Burnout with guns!!!
Amongst the more vocal gamers this is the first thing you hear said about the game Full Auto. An automotive destruction fest for the Xbox 360 that is just as frenetic as it sounds and full of high-impact weapons and explosives.
Full Auto isn't going to win any prizes for originality, or for innovative gameplay techniques. It borrows heavily from the idea of such movies like Deathrace 2000 and I often wonder if the developers are fans of Steve Jackson's boardgame: Car Wars. What it does do, is auto-motive destruction on a scale the likes of which only Twisted Metal ever achieved only in this case Full Auto has linear tracks and there's no story to the game really.
The controls are typical of many racing games, accelerate, brake, hand-brake and look behind for example. Then in addition to this you have the buttons for primary and secondary weapons, allowing you to fire your machine guns and drop mines with a tap of a button. Some weapons like missiles and the shotgun can be aimed a little and operates off the right stick (press in to fire).
In addition to these controls, there's the obligatory and definitely needed nitrous/boost and the very Prince of Persia: Sands of Time rewinding time feature, aptly named Unwreck - and the way this game plays you'll see a lot of that feature in action.
The game revolves around blasting the heck out of the other cars and doing as much destruction as possible, drive like a maniac and blow thing into smithereens and you'll be getting lots of Wreck Points. There are three levels of proficiency in the game, Bronze, Semi-Auto and the Full-Auto; usually the Full-Auto requirement involves three criteria: gaining sufficient Wreck Points, blowing up a certain number of Rivals and attaining a set time.
Do well and you'll unlock new cars, new tracks, new colours and bonuses galore. There is no prize for finishing below bronze, except the fire-laden death as your car explodes out of shame.
There is a Career mode and this is where you'll do a lot of your unlocking, you'll unlock new challenges as you complete out the set objectives and eventually open harder and harder race modes. The last most is aptly entitled The Impossibles, this mode has you driving to survive with one life, and no Unwreck.
Along with Career there's the usual Arcade race mode where you can play with unlocked vehicles, weapons presets and tracks. There's a two player split-screen option and of course you can go onto Xbox LIVE with some human opponents and enjoy the madness of automotive mayhem between eight of you (with no Unwreck, I presume the logistics of programming that lot in, would have been horrendous) as you drive to survive.
The menu system is easy to use and you can access the game settings, with a tap of the right shoulder button. Setting up a race is simple and as you progress through the game more additional options, such as Weapons Tuning, become available. Weapons Tuning allows you to run through a few presets and switch the levels of the weapons, which are graded from 1-3.
At level 1 the weapons are at their most basic, still fun and still furious, at 2 they become a little more destructive and in the case of missiles they can be aimed via the right stick. At 3 they gain another effect, usually something like fire or for missiles; they now track targets acquired at the point of ignition.
As a quick example set up, you might have a Python with a pair of .50 cal machine guns at the front and a mine layer at the back, you can set these to have level 2 each or one at level 3 and one at level 1 etc.
There are over 20 mean machines from souped up hot rods, SUVs and tuner cars to the mighty Warlord, akin to the Batmobile and just as tough to boot. Every vehicle does have stats but the handling of them seems to be a last minute feature, since the action is so fast and furious you don't really have time to stop and test those kinds of statistics - they work - Full Auto isn't about careful timing of turns and racing, its about leaving a pile of twisted metal in your wake and ruined buildings across the track.
These vehicles can be armed with a preset type of weapons and have various levels of armour (durability) which is shown in game by a gauge, once the front, back or side armour is lost you're left with your car's important bits exposed and one shot/missile or crash away from a ball of fire.
The Unwreck feature is nice, it works really well and both bars can be filled by driving and shooting like a maniac. Get enough boost and you can fly ahead of the pack, roaring off into the sunset in a motion blur effect and a scream of turbo. Take a wrong turn, smack into a wall or bite the end of a missile and you can turn back the clock, as long as the bar has some energy left in it. Many races have been won (or lost) by us as we used this feature to avoid a sneaky mine, or blast from an enemy car turning our defeat into a swerving victory.
Apart from that the game plays in a no-brainer fashion and does just what it promises on the box, you unleash all kinds of auto-motive destruction and careless disregard for other road users (the perfect Road Rage wind-down game) as missiles, mines, cannons and machine guns leave wreckage everywhere.
The only thing missing for me was a full replay feature, so a lot of the carnage could be viewed at your leisure at the end of a race. It does have a one-touch replay feature so you can see a favourite stunt again and again, but once you drive off there's no way to save or view that stunt once more. An oversight I hope that they fix in the inevitable sequel.
