Geek: Good fun, huge replay value, challenging
Weak: Average graphics, frustrating, irritating camera
Price: £9.99
Score: 3.5/5
Contact: Fuel Overdose

Your first impression of I-Friqya’s PSN-based tactical racing combat game, Fuel Overdose, are likely to be disappointing. While the presentation is smart, the in-game graphics are average at best and very far removed from what you’d expect to see on a PS3 and when you quickly find yourself overwhelmed in your first race, you may be left wondering why you’d just spent £10 on this. But despite appearances, Fuel Overdose is not a balls to the wall arcade experience and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye so you have to look beyond the visuals and spend a bit of time to begin to appreciate the game.
The tutorial is an absolute must as your fingers are going to be awfully busy – as well as having three weapons on board (guns, rockets, mines) you’ve got a grappling hook and detonators. The detonators set off track-side bombs that can be used to damage your opponents, while the grappling hook has three uses: you can fire it at an opponent and gain a speed boost, electrocute opponents and grab track-side poles to get around corners more quickly. This adds an extra element to the gameplay and gives you a lot more options than just shooting everyone around you but it does mean you need some time to get the hang of using everything at your disposal.

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Fuel Overdose is primarily a racing game, so unlike other combat racing games your objective (most of the time) is to actually win races, which take place on courses rather than free roaming levels. The main single player game modes are Championship, which is a series of races, Story, which gives you an introduction to each of the characters and lets you play through the game exploring their backgrounds and their involvement in the racing, and Challenge. Confusingly, this is where you earn credits to unlock cars, and consists of time trials, drift challenges, races without weapons that focus on driving skill and Kill ‘Em All, where you simply have to destroy all your opponents within a set number of laps. This is arguably the most fun of all the challenges as you have unlimited weapons and can cause absolute carnage, but you have to play through each tier of challenges to unlock the next set.

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There are numerous characters to choose from, each with their own skill move, like a quick turn or a quick recovery, and two special attacks and an ultra attack. These are activated using a combination of right stick movements, and while the commands pop up on screen I found the command I entered didn’t always register and in the heat of battle I often ended up waggling the stick in all directions hoping for the best. There are a lot of cars to choose from, too, though initially only two are available, so you’ll want to complete challenges to earn credits and you can also upgrade your cars, improving durability, performance and the amount of damage they can deal. There’s also an online mode which adds a huge amount of replay value, and allows you to choose from a number of race types so it;s not always going to be about blowing everyone else up if you don’t want it to be.

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Fuel Overdose is a challenging game – it can be hugely frustrating at times as the controls lack finesse and the enemies are brutal while the tracks themselves are also pretty unforgiving. It can be hard to spot elevation changes and you’ll suddenly find your car leaping off a jump you didn’t see and certain tracks have plenty of places for you to fall off the road, so you need to tread carefully. The camera will also flip around at numerous point on each circuit to give you a different perspective on the next stretch of track and this never ceases to be irritating as it swoops over the circuit, disorientating you in the process. The soundtrack is good, a suitably energetic rock-based affair, but the engine sounds are uninspiring and if you pick a drift-based car, the near-constant constant and particularly irritating tyre squeal will begin to grate after a couple of corners. Having said all that, once you get the hang of it and get sucked in you’ll find yourself engrossed in the whole experience. Because it’s hard, when you do out-drive your opponents or take them out with a sneaky missile or well-timed detonator, it’s hugely satisfying and the computer makes mistakes too, smashing into walls, losing control so you’re never that far behind the action and a series of special attacks, good fortune and good driving can really turn the tide so you learn to never give up until the very end. With so many modes, so much to unlock and an extensive online mode, Fuel Overdose will keep you coming back and for how little it costs, you’ll get a lot of play time for your money; it might not be pretty and it might be frustrating, but Fuel overdose is not a bad game and there are much worse ways to spend £10.

Verdict: It’s no looker and there’ll be a few tantrums, but put the time in, get the hang of it and Fuel Overdose will suck you in and keep you coming back for more.