Full Auto Review

Posted in Reviews,Xbox 360 by Michael Pica on the June 12th, 2006

[this is a repost of the original article posted on Xbox-Scene.]

Full Auto is a new franchise from Sega, being a game based in automotive destruction it was met with great anticipation, however delays that pushed it past the Xbox 360′s launch followed by a demo that left a lot to be desired put off many of the game’s would-be fans. I myself fall into this category; however, I also had the opportunity to rent the final game and play it all the way through. While it does have some shortcomings the game is a whole lot more fun and offers far more replay value then the demo let on.

TITLE: Full Auto
PUBLISHER: Pseudo Interactive
DATE RELEASED: February 14th, 2006
HDTV Support: 1080i
5.1 Surround Sound: Yes
GENRE: Racing/Action
PLATFORM: Xbox 360
ESRB: T (Teen): Violence
Retail Price: $59.99 USD

Full Auto is a no-nonsense game. It’s very straightforward and to the point and that carries through from the interfaces to the game modes to the graphics and even the gameplay. Overall it has a very indy garage-programmer as well as a made-for-arcade feel to the whole title. I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if I had seen “insert coin” blinking somewhere on the screen. While we know this wasn’t an indy title, Sega is FAR from indy, they do however have deep roots in the arcade business and I imagine that’s where this overall game design came from. At the time of this writing I couldn’t find any information of an arcade version existing but I wouldn’t be surprised if they began popping up. Playing through this title I’m often reminded of the Battle mode offered in the console versions of San Francisco Rush 2049. Another straight and to the point automotive combat game Full Auto plays as if someone saw that mini-game and said “lets make a whole title that plays like this”.

Like many other racing games the cars are split up into various classes. “C” class cars are typically the slowest and they get progressively faster as you move up the ranks. Regardless of the rank each car has 3 aspects Durability, Handling, and Speed. And while moving up the ranks generally improves your handling and speed, durability drops significantly. “A” class cars only require two or three well placed hits to take out while “B” and “C” class cars require significantly more. There is also one car you’ll eventually earn that is in a class of it’s own with all of the stats maxed. Cars must be unlocked for multiplayer modes but if one of your human opponents has the vehicles unlocked you can use them too. In addition to unlocking cars you can also unlock different skins for those cars and different colors for the skins. Skins include various paint styles, it changes the Police Car into Mall Security Adds flame paint to the hot-rod or pin striping to the low rider etc. They obviously don’t give you any sort of gameplay benefit but it’s nice to have tangible rewards for completing the career mode challenges. None of the cars are base on real vehicles but they’re all very well designed and most could easily pass for something you’d see going down the street. Some have obvious visual cues to real life vehicles, nothing overt but enough to give the car some soul. The cars are also given names. There are enough unique characteristics that you’ll have your favorites and you rarely end up online with everyone using the same car.

Like the car selection the weapons system is simple and easy to understand. There are number of pre-determined sets of weapons. Each set has 2 weapons. In most cases you’ll have a front mount weapon and a rear mount weapon, but in some cases both weapons will be front mount. The A button will control the primary front mounted weapon. If that weapon is movable you’ll also be able to control it’s direction with the Right Analog stick, clicking it to fire. The auxiliary or rear mount weapon is always stationary and controlled by the B button. Each set is given a title like “Assault”, “Tactical” or “Mêlée”. At first I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have full control over the weapons on my car but there are a limited number of weapons and the combinations are set to keep things balanced. Playing through you’ll get a good feel for which weapon combinations are best for a particular game type, car class, track, and user skill. There isn’t one set that’s better then the others but there is usually one or two that will work best based on the factors of the race you’re about to enter. I think this works well because it requires a level of strategy while keeping in tune with the simplistic style of the game. Even still it would be nice to allow total control over the weapons if so desired. All the essential weapon types you’d expect are covered, machine guns, mines, grenades, shotguns, missiles, canons, and smoke screens. Reading the description on it would seem that they had initially planed on a few others such as oil slicks but it would seem that they didn’t make it into the final game. Once you progress in career mode you’ll eventually unlock the ability to tune the weapons’ power. You have 4 total points, typically the weapons are split up 2 and 2 but if you’d rather one be more powerful then the other you can split it up 1 and 3. Again, it adds strategy to the gameplay without becoming complex.

