I may not be the biggest fan of racing games, but when you add guns to the front of the car, suddenly my interest gets piqued. I suppose that says something rather terrible about me, but I’d like to think I just prefer more depth than driving in circles. Anyway, the top down perspective of Fuel Overdose, combined with the emphasis on combat, was enough to get me interested. I knew there was going to be some issues, but I was curious to see how the developers handled them, and whether or not they were able to create a fun new entry for PSN fans.
FO comes equipped with a proper story. A virus infected all of mankind in the mid twenty-first century. A vaccine was found, but it was one that must be given regularly in order to keep sufferers alive. Unfortunately, a lunar event knocked Earth off of its axis, causing the poles to move, glacier to melts, and all kinds of horrendous natural disasters to occur. Most of mankind was killed, with the survivors forced to scrounge for vaccines or else be killed by the seemingly vanquished plague. In the chaos that followed, clans started to form all over the world. One of them, The Consortium, managed to win the ensuing arms race and hoard all of the vaccine. This brings us to the Race of Chaos. This all out race is held by The Consortium as a means of entertainment, with winners being able to bring necessary vaccine home to their clan. However, the race is extremely dangerous, being held in desolate parts of the world and featuring guns, grappling hooks, and explosives. Many racers die.
The story starts off by having you choose a racer. Each racer has his/her own back story and has a story sequence between each race. Sadly, all of these stories are uninteresting and a waste of time. The characters have stereotypical personalities, boring dialogue, and no growth whatsoever. They tried to spice things up by mixing characters into each other’s tales, but this led to odd moments where one girl was a focused badass in her story, but just another woman in another character’s story. Another went from obnoxious mercenary to man of the people. It just didn’t work. The characters are also incredibly sexualized, apart from the eight year old boy. The women all have insanely large breasts that are barely covered, as well as bottoms that reveal more then they cover. The men are all impeccably sculpted, and none of them are wearing a shirt. The lack of clothing is extremely odd, since most of the game takes place in the frozen wastelands of Siberia. One woman even has her nipples poking out of her top. I don’t have a problem with sexuality, or even with games expressing themselves, but this is supposed to be a serious story about people putting their lives on the line. This amount of fan service is simply unwelcome.
Thankfully, there are other modes to occupy your time. Free Race allows you to play on any track you’ve unlocked and play as many races you want. You earn points for your placement, and the game will tell you if you’ve “won” your set when you finish. Championship puts you in five race events where you earn points for victory and earn cash if you win the whole thing. This mode allows you to earn cash that can be spent on new cars and upgrades. You also unlock new tracks as you compete in them. Challenge gives you a series of challenges with various rules, such as racing without weapons, not being allowed to die, or having to take out all opponents before you cross the finish line. There’s also a help mode with a tutorial and story info, and a records section that tracks your best times and overall progression in the game. Online multiplayer exists, but I was unable to find anyone to play with as I got an advanced copy. There is no split-screen.
Graphically, the game is a bust on all accounts. The attempt at a stylized look goes nowhere because the style can’t overcome the technical limitations. The environments look bland, blurry, and often come color coded. The desert is brown, the water theme is all blue, and so on. Worse, there are technical issue galore, from clipping issues to framerate stutters and horrendous camera angles that often don’t show your car. The New York level is a particular offender, with the game being unable to show the difference between water and asphalt whenever the two get close. The character models, as I mentioned, are fan serve at its worse, and might look okay only if you’re into that sort of thing. When they animate, all they do is flip over and move their mouths a bit. It just doesn’t look good at all.
The audio is also a mess. While the intro theme and one or two of the level themes are nice, the music overall is generic stuff that gets old before it even has a chance to finish. Of course, in order to hear that music, you’ll have to edit the settings to mute the effects. Otherwise, you won’t be able to hear it over the incessant sounds of your tires screeching every time you nudge the analog stick. The constant noise of the engine is also overly loud and obnoxious. I have no problem muting the sound when I play.
So far, the game isn’t looking too good. You might be thinking that these issues could be salvaged if the gameplay is any good. Sadly, the gameplay actually makes things far worse.
For starters, the game use a top down isometric camera. This might not be a problem, except the camera is beyond terrible. It gladly swoops around, zooms in, or takes an angle that makes it hard to see and makes even the easiest turn disorienting. Often, the camera will rotate while you’re making a turn, which can cause you to overcompensate because you think you’re turning too far. That makes it really easy to crash into a wall or into another racer.
