Full Auto arrives amidst a maelstrom of gamers' greedy hands, reaching out in desperation for new content. Dead or Alive 4 released well over a month ago, and since then Xbox 360 gamers have had little more to feed their ravenous appetites than some meager Xbox Live Arcade morsels. While SEGA's timing couldn't be better with Full Auto's release, the game isn't a mind-blowing next-generation experience. It's a decent-looking arcade-style racer that's heavy on combat and light on depth. In short stints the game can be enjoyable, but don't expect to be spending countless hours with this one.
The game's Career mode is where you'll spend most of your time offline and gives you a variety of objectives to complete. You'll have to blast cars and environments for points, slide around corners to earn boost and finish first in every race for gold medals to unlock all the goodies. The game gives you a few unique modes of play, including a few no weapons races, modes that strip your unwreck ability, as well as team battles and endurance races. Despite the different modes, they all feel very much alike.
Aside from getting achievement points, Full Auto's Head-to-Head mode is the other best reason to plow through the Career challenges. This mode lets you take on another friend via split-screen action. Unlocking all the car classes, tracks and weapons definitely makes this experience more enjoyable, especially since you can race against up to six computer controlled opponents. The Arcade mode is far less worthy of absorbing your time. Sure you can use all your unlocked car skins, race modes and weapons, but you're also racing by yourself in a mode that yields no results short of a few achievements.
Beyond straight-up racing and shooting, Full Auto gives you a few options to expand the gameplay. You're able to unwreck, which reverses time, provided you've built up the meter by blowing things up. This adds a little strategy, since you won't always be in a better situation after you reverse time. If you've got no unwreck left to rectify the mistake, you're doomed to explode and lose a few places in the race rankings.
It's also possible to modify your weapons' damage, making one part of a weapon pair strong while weakening the other. Having a weapon on its highest level (level 3) generally improves its power and occasionally bestows unique effects. The missiles, for instance, gain a homing ability and rockets are upgraded with incendiary rounds. Despite the differences in weapon levels, they remain powerful at lower rankings, so making adjustments isn't going to alter any gameplay fundamentals.
Combat plays a huge role in Full Auto. So large, in fact, it's surprising there wasn't an addition of a battle arena. As it is, you're confined to a selection of tracks that don't differ very much in their appearance. You'll find varieties of city tracks that stretch above and below highways and oftentimes right through the centers of buildings. When not in the city, you'll find yourself speeding by canyon walls and rocky outcroppings. The track selection could have definitely benefited from an increased variety, like perhaps a forest level with destructible trees or even a race through a gigantic funhouse replete with building-sized warped mirrors. With a game as blatantly unrealistic as this one, it's surprising a more creative approach wasn't taken with the track design.
That being said, every track has an impressive level of interactivity. Practically everything can be destroyed, from building faces to smoke stacks and water towers in the distance. While playing through you'll definitely be surprised once or twice as you accidentally bring down a train speeding across a highway overpass or shatter a building's window you thought was part of a static, unreachable background. There are also plenty of shortcuts to be found, many of which become more obvious as you blow away track debris like gas tankers, car carrying rigs or garage doors.
The experience of blowing stuff up can be relived over and over with Full Auto's One-Touch Replay feature, which lets players pull up an instant replay at any time in a race. It's an interesting extra, letting you slow time, zoom and pan to catch every explosion. Unfortunately, there's no way to save a replay or screen to your hard drive, so you better savor whatever sequence of destruction you manage to capture while you're watching it.
Coming out of a replay always results in a massive framerate spike. Lesser spikes occur when the game flashes to slow motion cutscenes when you blow up an opponent or get shredded yourself. Thankfully there's an option to turn off the cutscenes and race uninterrupted, something you'll definitely want to do since the cutscenes quickly lose their appeal. Amazingly, the game runs better in 480p. In HD the general framerate seems to drop, though in any video mode in slows bogs down in all the same places. While the single player modes proved smoother than the demo that was released on the Marketplace earlier this year, the multiplayer matches had more of a framerate problem.
Up to eight players can take their racing and combat skills online to blow each other up. From what we played, this was definitely more fun than the single player modes, though unfortunately suffered from many more instances of slowdown that did not seem to be lag-related. It was also disappointing to notice there was no way to add bots to fill up a game, and there was no server list available to browse. While the quick and custom search functions may be considered standard for any Xbox Live game, it's already been proven that more is possible. Perfect Dark Zero has a very functional server list setup for online play, so why can't other games? Though there's nothing inherently wrong with quick and custom server searches, we expect more out of this next generation of games, not relics from the original Xbox Live's designs.
It doesn't matter how far you are in the Career mode when you step into the online realm, since all the game's content is available for use right from the start. However, you'll be unable to use unwreck, much like in the Head-to-Head mode. If you set up a server, there's a welcome option of specifying portions or of the eight person server limit for friends or the public. You'll find online matches get a lot messier a lot faster than single player, since your opponents are going to be way more cognizant of the rocket launchers strapped to the hoods of their cars. Thankfully, you'll always have voice chat available to make it clear to any you're racing against how much they suck at life.
Though Full Auto clearly has issues, it's still fun as long as you can appreciate it as an arcade-style combat-racing game. Cars are split between A, B, C and S classes. The lightest, fastest and less durable cars make up class A. The C class is comprised of heavy, high armor vehicles capable of carrying more destructive weaponry, and the S class is just one car, the tank-like Batmobile-like Warlord. Each vehicle controls differently to a degree, but not to the extent of the differences between Project Gotham Racing 3's slick rides. After a few hours with the game you should be able to deftly control any of the vehicles made available to you.
The weapons mounted on top of your cars have differing advantages. The cannon, rockets and missiles are all effective for straightforward damage. You'll also get front and back mounted grenades, mines and a rear shotgun. Each weapon causes a satisfying amount of damage, particularly the shotgun. The ability to swivel some of the weapon mounts is a nice feature, giving you an additional level of control. Even though the machine guns are the weakest weapons of the bunch, they're still a lot of fun to use.
Enhancing the over-the-top weaponry are thundering sound effects. With the volume cranked you definitely get a sense of the destruction you're wreaking on opponents and environments, and it helps create the sense of the chaos and rampant destruction that pervades every race and keeps things entertaining. The deafening rattle of machine guns and whoosh of turbo boosts overshadow the electro-rock soundtrack, which you'll likely forget is even playing after a while.
These cars were designed to completely come apart, and that they'll do in spectacular fashion. As you blast through the plate glass windows of trackside coffee shops and smash the nose of your car into fifth story windows after an insane jump, your car is will lose most of its major parts. Just as many times as your rear armor gives out and your trunk flies off, you'll see yourself and the bodies of rival drivers catapult out of their cars when their vehicle reaches its breaking point. This is usually a good time to use the One-Touch Replay.
Despite the multitudes of particle effects, shock waves and bits of busted concrete that help foster Full Auto's sense of destructive chaos, you'll be wishing Full Auto moved faster. The game, even when you enable a turbo boost or using a through-the-windshield view, never manages to cross the threshold of scatterbrained, uncontrollable speed that is such a prominent feature of the Burnout series. Most of the game's tracks have wide roads and gentle turns that are easily maneuverable regardless of skill level or vehicle selection, shifting the focus of the game largely away from racing and speed and towards combat. A few other nitpicks include some questionable team A.I. in the team races, a lack of satisfying unlockables at the end of the Career mode and load times that will make you squirm in frustration.
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