Despite the very simplistic drive and shoot gameplay the game has a bit of depth by giving you a set of goals at the start of each race. These goals can be anything from how many competitors you take out, to how much property damage you cause, the place you finished in, or the time it took you to finish, etc. Based on how well you did in theses areas for the particular race you’ll earn one of three medals. Survivor (Bronze), Semi-Auto (Silver), or Full Auto (Gold). So even if you finish the race in 1st place you still might only earn the Survivor metal because you didn’t do enough property damage along the way. It’s not always the case, sometimes you’re just looking for 1st place or X # of cars taken out, but sometimes there are multiple goals. This adds a really nice dynamic to the gameplay and encourages you to always be conscious of the balance between the destruction aspects as well as the racing aspects of the gameplay.

The gameplay in Full Auto has some other interesting aspects to it too. Despite being just a racing game with guns it includes a unique “un-wreck” feature. The Right Bumper is the un-wreck button and essentially it allows you to rewind time. If you take a corner too wide and crash, hold the un-wreck button and try it again. If an enemy destroys you with a rocket, un-wreck and dodge it as if you had ESP (I can’t help but think Sega took the idea from their classic arcade title “Time Traveler”). While the feature seems novelty at first it allows you to take certain risks that you might otherwise try to avoid. Taking narrow shortcuts where you’d risk smashing into a wall or driving head-first into a gun battle with little health are situations one might normally avoid but with the un-wreck available you can take those risks and see how it turns out, if you pull it off GREAT!, if you screw it up, no big deal, try it again or do something different. Towards the end of Career mode you’ll make heavy use of this feature as the game challenges you to take those risks to come out on top. Similar to the ability to rewind time you also have the option of one touch instant replay. If you did something awesome and want to see it right away just a push of a button and you’ll be shown an instant replay of the action. Taking out enemies or crashing also pulls you out of your driving view for a stylized close up of the action, similar to Burnout.

Un-wreck isn’t unlimited though, at the start of the race your un-wreck is full, however once it’s depleted you’ll need to cause destruction to fill it back up, destroying buildings, opponents or various artifacts adorning the streets will help fill up your un-wreck ability sort of like some twisted theory of relativity. You also have a boost available. At the start of a race your boost meter is empty, to fill it up you need to do style based moves, e-brake drifting around corners, going off of jumps etc. will work towards filling up your boost. This also adds some interesting game play again encouraging players to take risks to help them get out ahead. If you want to keep up with the competition you need boost, if you want boost you need to take risks, if you take risks you need un-wreck and if you want un-wreck you need to destroy things.

What’s interesting is that most Automotive combat games are arena based. That is to say they’re like an FPS death-match with cars. Full Auto is exclusively track based. Everything you do is on a track with positional winners. While it’s refreshing when contrasted with similar titles like Twisted Metal it would have been nice to have some arena options available. Despite that there are a number of track styles such as circuit, point to point, and head-to-head (where half of the racers run backwards around the track) to keep things interesting.

Despite the lack of arenas there are number of game modes available including all the ones you’d expect from the main menu: Arcade, Career, Versus, Xbox Live etc. Career mode and Xbox Live are easily the most interesting modes available. My biggest disappointment was with the limited number of players in Versus mode. Only 2 players can compete locally. I would have appreciated a 4 player split screen option as that would have made this a fantastic party game (and a sure buy at the end of my rental). I can understand it’s absence however as most games take severe graphical hit when splitting the screen up, Even still Full Auto hums along at a steady 60FPS with fantastic bump mapping,particle effects, motion blur etc. Graphically the game isn’t the best looking on the console, some of the models and textures leave something to be desired, but it’s certainly superior to anything last generation consoles could have produced

Career mode offers 17 “series” each with a number of races. As with most Auto racing games you start off on an easy track with a relatively uninspiring car. In this case the car isn’t so much slow as it’s uninspiring because you don’t even have any weapons. The first series is more of a training session to get you acclimated to the game before you’re let off into the wild. You start off with just your car going around a track and they introduce the boost system, the un-wreck system, and eventually weapons. The series that follow progress you through the different car classes, starting with C and building up through B and A and eventually to the S class. The series after that could be described as custom game types. They offer particular types of challenges. Toward the end of career mode they’ll start to take away some of the features you’ve come to depend on by making you play without the ability to re-spawn (you crash or get killed, it’s over) or without the un-wreck feature etc.

