The Demoman: FUEL

It's the distant present. Global warming has led to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, and crappy garage-band soundtracks. The global economy is in ruins and thousands, perhaps millions of people have perished. On the bright side, there's a bunch of sweet places to race dirt bikes. Awesome!

The open-world racing game FUEL boasts over 14,000 square kilometers of gameworld to explore and 100,000 miles of tracks and trails to race. The demo takes up one tiny square of one tiny section of one tiny area of the map, and it's still pretty darn big. For the demo's only race, my motorcycle is delivered via helicopter to the starting line, which seems a pointless extravagance considering the global apocalypse and all.

Would you like to see the horrifying results of this high-speed crash? So would I.

The race is fairly long and, despite the different types of terrain, like rolling hills, dirt paths, paved roads, and burning forests, it's somewhat uneventful. Almost boring, even. My driver tries to keep my interest by doing a little trick on his bike every time we go over a jump, but I can only watch him kick his legs to one side so many times (technically, one time) before it loses its appeal.

The rewards of exploration: ten minutes of driving led me to find this thing. Um, awesome?

I also rarely crash: unless I hit rocks or burning trees dead on, I just sort of bounce off them. And, when I do wipe out horribly, I'm denied even watching the carnage, as the FUEL logo just spins up and the game instantly resets me on the path, sparing me the enjoyable details of my rider breaking his bones and pulverizing his internal organs. Did any of the designers of FUEL ever play Trials 2? The best part of that game was the neck-snapping wipeouts.

The owners of this farm were nice enough to build a kick-ass ramp in their barn before perishing in the apocalypse.

Once the race is over, I decide to do some exploring. As I said, even this tiny demo world is massive, and as it turns out, so is my disappointment in it. It's very pretty, but there's not much to do or find. Every time I'd spot something in the distance and drive over to check it out, it would either be some abandoned vehicle or some broken down house that has been turned into a jump. Jumps just aren't that exciting in the FUEL demo, and non-jumps are even less-so.

No! I'm not MOVING until I see that TORNADO I was promised!

The constant, droning noise of my motorcycle's engine doesn't exactly encourage me to spend long hours exploring, either. My wife even came in at one point and asked if I was playing a game that involved a lawnmower. I tried another vehicle, some sort of dune buggy (also delivered via air-drop), but the handling was awful and it couldn't off-road worth a damn, so I kept going back to the bike.

And, all those dynamic weather effects I'd seen in the trailers never showed up. No tornadoes or hurricanes, just clear skies for three full days and nights of game-time. Color me not impressed. As a demo of a racing game, the racing isn't much fun, and as a demo of an open-world "sandbox", well, the box is definitely big, but there ain't much in it but sand.

Download the FUEL demo on FileShack.