Fuel Overdose Review (PS3)
Car combat is a genre that was very popular during the early days of the PlayStation brand, but has had a difficult time since then finding the same footing. Numerous developers have tried to reboot once-popular IPs or put twists on the style to capture a new generation of gamers, but have been repeatedly unsuccessful. Now, another contender has thrown their hat in the ring with Fuel Overdose, an anime inspired top-down racer by the new developer I-Friqiya, that utilizes a number of interesting techniques to try and set itself apart from the crowd. Given the low asking price of $9.99, the amount of content this relatively unknown title has will surprise a number of people, but sadly the senseless issues that hold this title back cannot be ignored – no matter how cheap it is to buy.
Fuel Overdose‘s story starts off with the premise that Earth has fallen into ruin due to global warming, as rising temperatures lead to genetic alterations that weakened the world’s immune system. This epidemic, called Lilith, becomes counteracted through a vaccine with a high dependency rate, so everyone has to rely on it or face extinction. On top of the outbreak, came another global catastrophe known as Downfall Day, in which lunar shifts affect the Earth, the polar caps shift causing the Pacific Ocean to freeze and change the landscape across the globe. This almost-extinction event causes the few remaining survivors to group up into clans across the globe, and search for the remaining supply of the vaccine, which is held by the world’s largest remaining entities, called Consortium. This Consortium force people into an all out fight, or ‘death race,’ to get a chance to win supplies of the much needed vaccine for their clan or themselves, as a way to entertain their citizens.
Past the outlandish premise set by the short background of events told through unlocks and the intro, the story of each of the main characters is told through sequences between races during story mode. These ‘cutscenes’ are quite possibly the most awkward section of the game, as characters with little to no reason for conflict or allegiance will interact in the most irrational of ways. One character’s story has him arguing with another racer, only to be saved by an obscenely big breasted woman, who, shortly after, alludes to having sex for no reason at all. This over sexualization is apparent right from the start, as men are shirtless and ripped to ridiculous proportions, while women seem to have cartoonishly large breasts that no shirt can contend with.
Graphically the game is torn between vibrantly textured segments, and times when you are taken out of the experience, as in-game assets are ridiculously overused or look like they were ripped out of a PSOne game. ‘Cut scenes’ are little more than a single image of each character sliding about in the foreground, as if the developers were trying to make a low-budget puppet show. The actual in-game visuals are a mixed bag, vehicles use a nice looking Borderlands texture style, while the tracks seem to be built using as few polygons as possible. Major set-pieces that should have been given more care are designed as a series of blocks or simple shapes with textures that couldn’t even pass on Minecraft for the iPhone. There is also one level in the game involving a bridge that skirts a flooded New York, which consistently has an issue with the water clipping through the track. Luckily, the one saving grace to all of this is the anime inspired HUD, which gives the game a very unique feel, despite its flaws, allowing the game to bounce between the wonderfully drawn 2D character portraits and the sometimes poor 3D race environments, without becoming too jarring.
Being a racing title, it is up to the controls, camera work and design of the track to give fans a feeling of speed as they fight for position. Fuel Overdose seems to fall just below the standard in terms of its ability to work as a competent racer, as each of the cars in the game have a unique feeling when driven, but the ones you are forced to use in the beginning until you can upgrade, are horrendous. This initial hump really hurts the game, as those not able to fight past the needless barrier of entry will be wondering why your car can be suddenly launched into the air, or pitted as your competition flies right by you. Working your way through the numerous modes to earn cash to buy upgrades, you will eventually understand the game does have a path, but one that is far from clear on the outset. Almost everything becomes a series of customizations as each vehicle can be upgraded multiple times, ammunition for each weapon has levels, and each racer has their own tricks to bring to the track. Interestingly, ammunition in the game must be bought between rounds, meaning that every bullet fired is costing you money, so it forces players to not be careless with their trigger finger. All of this allows each player to finely tune a style to their liking, but requires a great deal of time to earn the cash in the first place, something that seems like too much of a dedication given the small stature of the title.
The biggest issue you will find in Fuel Overdose is that, as you try to race around a corner, you will be wondering why you cannot see more than a few inches ahead of you, or why the camera suddenly started to shift – throwing you completely off course. Having an overhead camera is far from new, but the fact that the camera is so close to you that you can never really see where you are going is a big problem for a racing game. This is also something that is exasperated as the camera will swing around to adjust the view, but will do it as you are about to take that crucial turn – you know, the one that could either put you in first place or last. Over time, you will become accustomed to the intimacy of the camera, as well as its tendency to reenact the movie Ronin, but once in a while it will still needlessly cost you a few positions on the leaderboard.
Besides the visuals, the audio in the game is fairly decent for a smaller downloadable title, as it does rock out a bit of tunes that really do set the tone for this post-apocalyptic racer. Using a number of melodies that can range from almost 80’s rock to slightly techno, the game maintains the fast beat that should help pump up anyone looking to race. Also, as a welcome inclusion, the game does give you the ability to play your own tunes off of the custom playlist feature, if the included soundtrack are not to your liking.
Based off of limited ability to play the Multiplayer segment of the title, my experience online was mostly positive. You are able to send invites, or join public games as with most modern titles, or you are able to create a game and control what type of race you are looking to do. Sadly, the game does not allow for split-screen, which is a shame as this could be a great example of a title that would be fun to do a few laps with a friend close by.
Overall, my experience with Fuel Overdose was quite surprising, it is a deep title (for its price point) with a deal of fun to be had, but the amount hurdles that it requires you to jump through could really put off a number of people. So if you are looking for a top-down car combat racer with a ton of content for a relatively low cost this could be a title to check out, but if you are looking for a well polished game that does not need a number of hours to crack the surface, you should probably pass.