Racing games aren’t really a rare find on the Xbox 360: of the eighteen games available at launch, three were racing games, and all were very solid. Conspicuously missing was Full Auto, the highly anticipated exclusive that was to show off the true capabilities of the new console. Sporting a unique take on the genre, the game finally released in February to limited fanfare. Has Full Auto lived up to the hype, or is it just sloppy seconds on a system that could use a more diverse selection of game types? While it’s not the revelation some expected it to be, Full Auto is a competent title that offers a different take on the racing genre.
Full Auto is a hybrid of the racing and car combat genres, drawing equally from games like Burnout and Twisted Metal. Getting to the finish line first may still be the goal of this game, but getting there without some heavy artillery is nigh impossible. You’ll rely heavily on your weapon scheme, which typically consists of one weapon on the front (machine guns, missles, etc.) and one on the back (grenades, smoke screen, etc.). Not only will you be aiming at your opponents, but also the highly destructible buildings, trees, signs, and parked cars that make up your surroundings. Wreck points are awarded for environmental damage (as well as the opponent kills you rack up) and can affect the outcome of the course. For example, you may need a certain amount of points to get a Full Auto Medal on a course, and just finishing first won’t do.
Combining genres can be a tough proposition, and the game fails to deliver an excellent racing experience. Driving around the tracks is often a slippery affair, and you’ll often be slamming into (or through) walls and spinning out with the faster vehicles. Spinning out may not be a rare occurrence in racing games, but it can leave you wide open for an attack in Full Auto, which becomes ultimately frustrating. It is here that you will largely use the Unwreck feature. Holding down the right shoulder button rewinds the action for several seconds, which is limited by a meter that fills up via the damage you cause on the track. Of course, you’ll want to use this when you’re nailed from behind by a heat-seeking missile, so make sure your meter is never empty.
Full Auto is visually a sharp game, with thrilling explosions and damaged cars that bring a new definition to “vehicular manslaughter.” Like some of the other first-generation Xbox 360 games, the cars and environments in Full Auto are a bit too shiny to be considered photo-realistic. Still, the tracks are large, detailed, and best of all, destructible. Unfortunately, the game has frequent slow-down issues, which do hamper the gameplay a bit. For a game that was “Built for the Xbox 360” (straight from the back cover), it sure doesn’t seem like it in motion. The game simply lacks polish, which I find odd considering it was originally anticipated to be a launch title. Those three extra months of work should have been put to better use. Luckily, the games sound effects are top notch, especially on a surround sound system. The music is the typical extreme electronic junk that is often associated with this type of game. I recommend turning the music volume all the way down and plugging in an iPod.
The game’s Career Mode offers a slew of racing scenarios, from time trials to gang battles, which should keep you entertained for a handful of hours. However, as I neared the end, I started to find myself quite bored. Though the different game types allow for some variations, you’re ultimately doing the same thing over and over again: racing and shooting. With neither aspect being top-notch, the experience grates on you until you lose all interest. This is the cue to hop on Xbox Live and play against some real competitors. The game runs fairly smoothly online, and there were always people around to play against. Also, one-fifth of the total Achievement Points are solely available by playing online, so you’ll want to devote some time to this if you want to get the most out of this game.
While I take issue with many aspects of the game, I did end up having a lot of fun with it, at least for the first few hours. At full price ($60), it’s hard for me to recommend this unless you’ve played through a majority of the launch titles and are itching for more. If the game had been released a month or two earlier, it could have arrived with more buzz and overall interest from gamers. As it is, this week’s release of Burnout Revenge has doomed Full Auto to mere rental or discount bin status.Grade: C