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Most racing games have a gimmick or something that makes them unique. Whether it’s kart racing, arcade racing, combat racing, simulation racing, or any combination of these, each game usually has it’s own thing. When it comes to combat racing, there’s all kinds of stuff out there. I would consider Mario Kart a combat racing game as well as being a kart racer. Wipeout and Carmageddon are some of the bigger names and there’s also games like Full Auto which are not as well known. Developed by Pseudo Interactive and published by Sega, Full Auto was released for Xbox 360 in February, 2006. It’s a combat racing game that emphasizes the use of projectiles, machine guns, explosives, and other weapons.
Full Auto is a fast-paced and action-packed combat racing game. There’s a variety of vehicles in the game split up into different classes and they have different stats in durability, handling, and speed. Before jumping into an event, you can change your vehicle’s color and skin and, with the exception of certain events, select a weapon preset. Weapon presets consist of two weapons, a primary and secondary. Primary weapons are mounted on the front of your vehicle and secondary weapons are mounted on the front or back, depending on the preset. Weapons include machine guns, a shotgun, cannon, rockets, missiles, grenades, mines, and a smokescreen and the presets are simply different combinations of these weapons. Each weapon has different levels of efficiency which can be changed or tuned before starting an event. However, if one weapon’s level increases, the other will decrease so there is a trade-off. You are given infinite ammo and if you fire a weapon too rapidly, the weapon will overheat and you’ll have to wait for it to cool down before you can use it again.
Full Auto does feature split-screen and online multiplayer modes which I didn’t get to try. There’s also single player modes including the Career Mode and Arcade Races. In the Career Mode, you progress through different series of events to unlock additional vehicles, colors, skins, weapons, and tracks. The game provides a description of each series and event and the first several series will introduce you to the mechanics and vehicle classes but as you progress, the series and events become more interesting. For example, there’s a series called Gang Wars which consists of team-based events and another series features an event called Spy Trap. Most events have you racing and eliminating opponents and the colorful names and descriptions are obviously to jazz them up. Some series are more unique like Time Trial and Sudden Death where you’re only given one life but for the most part, the events are simply the different race types with specific conditions to make them more interesting and challenging.
All vehicles can accelerate, brake, powerslide, and self-destruct which means you can blow up your vehicle at the press of a button. Powersliding around turns and driving off jumps will fill up your Boost Meter and when it’s full, you can activate a Boost. During most events, you’re encouraged to destroy everything. Traffic vehicles, opponents, buildings, objects – you want to leave behind a trail of destruction. Destroying things fills up your Unwreck meter and Unwrecking is one of the more interesting mechanics in the game. At the press of a button, you can Unwreck which means rewind the gameplay, allowing you to try something again. For example, if you crash, if your vehicle gets destroyed, or maybe you saw a shortcut at the last second and missed it – you can Unwreck or rewind and try again. It’s actually a very cool feature because it help keep you in the groove of things, even after making a mistake. However, you can only rewind until the Unwreck meter is drained so you won’t be able to rewind an entire lap for example. At first, I thought this mechanic would make things too easy and in some ways, it does, but with how fast-paced the races are and how hectic things can get, the fun comes more from the action than the difficulty or challenge. I like it because it can prevent you from having to repeat an entire event again just because of a small mistake you made the first time.
Destroying things also serves another purpose. Destruction grants you Wreck Points. Each event offers three medals which are awarded to you by meeting specific requirements. Completing an event doesn’t necessarily mean you have to finish in first place. It just means you have to meet the requirements for at least the Survivor or Bronze medal. However, the better the medal, the more stuff you unlock. For many events, one of the requirements is reaching a certain number of Wreck Points. Destroying things in rapid succession will rack up points faster and one way to earn a lot of points quickly is by destroying opponents and Rivals. Rivals are opponent vehicles that offer a lot of points when destroyed and can easily be identified during events by special badges or icons. Destroying things doesn’t always have be done with weapons although it is usually the best way. You can drive into things and ram into other opponents to cause damage.
Full Auto does feature obvious rubber banding but I can’t say the gameplay ever became frustrating. Completing events was never difficult for me but trying to get the Full Auto or Gold medals was often challenging and I think sometimes for the wrong reasons. For example, one of the best ways to earn a lot of Wreck Points is by destroying Rivals and other opponents so medals that require you to reach a certain number of Wreck Points or destroy a certain number of rivals or opponents can be challenging not because the opponents are too tough or because you can’t catch up to them, but because it’s easy to end up too far ahead meaning you would have to slow down to engage them. At its core, Full Auto is a racing game so the idea of slowing down just to meet the requirements for a medal is at odds with the idea of driving as fast as you can to win. In that sense, skill isn’t necessarily required to earn certain medals. Just tap the brake to let the opponents pass you and then blow them away. Then, after you meet the requirement, step on the gas and Boost to easily take the lead and win. On the other hand, to reach the appropriate amount of Wreck Points, you can simply try destroying everything on the tracks but I found its much easier to reach the amount by destroying opponents.
