which have driven people from their homes to \"safe zones.\" Young and daring racers compete against one another in wild races -- on everything from ATVs, bikes, and trucks to souped-up cars, dune buggies, and other vehicles -- across environments ranging from desert dunes to snowy mountains (and everything in between).
Is it any good?
This is a big and beautiful game, but one that has some flaws. The arcade gameplay is fast and frantic, spread across the many solo and multiplayer modes. Along with classics, such as "Checkpoint," "Speed Run" and "Circuit," Fuel offers "Chopper Chase" (traverse tricky rounds to reach the finish line before a helicopter), "Seek and Destroy" (crash into rival racers) and "Blitz" (race from one checkpoint to the next in order to reset the timer). Also included is a race editor to create and share your own events.
The game bogs down with the artificial intelligence (computer-controlled drivers), which is far from intelligent, and some of the game modes are just too long (and a bit of a yawn). That said, while not without its faults, Fuel should satisfy racing game fans for its breadth and depth. Perhaps a weekend rental is your best bet or give it a spin at your local video game store before buying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether a bigger setting means better. On one hand, it's neat this game is now in the Guinness World Records for largest playable area in a diriving game, but does it translate to better game-play? Should games try to break records in various areas or simply concentrate on making the best playable experience. Is both possible?
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