What's not to love about the indie game scene and its current revival? From the phenomenal success of Angry Birds to truly brilliant tales like Journey and The Walking Dead, it's nice to see that inspiration and clever ideas can sometimes trump vast amounts of money and celebrity voice actors. As such, we were really looking forward to Fuel Overdose, a downloadable PlayStation Network title from new studio I-Friqiya. But does the racer have enough in the tank to live up to our lofty expectations?
The title features several different types of gameplay, spanning a story mode (more on that in a moment), free race, challenge, championship, and, of course, multiplayer. Playing through the main story consists of a series of small races for each individual character, and there are a bunch of them. The characters themselves are grotesque parodies of anime stereotypes and the plot is nonsensical fluff. It's clever how the narrative weaves together the different drivers, but it ultimately fails by trying to over-complicate things. Honestly, we struggled to understand what was going on most of the time.
Fuel Overdose borrows a lot of interesting ideas from other types of games. For example, each racer has a unique style with corresponding stat boosts, along with special moves. In that sense, it feels a lot like Street Fighter. The game even boasts tiered 'Ultra' moves that really help to underline the comparison.
Before each race starts, you must take a trip to the armoury. Here you're encouraged to purchase weapons, but you earn money back from any ammo that you don't use. Here's a tip: invest in extra grappling hooks for every race, as they are the key to victory. They are used to slingshot around tight turns by latching onto specific objects, or even other cars.
The core racing gameplay consists of driving around tracks from an isometric perspective. However, herein nestles the game's major flaw: the camera is atrocious. Not only is it restrictive, but it seems to have a mind of its own, frequently turning and reorienting itself. It’s poorly timed too, often changing right in the middle of a turn.
The aforementioned super moves are executed by moving the right analogue stick in different directions. It works well enough, but can be difficult to perform while trying to avoid other drivers. Meanwhile, a power gauge can be increased to unleash even stronger attacks. Making proper use of these skills is fundamental, especially in multiplayer.
There is an interesting monetary scoring system. You obviously gain more money by finishing higher than the competition, but you also earn points for different types of take-downs. These rewards can be spent on ammo and new cars. You'll need to play a lot to get the most out of the game, though, as fresh vehicles are awfully expensive. We're all for level grinding ordinarily, but it can get a bit repetitive in a racing game.
Visually, the game is passable, but it's designed with functionality in mind. Indeed, this is more of a thinking man’s release than it first appears. There is a fair amount of strategy involved as you jockey for position and attempt to time your weapons. Careful consideration is paramount in multiplayer, which can prompt some pretty intense clashes. It becomes a test of skill and tactics, as you counter and parry to gain the advantage.
Fuel Overdose is enjoyable in small chunks, but chronic camera issues let it down. The title simply tries to do too much, and it lacks focus as result. With a little more refinement, this could have been an original and compelling release – but in its current guise, it feels like a missed opportunity instead.