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FUEL: Pre-Apocalyptic Racing

I don’t think I’ve ever been excited about a racing game before. I’ve enjoyed plenty of ’em, and sometimes very much so, but I’ve never thought “ooh, I’m really looking forward to driving around a slightly better-looking race track.”

Until now. FUEL is the next inexplicably capitalised inhabitant of Codemaster’s racing stable (with DIRT and GRID. I look forward to WHEEL, GEAR and QUITE FAST ACTUALLY). And it sounds awesome. No straight track racing here – it’s set in an alternaverse where, uh, oil prices are really high and climate change is causing problems. Only more so. It’s pre-apocalyptic rather than post-apocalyptic, but still very much in keeping with gaming’s current thematic obsession. Only here it’s all about the cars, not the mutants and the shotguns and the bitching about Bethesda. It’s not the theme that gets me, though I do relish a move from the Nürburgring into something a little more fantastic. It’s the fact that FUEL is an open world game.

Yes, open-world racing – finding your own best route across a 5,000 square metre mile landscape. There’s been some talk as to where racing games go from here if they’re to avoid painting themselves into a niche, and perhaps this is the way forward. At the very least, it’ll be a fascinating experiment.

The developer’s interesting – this one isn’t from Codies’ own racing studio, the folk behind GRID and DIRT, but instead French outfit Asobo Studio. Their previous projects? Um. Garfield 2, Ratatouille and The Mummy and most recently the PC and PS2 versions of Wall-E. Um. Clearly this is them seizing the day, possibly with a large pot of licensed game cash behind them, and doing their own thing. I really hope it pays off, as the concept sounds fantastic.

No screens/videos yet (the one at the top of this post is from GRID, but recoloured into Next-Generation Brown by me. It was supposed to be funnier, but there isn’t much inherent comedy in brown cars.), but hopefully they’ll come out of Leipzig. Full press release below, however.

Edit – some footage here (thanks Mang). Pretty! Brown, but definitely pretty.

Set to revolutionise multi-terrain racing with the largest environment ever created in race gaming, Codemasters today announced signing the worldwide publishing rights to FUEL™ from Asobo Studios. Promising a truly next generation addition to the racing genre, FUEL is in development at Asobo Studios in Bordeaux, France, for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft®, Games For Windows® LIVE and due to release in 2009.

Born of Asobo Studios’ cutting-edge proprietary engine, the result of over four years in development, FUEL will present players with an astonishing no-boundaries playfield that’s over 5,000 square miles (14,000+ km²) in size. Creating the ultimate competitive go-anywhere racing experience, FUEL will have players competing across wildly different terrain and executing spectacular death-defying stunts as they race dozens of varied two and four-wheeled rides and explore this epic world on an unprecedented scale.

FUEL is set in an alternate present in which whole swathes of the globe have been ravaged by the effects of climate change brought on by decades of environmental abuse. Here oil prices have rocketed and yet a new breed of racing junkie takes to the wastelands, pitting their grungy home-tuned vehicles against each other in an all-new extreme sport as they compete to win fuel supplies. To triumph means travelling the wastelands to challenge the best; from the tsunami-wrecked pacific coast through the Nevada wastelands, including the Grand Canyon, up treacherous snow-capped mountains, thick forests, arid deserts, abandoned lakeside resorts and much more.

Bringing this vast, open ended landscape to life is a dynamic weather system with full day and night transitions, brilliant sunshine, torrential rain and everything in between, plus destructive tornados, sandstorms, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, and blizzards requiring mid-race strategy changes.

“FUEL raises the bar in terms of scale and exhilaration for racing games. We begin with the largest racing environment to appear in gaming – ever. With our accelerated effects of climate change and dynamic weather system we add an extra dimension that change races on-the-fly and constantly presents new challenges to players,” said Sebastian Wloch, Chief Executive Officer, Asobo Studios.

“Player choice lies at the heart of FUEL’s action-packed races and with a huge range of vehicles, packs of up to 16 vehicles speeding across diverse terrain and a no-boundaries, no-limits approach to racing, means players have never had so much freedom to conquer the wilderness and take the chequered flag.”

“The technology Asobo Studios has developed to build FUEL is ground-breaking. To create a game on this unprecedented scale to this level of graphical quality, complete with all the dynamic weather effects, is a great achievement,” said Barry Jafrato, Senior Vice President of Brand, Codemasters. “FUEL had to be a special title for Codemasters to include in our racing portfolio and we believe that from both a gameplay and a technical perspective, FUEL compliments our long standing tradition of driving excellence.”

Complete with the ability to go online to explore this massive world and compete in hundreds of multiplayer challenges, FUEL is coming in 2009 for the PLAYSTATION®3 system, Xbox 360 and Games For Windows. More on FUEL will be revealed from Games Convention Leipzig (20 – 24th August, 2008).

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Alec Meer

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