Xbox 360 Review: Full Auto

Back when the Nintendo 64 and Playstation were butting heads, Activision's marketing team released an ad campaign for Vigilante 8. The tagline was simple: "Blow sh*t up." What a shame that line was wasted on a game where the only thing exploding were the cars instead of holding it back for Full Auto. That singular line describes this superbly crafted action title, its hook, and the appeal.

While when viewed in still frames, Full Auto doesn't look like it belongs on the Xbox 360. In motion, with glass shattering, flames pouring from opposing cars, debris sprouting from everywhere, missiles firing, bridges collapsing, and pedestrian cars becoming an insurance companies worst case scenario come true, this Sega title does pretty well for itself. These fancy effects cause some oddball frame rate problems (like when you're the only car on screen, even though it handled mass genocides a second before), but also create the game's reason for existence.

Career mode sets up the single player game, split into various sections that provide different objectives. Aside from the time trials, they're always a combination of three goals: blow up opponents, make it to the finish line in time, and stay alive. That will likely lead to complaints of repetitiveness, yet taking any of the explosive weaponry away from the player at any point would be a crime.

Solo gaming fans are only left with a limited arcade mode that offers the same gameplay modes that Xbox Live players can toy with. The meager selection outside of the career is disappointing, and exist solely to earn a spattering of missed Achievement Points. It also limits the options online since it follows the same path. The game is suited perfectly to a deathmatch arena, yet the only options that exist for the maximum of eight players are things they've seen before when playing alone.

However, all of this stays within the simple mindset of the game. Each vehicle has two weapons, and there are a variety of selectable mounting choices. To keep balance, these are all pre-set selections, whether mounted to the front or attached to the trunk for reverse firing at the poor sap behind you. A little customization to the speed or armor (a money system would have been great) would have gone a long way here.

Full Auto's best asset is "unwreck," the ability to reverse time to recover from a death, take a missed turn properly, or retry a shortcut. While by no means innovative, the option opens the game up dramatically from a gameplay standpoint, encouraging exploration in what look like tightly closed stages. Use is of course limited, requiring players to blow up anything to gain time back. Also, since there is no logical way to implement it, this isn't useable online.

Controls are slightly convoluted. Where the right trigger is used for gas, braking and firing are handled with the face buttons. It shouldn't be a problem, but certain weapons require aiming with the right analog stick. It's obvious that it's not physically possible to fire and aim at the same time, and while there's a delay before the cursor pops back into place, it's not a system that works as it should.

Then again, with the sheer mayhem and destruction, accuracy is the last thing on the player's mind. The simple survival concept is enough to carry the game, and the potential for a sequel is incredible (imagine a Need for Speed-like chase system where the player controls the police). It misses occasionally with a few aggravations, but Full Auto will keep you busy, online or off. The only thing missing is depth.

(**** out of *****)

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