The controls are overly sensitive. When you first start playing the game, you’ll crash a lot because a small touch of the analog stick sends you careening in an unexpected direction. Special moves are performed on the right stick, which is problematic as it can be a pain inputting specific directions while driving.
Weapons in the game come in a number of forms, Machine guns are the standard weapon, capable of lightly damaging an opponent and possibly sending them off course. Missiles are slower, more powerful and have homing capabilities. They’ll definitely stop an enemy in their tracks, but they cause splash damage. This can be a problem, in that you’ll often shoot an enemy and catch up to them before the missile hits, causing you damage and flipping your car around. Mines can be dropped behind you, but if no one runs over them, they’ll stick around and possibly hit you on the next lap. Bombs are not launched from a car, but rather are placed along the track in key spots. You have a set number of detonators that can blow these suckers sky high and deal tremendous damage to all in their wake. That includes you, and since you can’t detonate a bomb unless its on screen, chances are you’ll get caught in the blast too. Finally, we have the grappling hook. This isn’t just a weapon, but is also a strategic racing tool. You can grab onto an enemy and hold onto them. You can charge an electric attack, or let go to get a speed boost. You can also grab poles on tight corner to slingshot your way through and make a hairpin turn without losing speed. In fact, you get another speed boost.
Between each race, you’ll enter the armory. Here you have a decent amount of cash to spend on upgrades and ammo for your weapons. This allows you to customize your load out, as you can do things like sacrifice mines in order to get extra missiles, or upgrade your machine gun. You can also place a “danger bet”. Whichever racer has the highest bet going into the race gets to use a special environmental attack during the race. This is by far the coolest feature of the game.
There are ten different vehicles in the game, none of which are locked to specific characters. Each vehicle has its own stats for speed, acceleration, durability, grip, and drift. These can each be upgraded up to three times, though some upgrades sacrifice one stat to boost another. There are eight characters to choose from as well, and each comes with special attacks that can be used as they charge up a meter on the right hand side of the screen. This meter fills up as you take damage. You can also sacrifice some meter to generate a shield that will deflect damage. While the game will show you how to perform these moves, it does nothing to explain what each does. Also, some characters are way more powerful than others. Hayden has the best specials in the game, and is more than capable of taking an enemy out in one hit. Each character also has a skill move, which they can perform at some point during the race for some sort of temporary stat boost and/or helpful move. For example, one character can gain extra life, while another can do an instant one eighty turn. Choosing the right character and car is paramount.
This game is an unbalanced mess. The first two cars are useless, and many of the others have glaring issues as well. I had a lot of troubles with the game until I unlocked the third card. Then I found myself winning most races by over twenty seconds. Enemy AI is useless. One character always uses the big rig, and always gets stuck on a corner somewhere for the whole race, or until someone knocks him loose. I’ve lapped him more times than I can count. To make matters worse, he’s the final boss! Also, the AI seems incapable of staying on track, and will often make crashes that you only make when you first start playing. However, they won’t hesitate to always target you with supers, forgo making a correct turn in order to smack you around, and constantly land the perfect counter when you swoop in for an attack.
At last we come to the terrible glitches throughout the game. The camera often continues even if your car stops, you’ll clip through levels, matches will start with all of the cars spawned on top of each other and unable to move, sometimes the armory won’t load, sometimes hitting the gas won’t move your car after you respawn, sometimes you’ll spawn over a hole and die a second time, and so on. Also, the game asks you to use the tutorial every time you start a game, even if you’ve already cleared it. That’s not a glitch per se, but it’s a terrible oversight nonetheless. These issues are frequent and make the game a chore to play.
There are some good ideas in this game, and once you get past the learning curve, it is possible to have some fun with it. However, it fails on just about every level. The story is boring, the art is questionable, the audio is annoying, and the gameplay is hounded by bad cameras and stupid AI. On top of that, the game is filled with bugs and glitches that, at best, make the game annoying and, at worst, make the game unplayable. This could have been a fun game, but it needed some serious play testing.
Short Attention Span Summary
Fuel Overdose is a game that looks quite good on paper. It has a neat concept, and several good ideas. However, it doesn’t live up to its potential in any sense of the word. It is a bland, annoying, buggy mess with only the occasional fun moment to reward the player for the time put in. While it’s not impossible to like this game, it makes it incredibly hard.