Naturally, when a racing game is cel-shaded, you might expect the gameplay to match that vibrant look with mechanics that form an arcade-style racer as opposed to a hard-core simulation. But that isn't the case with Capcom's upcoming cel-shaded driving game Auto Modellista, which actually features gameplay mechanics that might seem more at home in Gran Turismo 3 than in Ridge Racer. Indeed, even the sheer number of customization and tuning options for individual cars that are available in Auto Modellista is sure to please even the most dedicated driving fans. Of course, another major attraction for the game is that it supports online play, but unfortunately, we've not been able to connect to any of the Japanese servers.
Auto Modellista offers four options when you start the game--VJ & theater, arcade, network, and garage life. VJ & theater is essentially the same tool that Capcom used to create the introduction sequence for the game. You can take any one of your saved replays, import them into the editor, and add a variety of effects ranging from various graphical overlays and visual effects to different soundtracks and sound effects. For example, you can add some sweet cowbell to the soundtrack, throw in a few claps here and there, select a cool blurring effect, and then choose one of the graphics overlays (which include some great phrases such as "give thanks to the racer" and "feel nothing without vibration"), and you're pretty much set. It's an interesting option that makes the prospect of saving replays even more valuable.
The arcade option in Auto Modellista features three gameplay modes, including single race, versus, and time attack. The single race mode lets you select from several different tracks as well as the direction you want to run the race. This is actually somewhat important for some courses because it will determine whether you're racing in an uphill challenge or a downhill challenge, but for the other tracks, it simply indicates if you're going to run in the reverse direction or the normal direction. Once you've selected a track, you can then select a car from a list of manufacturers that includes Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Daihatsu, Suzuki, or a customized Tommy Kaira--it's worth noting that the North American version of Auto Modellista will probably feature a slightly different list. Each manufacturer has around six to seven cars to select from, but if you've already participated in the garage life mode then you can select one of your highly customized vehicles as well.
When you've selected a car, you can select between the normal or customized appearance and then auto-tune your car for the track, which means that your car's acceleration, grip, and other variables will be optimized for the particular track that you've selected. Then you can adjust the parameters for the race, including the number of laps, then toggle boost (which gives you or computer-controlled opponents a boost in speed when lagging behind) off or on, and then set the difficulty level. The time attack and split-screen versus modes are set up in a similar manner, only in the time attack mode you won't have the option to toggle boost or set the computer difficulty level since there aren't any computer opponents out on the track.
Take Him on the Outside
While you'll undoubtedly spend a good deal of time in the arcade and replay editor modes, the heart of Auto Modellista lies in the garage life mode, where the game takes on the persona of a hard-core driving simulation. Upon entering garage life, you get to name your garage and select from one of three different types--a metallic, cement, or wooden garage. Next, you'll get to name and select your car from the same list of manufacturers found in the arcade mode, but you'll probably notice that a few of the manufacturers have "secret" vehicles, which can be unlocked by performing well in the garage life races. After you've created a custom license plate, you'll be brought into the full garage area where you can navigate through a wealth of automobile customization options, but the first option you'll want to jump into is car tune-up. Here you can perform an easy tune-up on your car so that it's optimized for a certain kind of track, somewhat like the auto-tune feature in the arcade mode, only you determine some of the characteristics. For example, if you want your car to perform well on an uphill race on a specific track, then you can select that option and give your car maximum speed or maximum acceleration, give it maximum drift or maximum grip, or just set it so that it performs at an average level in each category.
The regular tune-up feature lets you mess around with individual parts of your car. You can adjust the tires, the suspension, the turbo, the exhaust, the engine, and the transmission. Each category will give you a few different options to choose from so that you can customize your car entirely for a specific kind of race. In the tires option, you can select from normal, sports radial, semi-slick, or slick tires. Similarly, in the brakes area, the game presents you with normal, street, sports, and racing brakes. There really is a surprising amount of customization in the game, and it only gets better as you progress through the races in garage life and unlock additional cars and items (such as new engines). In fact, just to give an idea of how much of the game is customizable, you can even edit your garage by placing various objects such as tool boxes, oil cans, and tires around the area or by sticking some posters up on the walls. Of course, everything from the paint scheme and stickers to the actual physical appearance of your car can also be customized.
Races in the garage life mode are set up similarly to those in Gran Turismo 3. You'll be presented with a series of challenges that focus on specific styles of driving such as uphill racing, downhill racing, city racing, and even street racing through the rain. If you place in the top three of any of these races, then you'll not only be rewarded with new items and new cars, but you'll also move closer to the next set of races, which feature slightly more difficult tracks and tougher opponents. At this point, there appear to be five sets of races, with the last two sets including races that you have to run through twice, grand prix style. Generally, the computer doesn't pose much of a problem in the first set, but by the time you reach the fourth or fifth race in the second set, you'll need to be more aware of the tuning options in the game and how you can improve your car to compete with the other drivers out on the track.
If you enjoyed Gran Turismo 3, then you'll more than likely enjoy Auto Modellista. The gameplay between the two games is quite similar in that you need to have precise timing on your brakes and you need to be aware of what your car is actually capable of. Unfortunately, there are no powerslides like those found in Ridge Racer or Daytona USA, which may be disappointing to those expecting gameplay of that type. Auto Modellista is scheduled for release in North America this November.