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For years the horizon of racing games has been an image - a simple backdrop for the foreground action. Fuel is the first game where the mountains in the distant, the far off sea or the dense forest are really there and can be driven to. Oh and along the way there's some racing too.
Racing games, although sometimes seen as a sporting sub category, are a well established video game genre in their own right.
A racing game has to be distinctive these days. With Burnout's real-time crashes, Forza's simulating, Gran Turismo's sparky realism, Grid's breadth and visuals, Motorstorm's deforming surfaces and Dirt's pinpoint rallying there is a huge amount of competition.
The story here though is that Fuel instantly creates its own space in the genre. It takes the wilds of Motorstorm, and open world of Burnout Paradise and then multiplies them ten fold. The result is a breathtaking world that is as beautiful as it is fun to play in.
Players can choose to free-roam around the world, stumbling upon races and events, or jump to the ones they've already found via the menu. These races, time trials and challenges then take them plummeting across, through and round the world.
Becuase of the familiarity that comes from exploring the world, in races players are aware that they are cutting through great chunks of the landscape. As they progress and win the in game currency - Fuel - cars and areas are slowly unlocked until there is literally a breath taking amount of ground to cover - quite literally.
The game doesn't excel at the visuals of Grid or the solidity of Burnout, nor the adrenaline drenched racing of Motorstorm. What it focuses on though it does well. And this is providing a truly world-like environment to drive in. This works quite simply because of the scale of the place - it really does feel planet-like.
Players will be attracted by the rough and ready racing theme on the box and branding. But those that stay will get the most out of the game because of the beauty and exploration as much as the competitive challenge. At times it really is man and machine against the elements as you see a mountain in the distant and decide you will get to the top. Picking a path through the tricky tundra, edging your way tot he top, there is a real exhilaration in the moment. Reaching the top just as dusk falls and looking back over the climb is as satisfying as any video game experience.
Races can be completed in around ten minute, depending on the nature of the challenge. As the world opens up though, players will want to spend longer exploring and investigating what is there.
Novice and younger gamers benefit from the forgiving nature of Fuel. There is no need to keep to the road or track. This enables younger players to join in the action without harsh penalties. My four year old could happily drive around and follow the in game arrows to complete his races.
Intermediates are likely to be best placed to get the biggest enjoyment here. The combination of less directed game play and quick start races means that players can take things at their own pace.
Experts may balk at the focus on the environment here. There are other games that do the racing, visuals and driving better. Those that can get past these shortcomings though will find an experience that could well outlast those smaller more directed experiences by some considerable time.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: