|Here is the same pre-fab building, placed in many different locations throughout the world. I notice this one whenever I come across it. Green tractor, elevated propane tank, windmill, ramp, carport, etc. Everything in exactly the same arrangement. Perhaps in the next game they’ll have a system for arranging properties from pieces to avoid this obvious duplication.|
Fuel is the first game I’ve ever played where you can just drive. Even the “gigantic” GTA IV will have you bumping up against the edges of the world in just a few minutes or so, and you can do a lap around the whole city in five or ten minutes. A lap around Fuel would probably take around four or five hours, at least. During that time you’d see a lot of really stunning scenery. Snow-capped mountains. A Grand Canyon type place. Scorched deserts. Lonely brushlands. Thick forests. Rolling grasslands. Burned and burning forests. Abandoned cities. Winding coastlines. Now-baked farmland. Some cool bridges and assorted ruins.
Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a few flaws: Like, whoever designed the PC controls should be launched into the sun. I know this is always, always a problem with cross-platform games, but I don’t see why we should just roll over and accept this sort of stupidity just because it’s common. This is not a hard problem to solve if you care.
I’m using a USB clone of the PS2 style Dual Shock controller. I was able to set it up to work just like the Xbox 360 controls. Except, the moment you open any menu it ignores all controller input and goes keyboard only. You’re either driving with your controller, or you’re looking a a menu and unable to use the controller in any way. Even if all you want to do is glance at the map: You open the map with the controller, but then close it with the keyboard. You can tell which keyboard buttons should map to which buttons on the controller. A couple of keys navigate horizontally and should be the shoulder buttons. A couple more zoom in and out and should be right analog. Others navigate vertically and should be the d-pad. It’s obvious how it should work, but it doesn’t, and there’s no way to fix it. Boo.
If you choose to drive with the mouse & keyboard, you’ll find it works a lot like the driving in Half-Life 2. You can freely look around with the mouse, and drive entirely with the keyboard. This is actually a really cool setup, although I found it was just too dang hard to get the precision I needed with the keyboard if I was doing a race. Steering is an analog job in my way of thinking. Still, it’s fun to play around with and is probably ideal for tourist driving.
|There are other vehicles on the road. Outside of races, nearly all of them will be trucks of various sorts.|
Also, the driver models are all male. I know I complained about this already, and the game is about the vehicles and not the drivers, but still: [Insert long boring recitation of the obvious fact that there are in fact lady-type gamers out there and all the reasons it would be nice to have this option etc etc.]
The physics is a little wonky on steep hills in certain cases. I suspect there are a few spots in the game where it says “the player is not allowed to climb this hill”, because there would get to be points where I’d gradually lose all traction and begin sliding backwards. I’ve personally witnessed dirt bikes climb near-vertical surfaces and cling to the face of hills in amazing ways, but once in a while in Fuel you’ll come to something that’s just a forty-five degree incline, and totally impassible. There are mild slopes where your wheels will not grip at all, and you will slide right off into the abyss even if you’re just holding down the brakes. This isn’t a game-killer or anything, but it feels really artificial and I don’t really see a need for it.
|Whoops. Once in a long while you’ll encounter little flukes like this water-hill. I got a kick out of finding them.|
Still, these flaws are really minor, and I’m just pointing them out to be petty. The game is something unique, an amazing technological achievement, and a fun place to drive. I can’t endorse it as a racing game because I’m not a fan of racing games, but for a game where you explore at will, it was a lot of fun for me. If that sounds like fun to you, check it out.
|The game has a full day / night cycle. (I’m thinking 1 day = 24 minutes, but I never actually clocked it.) It’s pretty cool, although ther’es no way to just set the thing to any particular time, so if you don’t want to drive at night your only choice is to wait.|
I can’t help but think about all the awesome action RPG games you could make on top of this, and about how much I’d love to pay money for something like that. (Dear game developers: Hint-Hint, nudge-nudge.)
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An ongoing series where I work on making a 2D action game from scratch.