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Freedom of FUEL: The Q&A

6 May 2009

From deep snow to open wilderness, Codemasters' latest racing game, FUEL, is a multi-terrain racing experience that covers over 5,000 square miles of the world’s harshest environments. Featuring on and off-road, two and four-wheeled vehicles, FUEL will pit players against the elements as they adapt their driving skills to cope with the likes of blizzards, sandstorms and tornadoes. We recently hooked up with Codemasters Producer Phil Wright to find out how FUEL plans to satisfy racing fans and thrill seekers alike.

PSU: What influenced you to create FUEL in an open-world, free-roaming arena rather than stick to the traditional menu-driven gameplay?

Phil Wright: Well, first I should say that if players prefer to negotiate their way through menus they are free to do so in FUEL: we’ve made sure that the game offers as much choice as possible, so for players who are just out to race, they have the option from within the menu system. But they’ll be missing out! FUEL offers a beautiful, seamless space, with huge diversity in terms of environment and terrain, filled with hundreds of reasons to explore: events, vehicles, liveries, and so on. There’s a lot to be said for the simple pleasure of cruising around the world for its own sake – checking out what’s over the next hill, catching your breath at a beautiful sunset, speeding down the side of a mountain – before diving into the next race challenge. It would be a shame to deprive players of that opportunity.

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PSU: How big is the game world and what locations and terrains can we expect to drive across?

Wright: The game world is huge – over 5,000 square miles with enormous diversity in terrain and locations. The map is generated from a selection of satellite data of the United States brought together to form a diverse landscape of snow-covered mountains, lush forests, deep ravines, dusty plains, arid salt flats and desolate coastline. This is all linked together by a vast network of roads, from highways to dirt tracks, and littered with the abandoned shells of vehicles and buildings that have been left to the mercy of the elements. All of this combines to offer an ever-changing, challenging and unique racing experience.

PSU: How do we jump into races and challenges?

Wright: Races and challenges can be accessed by driving to their start points in the map, or alternatively drop into the menu and select any race or challenge for the zone you are currently in. If you fancy racing in another zone that you’ve unlocked, you can either take the long drive in Free Ride or select the zone’s camp from the map screen and teleport straight there. The choice is yours.

PSU: Aside from point to point races, what other challenges will we face?

Wright: We have a wide range of race events – large scale raid races, checkpoint races, events where you have to avoid being the last vehicle through a checkpoint or on a lap, chase events where you must catch up with a helicopter – there’s a huge amount of variety.

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PSU: We understand that there will also be collectibles to hunt down?

Wright: Throughout the world you’ll be able to uncover extra challenges, vehicles, vista points and liveries to customize your vehicles. There are hundreds of these rewards dotted throughout the world to really encourage exploration.

PSU: With so many vehicles on offer, how have you managed to ensure that each one feels different to drive than the next?

Wright: FUEL features more than 70 vehicles split across six classes – bikes, cars, trucks, buggies, quads and specials – so there’s something for every sort of terrain. Within these classes, some vehicles are better suited for roads, some for off road, and others perform well across all terrain. Then we factor in grip, acceleration and top speed… The development team has done a great job of giving the vehicles distinct handling properties which feel right for each class, then refining those handling properties so that no two vehicles feel as if they drive the same.

PSU: Will we have to unlock vehicles in single player mode in order to use them online?

Wright: The only restrictions placed on the vehicles used online are the parameters dictated by the host of the race, but we don’t limit players to using only those vehicles they’ve discovered in single player so far. We want everyone to have access to the full range of races and vehicles online from the outset; it’s a great incentive to go back and complete races and challenges to find that amazing vehicle you just raced with online!

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PSU: So FUEL will be set in an alternate present where climate change causes the bad weather conditions and rising oil prices have sparked these racers to compete for fuel. Does FUEL have an underlying political message to send out?

Wright: There’s no political message to the setting we’ve created for FUEL, but the concepts our fiction employs – finite fossil fuel resources becoming ever scarce, the prospect of lands devastated by extreme climate change, the decaying relics of human habitation that have been abandoned to the elements – are grounded in real concerns and events touching our everyday lives, so it’s easy for people to visualize what that might look in a game without stretching the imagination too far. So we’ve taken the zeitgeist, given it a twist and turned it into a playground for grin-inducing arcade racing. If we have any message to deliver with FUEL, it’s probably “racing at 90mph as a tornado drops debris in front of you is spectacular fun.”

PSU: Is the dynamic weather system purely for visual effect or will have impact on the gameplay?

Wright: Weather in FUEL certainly brings atmosphere, but we use it to deliberate and good effect during races to spice things up too. Sandstorms can blow in on a race, cutting down visibility and ramping up the tension as you have to suddenly react to that next corner which loomed into sight; tornadoes will throw objects in your way and pull down power lines in front of you; rain can build up and turn road surfaces into skidpans; and so on. We’ve really gone out of the way to give players the feeling that it’s them against the elements as much as against other racers.

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PSU: What can we expect from the game's online component?

Wright: Online multiplayer is a big part of the experience in FUEL – up to 16 players can choose to play the Career races, explore together in Free Ride, or create their own races in the Race Editor and challenge others on these unique courses.

PSU: Can you tell us more about user-created races and how they work?

Wright: FUEL features an intuitive and flexible race editor which enables players to create whatever race course they want to, anywhere in the world. These can be any distance up to 150km long and can be A-to-B, checkpoint or circuit races – whatever you prefer. Simply place a start and finish point, with up to 30 checkpoints in between, save your settings and away you go. You can test out the route offline on your own first to make sure you are happy with it, or take your newly created race straight online. Any part of the course you’re not happy with can be tweaked quickly and easily by moving start, finish or checkpoints in the editor. It’s simple, but in its simplicity lies its power. We think it will really extend the online experience of FUEL for gamers.

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PSU: Will there be a local multiplayer option?

Wright: We’ve focused all of our efforts on providing a hugely extensive online multiplayer experience, so unfortunately no local multiplayer options in FUEL.

PSU: Can we expect to see a dedicated PlayStation Home space for FUEL?

Wright: No. Home content is planned for FUEL presently.

FUEL is set for an end of May release on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.


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