On the HUD is an Armor Gauge that will show you what sides of your vehicle are damaged or compromised. Once a side is vulnerable, the next attack to that side will destroy your vehicle, often setting you back a few positions. I never found it hard to catch up and when I would take first and gain a lead, I noticed opponents would eventually catch up unless I was frequently boosting. Choosing the right weapon preset is often important when trying for medals. Secondary weapons mounted to the rear of your vehicle can help prevent opponents from getting too close as well cause damage and most primary weapons can be aimed manually. The action can get intense and the AI performs adequately. They don’t always fire weapons when they probably should but they do have decent aim, they will Boost, and can destroy you easily if you’re not paying attention. There are secondary weapons that will be mounted to the front of your vehicle along with the primary but for most events, I found it best to choose a weapon preset that mounts the secondary weapon to the rear so I could better defend myself, especially because it’s usually not hard to take the lead so most attacks would come from behind. I only saw the AI struggle in some of the later events. The faster cars would crash a lot on certain tracks making it easy to overtake them.
In the Arcade Races mode, you select the event type and any unlocked tracks and vehicles. You can configure different options like how many laps and the difficulty. I played through each event type on the Master difficulty and I found the AI was much more aggressive than anything I experienced in the Career Mode. It was a lot of fun, actually. The event types include circuit, point-to-point, down-and-back, lap knockout, and rampage which requires you to destroy a set amount of traffic vehicles. The tracks are set in different environments and most of them are set in the city of Staunton. You’ll drive on city streets, in alleyways, on highways, around a shipyard, through a ravine, and almost all objects and traffic vehicles can be destroyed and buildings can be severely damaged. Tracks will include jumps, and shortcuts and you can even drive through some buildings.
For a 2006 game, I think Full Auto looks pretty good. There is a lot of pop-in and looking at it now, the bloom lighting can look a little nasty in some areas but it still holds up rather well, visually. The track layouts are good but several of the urban environments kind of blend together because they tend to look and feel the same. But there’s a good amount of detail in the game and the destructible environments help make the action feel more exciting. Things will explode, objects will scatter and dirt, debris, and sparks will fly through the air, and this is all while bullets and missiles are zooming around as you blaze around the track. The car models look good and will show deformities after taking damage and roads will show visible cracks and bumps. In general, the texture work and visual effects are great. The soundtrack was primarily composed by Witchman and some tunes by Bitstream Dream and on the default volumes, the sounds of weapons-fire and explosions can easily drown out the tunes. That said, the sound effects are good and weapons like the machine guns and shotgun sound powerful and satisfying. On the technical side, the frame rate does dip when there’s a lot of action on-screen so it can happen often.
Full Auto has to be one of the most underrated games I have ever played. It received average reviews when it came out and I do find it’s mixed reception a little mind boggling because I feel Full Auto is pure arcade bliss. So either I’m missing something or the reviewers of the time had ridiculous standards for enjoyment because Full Auto is an extremely fun game. It’s a thrill speeding down roads and powersliding around turns while missiles and bullets are whizzing past your vehicle and objects and buildings around you are exploding and crumbling. I would describe Full Auto as Burnout with weapons and I don’t think I have ever played another combat racing game that conveys the speed and action quite like this. There’s a lot of combat racing games out there and not a lot of them are like Full Auto which makes it unique even today. The only other game that I would say comes close to Full Auto in terms of gameplay is Gas Guzzlers. Full Auto is the kind of game that kept me engaged for hours at a time. Losing isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s just another excuse to do it again. The high speed racing and satisfying combat make it exhilarating and addictive. Even simply driving around and destroying things on the tracks has an addictive quality to it. I honestly did not expect Full Auto to be as good as it is. I had an absolute blast with it and it has become one of my favorite racing games.
I would absolutely recommend Full Auto to anyone. I think it is by far one of the best racing games on 360. It’s fast, action-packed, and addictive. It’s also overlooked and underrated. It still holds up very well and it’s the kind of game that will keep you coming back. You can find copies for pretty cheap as of this review so definitely check it out.