2012 has been something of a comeback for the combat racing genre. 90's favourites Twisted Metal and Death Rally were both recently revived after an extended hiatus, and an influx of indie releases have started to saturate the downloadable market: we had Wrecked: Revenge Weekend (a.k.a. the spiritual successor to the cult-classic MASHED), Wheels of Destruction and the truly terrible Smash ‘n’ Survive, Plenty to choose from, then. So why should we take any notice of Fuel Overdose, the latest title to be added to this long list?
Developed over the last two years by the Tokyo-based I-friqiya, an independent company with a tiny team who used to work for big name publishers, Fuel Overdose attempts to bring a more tactical approach to the top-down action racing genre. Unlike traditional combat games, weapons are not readily available as pickup powerups – instead, you have to load your car’s arsenal before each race with a limited budget.
While the usual array of machine guns, rockets and missiles will be at your disposal, what sets Fuel Overdose apart is the use of one weapon in particular: a grappling hook. I’m pretty sure Fuel Overdose can now pride itself on being the first driving game to have cars equipped with grappling hooks. This allows you to cling onto opponents to gain extra speed or quickly catch-up after spinning out, as well as attaching to poles to power round corners.
Bombs are also littered around tracks ready for players to detonate Split Second-style, and combos can be performed in the same vein as fighting games by chaining special attacks which differ for each character.
You can tell that I-friqiya is a Japanese company – the cel-shaded graphics and anime characters with improbably-proportioned bosoms are a bit of a giveaway. While I’m personally truly terrified of anime, it does help to give Fuel Overdose a distinctive visual style and its retro top-down is deliberately reminiscent of past hits like Death Rally.
All sounds promising, but combat racers are best played with a friend by your side to curse at. It’s therefore disappointing to learn that Fuel Overdose will not have local split-screen multiplayer, instead focusing on its 8 player online multiplayer. It also sounds like a perfect fit for the Vita, but the developers have already confirmed that a Vita version hasn’t been in the works due to limited resources. Hopefully there will be a port later down the line if Fuel Overdose is successful – MotorStorm RC could do with some competition, after all.
A playable demo is currently available on the PSN. I had a quick blast with it and it was undeniably fun for an indie game so long as you can see past its low production values. You can tell that Death Rally was an instrumental inspiration, but Fuel Overdose seems to hold its own with its distinctive visuals and unique combat system.
Fuel Overdose will be blasting onto PSN on December 21st in Europe and sometime in January in the US, with a PC version to also follow.