The pre-determined challenges in Career mode wont hold you over very long, if you’re a decent player you’ll probably do everything there is to do there in about the 10 hours it took me. If you enjoy playing against the computer then you might find some decent replay value in Versus or Arcade modes, which will let you customize your own game types but the REAL replay value comes from Xbox Live. Xbox Live is really the crown jewel of this game. As with most games rooted in Arcade style it’s setup for highly competitive short dosage 2-8 player fun. Understandably the unique un-wreck and one touch instant replay features have been removed for online play but all of the other game elements are there. Like all of the other aspects of the game the Xbox Live portion is simple and straight forward. Unfortunately though, I think that hurts it a bit here. While the game host has a number of options to set game type, car class, number of players etc. All players (including the host) are dumped back into the Xbox Live menu after the race. So if you really enjoyed the group you were playing with you pretty much have to choose quick match and hope the host re-created the room and that is the one the search finds. All in all though the Xbox Live online play is what makes this game a keeper. Online games are fast and fun and since the game is so simplistic veterans can play with first timers and still have a good time. Also despite the achievement for different ranks they arn’t used (or at very least arn’t in view) when actually playing online. With no sort of ranking available you’ll often get a large disparity between some players. My 2nd or 3rd game online I ended up in a race with the #2 ranked player.. a few laps in I was in 2nd place and 45 second behind. I played him again later on and the races were more competitive (I even beat him a couple of times) but some form of ranking would have been nice to keep things competitive. I don’t mind loosing so long as I felt I had a chance or could maybe win if I had a 2nd chance. Most people would agree that playing isn’t fun if you’re completely and constantly annihilated by the competition. Even good players don’t always like winning so easily that it wasn’t challenging.

As with all Xbox 360 games there are a number of achievements you can earn. Most of Full Auto’s Achievements are based in Career Mode but there are a handful for you to earn through Arcade mode as well as though Online play. Career mode dishes out achievements for completing each of the series and there are additional achievements for completing all of them at Semi-Auto or Full-Auto award levels. Other achievements that can be earned through any of the offline modes are given out for achieving a certain amount of total property damage, a certain number of enemy kills, or a certain number of 1st place wins. Arcade mode has some specific achievements requiring you to defeat the computer at the highest AI setting in a number of different game types. Finally the Achievements for Xbox Live are given out for achieving various “ranks”. They’re not Leaderboard ranks so much as they’re pre-determined levels you much reach by racing so many times, killing so many opponents or achieving so many 1st place wins. I earned “Rank 1″ after my first online race and I earned the highest rank, “Rank 10″, after about 35 races. Your mileage may vary as there are a number of factors that contribute to this, I’ve seen others with over 60 races under their belt who haven’t even reached rank 8 yet. On a whole I felt the game had a good spread of achievements across the different game modes, not too easy to earn, not too hard either.

Overall Full Auto is a good fun and SOLID arcade style game. The graphics aren’t spectacular but they’re above average. The single player modes are entertaining but short lived and the Xbox Live online mode is incredible fun even with it’s short comings. I would have been nice to see 4 player splitsceen play available as well as some arena track options. Despite all this I think Full Auto is a promising start to what could be a fantastic franchise. If nothing else it’s nice to see some new franchises these days with so many re-makes an one-offs. While there are some things borrowed from other titles in here the game is certainly unique, and it’s simple enough to play that while some might find it repetitive almost anyone could pick it up and have a good time with it (especially on Xbox Live).

I give Full Auto a 7.5 out of 10

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