Full Auto looks nice and there's that much graphical detail and there are tonnes of special effects as the weapons go off, sparks fly and explosions rain down debris all around, from other road users to the opponent cars and the very buildings around you. It's a frenetic game and sometimes it is hard to see what's going on as the bullets and rockets start screaming around. The sepia-tone touch when the Unwreck feature is activated is a nice little gimmick and I personally thought it added a touch of class to the game to boot.
The game looks gorgeous and the backgrounds are suitably detailed, the sky is also likewise excellent and the way it rolls back as time reverses is another thing to watch. The textures are shiny and there's a nice level of detail on the cars, both the opponent game cars and the other road using traffic.
The explosions and pyrotechnics in the game are some of the best eye candy effects in a racing game, barring the legendary Burnout series, the game is a feast for the eyes if you like things that explode. It caused several oohs and ahhs from the spectators as we decimated our way through some of the cars in the mighty Warlord.
FA has several camera presets, the usual front, hood and near/far chase camera views are present.
Physics and Models
Tied into the graphics are the models and the backgrounds are not static, the buildings are often left with huge chunks of masonry broken off, blown out windows and pock-marks as a race goes on. The later weapons are capable of tearing rock apart, blowing buildings up and leaving ruins, all in the name of pyrotechnical insanity and we love it.
The physics system is at play all throughout the game, from the little touches as the bits of the car's body are blown off, usually denoted by the loss of your armour gauge to the interaction with the game's environment as the weapons take their toll on the surroundings, and for a no-brainer like this game this actually elevates it into a game worth taking note of.
For example as I tore around a corner my rear end clipped a propane tank, which ignited and rocketed into a larger fuel storage tank that was just in front of it. I managed to get the car back under control and pulled back into the lead, just as the tank exploded and destroyed three opponent cars. Through the magic of the one-touch replay the drivers were spotted flying through the air and landing in a twisted mass onto the road.
A second example to cite the depth the physics engine goes to, involves another player and his car leaving a ramp. The car flew through the air and hit a small over-head walkway/bridge, as we examined this via slow motion in the one-touch replay we spotted that the car had a fully working suspension and as it impacted the front of the bridge's guard rail, the front wheel went up into the wheel arch, the back wheel caught the edge of the guard rail and tore the flimsy metal off.
Full Auto certainly gets bonus points for details, especially when you watch the driver react to the physics of a jump and bounce around slightly in the seat of the car, take his hands off the wheel for a moment and then settle down.
Debris is another danger in the game, again thanks to the physics system and they can be used as traps to cause major damage to your opponents. A well timed rocket or shot can ignite a petrol station and cause it to explode, throwing bits across the track or engulfing an opponent stuck on your six, in a ball of superheated flame.
If you smash into a wall, pieces of it can come flying off and as you race you'll leave a trail of wanton destruction in your wake that slowly worsens the more laps you do. It is an excellent use of physics and way over the top, if only these guys were given the Spyhunter game - I would be in heaven.
There doesn't seem to be any rubber-band AI in this game, the cars don't often catch up unless they earn their own boost (which of course they actually tend to do at an alarming rate on the harder difficulty levels) they will use short cuts and brawl amongst themselves and of course, some of them seem a little too good at blasting you off the track with a sneaky mine or a well placed shotgun to the rear. On the whole though the AI makes the odd mistake, doesn't drive as though it is on rails and offers a great challenge to the player when playing offline.
The roar of the engines and the satisfying boom of the explosions are all captured nicely in Full Auto, the sound work is top notch and it supports the OTT action perfectly. There's something special about listening to the audio as your machine guns tear the side off an enemy vehicle and the ricocheting bullets bounce around making a crackling sound as metal sparks fly.
Full Auto has a fairly good soundtrack. There's a nice mix of tunes and they are of good quality, with the custom soundtrack feature of the 360 you might find yourself ripping your various Bond CDs and using that however - yes - James Bond fans take note, there is an Aston Martin a-like in the game and it can be equipped with missiles and a smoke screen.
Full Auto delivers auto-motive mayhem with a scale of environmental destruction unmatched for a driving game. It isn't meant to be a thinker, it's a fast and furious fuel-induced weapons fest and doesn't claim to be the next PGR3 and it does this perfectly. There are a few slowdowns and we experienced some big frame rate drops that puzzled us, but we can forgive the game for that since it is a fun game and we had fun playing it, so much fun that I'm going to go back to playing it now.