Thunderbolt logo

Full Auto

The title Full Auto says to me all or nothing, and this couldn’t be more true. You’ll either race to our rules, with guns-a-blazin’, crashes bashes and smashes, loud guitar wailin’ music and a bottle of Jim Bean in the glove compartment or you’re staying at home. And that’s exactly what SEGA have given us. There’s a steady influence of Burnout and Twisted Metal right at the core of Full Auto, what with the crazy speeds and manic weapons, that combines incredibly well with fantastic geo-mod damage to deliver a fast and frantic free-for-all title to really kick the Xbox 360 in gear.

Dukes of Hazzard eat your heart out.

The whole point of this game is to reach the finish line by any means possible. Not really, you understand, as the tracks are fairly linear and offer very few, if any, shortcuts or alternative routes. But the overall gist of things is to race to the finish line by either blasting opponents off the course with guns, rockets and mines or accumulating boost after boost by gaining air, performing mass power slides and damaging property. As you’ve probably already guessed, things can get a little boring when playing alone because the computer cars, although complete bastards to anticipate and predict, are generally rather conservative in their racing approach. The real meat comes with Xbox Live.

Multiplayer on one console is really quite poor from my experience. Split screen racing was never fun in the first place, and when you encounter slow down at regular intervals the game starts to become dreary. Two players are all you can have, along with 6 boring and conservative computer cars and half a screen with which to create carnage and mayhem. It’s not worth my or your time going into details, it simply isn’t as much fun as it could have been (especially when the 360 can cater for 4 controllers) and the fact that there are still frame rate problems on a next gen console is rather worrying. My guess is this aspect was rushed and should have been explorer with more determination. As such, it wasn’t.

Nine months MOT, 3000 on the clock and, um, one previous owner…

So instead, lets focus on that damn fine Live play right there. 21 vehicles, 8 weapon types and 18 tracks (all unlock able over the 80 or so events in single player Championship mode) available for 8 players to race circuits, point-to-point tracks and down and back, in which you race to the end of a point-to-point, turn round and come back again. 8 aggressive, weapon-wielding, tyre screeching players all vying for first place and holding no remorse. This is just awesome; you’ll be racing along only to feel bullets being rifled into the back of your vehicle, see someone leap across your path from a ramp and hear the whoosh of a rocket clip your wing mirror as it takes out the guy in front. There’s not a moments peace as buildings and bridges blow up, pylons collapse, debris litters the track and explosions ring out around the place.

Tracks are fairly linear with barely any shortcuts or alternative routes, but you can go up in the world by finding ramps and elevated areas to avoid confrontation below or two release bouncing grenades on unsuspecting racers. Environments are varied, one moment you’ll be racing down a narrow back street with just enough space to overtake, and next there’ll be a 4 lane main drag with shops to blow up and ample opportunities to sneak past opponents. It’s mad stuff, and the fast paced action makes it all go by in a blur. The focus really is on causing destruction as opposed to proper racing. Cars are generally pigs to drive and slide rather easily whilst being real gits to steer, with an emphasis on power sliding to gain boost points.

Thank goodness those arrows point you in the right direction.

Away from the internet, then, and you have the Burnout 2-style championship mode, the similarity in that you progress through the right of the screen as events are unlocked. There isn’t strictly racing, sometimes you’re required to amass points, take out a number of cars or complete objectives by generally, you guessed it, causing mayhem and destruction. As you complete tasks, cars weapons and tracks are unlocked for use in multiplayer as well as unlocking another event to take on. Things start off pretty simple and mundane, but soon you’re thrown into the action. It’s all well and good, but Full Auto really is geared towards on-line play.

If there is anything spectacular about playing by yourself, then it’s the Unwreck feature. Go off course and slam into a building, miss potential hit points or screw something up and you can undo it all by holding the right shoulder button. The action is then rewound until you either release the button or the time runs out, and you can re-do that section again. Cunningly, to undo destruction you have to cause destruction. Shooting out windows in buildings, blowing up static or opponents cars and making a mess of the circuit adds to your Unwreck meter, allowing players to undo more action.

Practically everything is on fire in this game. Especially your thumbs.

Full Auto certainly looks the part, with decent explosions, awesome wreckage and gloriously detailed environments. Buildings aren’t blurred out of focus and environments look familiar with winding streets, big open pedestrian areas and great lighting effects.

As was previously highlighted however, Xbox Live is where Full Auto really comes into its own. Without access to Microsoft’s online world this title becomes more like Half or even Quarter Auto, such is the rather uneventful single player mode or the glaringly overlooked multiplayer. If you don’t have Live, take 3 points from the score and leave this well alone, because you’re missing all the fun.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

You should follow us on Twitter.