User Rating: 6.5 | Auto Modellista PS2
Cel-shading seems to be a popular trend in gaming these days. From Sly Cooper to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, it seems that cel-shaded games are popping up left and right. No one can argue that it’s an art medium rife with potential, no matter what the genre. To that end, Capcom’s Auto Modellista attempts to bring cel-shaded animation into an entirely unexpected field: automobile racing. Released last year in Europe and Japan, Auto Modellista has finally made its way stateside. Auto Modellista’s main single-player mode is called Garage Life. You’re given a liberal assortment of cars to pick and choose, all based on real-world makes and models. Winning races earns you plenty of cool prizes, such a trophies, posters, more cars, and better parts with which to tweak your auto’s performance. And tweak it you will. Each of the cars in Auto Modellista handles differently; various aspects such as the brakes and suspension can be modified using the tune-up option in your garage; you can also refit your vehicle with the various automotive prizes you’re awarded for ranking well in the single-player races. Auto Modellista offers quite a bit of creative freedom with your car’s aesthetics too; a vehicle’s individual parts can be modified and repainted to your heart’s content. If you’re a stickler for detail, you could easily spend an hour or more fine-tuning your car’s appearance until you get it just right. Your garage can also be repainted and refurnished with the various prizes you’ll be collecting. Once you’ve put together a suitably tricked-out car, it’s off to the race track for some fast and furious action. Unfortunately, this is where the game’s biggest downfall lies. Though it generally plays like a typical track racing game, Auto Modellista’s physics have an extremely loose feel to them. Vehicles tend to slide and drift around the track a tad too liberally; turning corners is often a very shaky affair until you’ve learned to compensate--slamming into walls generally ends up being as viable (and oftentimes better) a solution to correcting oneself as braking into turns is. Indeed, such reckless behavior can often be a key determining factor in beating the safety-minded computer--something that just shouldn’t be the case in a racing game. You’ll also find yourself getting stuck against walls or facing the wrong way quite a lot, especially at first. Sadly, Auto Modellista’s shifting and reverse driving mechanics are another bottleneck to its already troublesome controls. Once you’ve honed your skills in the single-player mode (and come to terms with the game’s skewed sense of physics), there are two additional modes to check out. The first is a two-player arcade mode which, as the name suggests, pits two players against one another in a race to the finish. While fun for a bit, this mode isn’t likely to have much staying power with most race fans in the face of other, more faithful racers such as Gran Turismo 3. Auto Modellista’s biggest potential draw is its online mode. Using a PlayStation 2 network adapter and a broadband internet connection, you can log onto a game server and race against up to seven other players. You’re free to use souped-up cars out of your garage too, so it would be advisable to get a bit of single-player time in before taking on the inevitable handful of powerful autos you’re likely to face online. Network play can get a bit jerky from time to time; though it’s generally a fairly smooth affair, you’ll occasionally run into some pretty noticeable latency. The graphics in Auto Modellista are easily its most solid asset. The cel-shaded vehicles and environments look superb; the game manages to straddle the line between animation and its real world-inspired models very well, without looking the least bit hokey. The game menus and garage interface are also fairly eye-catching. All in all, Auto Modellista puts forth a very slick visual presentation that definitely ranks up there with the best of the cel-shaded market. The game’s soundtrack is an assortment of mostly forgettable tunes. Plenty of lounge-style tracks are peppered throughout the game, complemented by a handful of more upbeat pieces. The sound effects are par for the course, reminiscent of just about every other racing game on the market. Capcom’s annoying fighting game announcer seems to have made the jump over here as well; he pipes in with a slew of repetitive commentaries as the races commence. All told, the game’s sound seems to have been sort of glossed over; a little more attention in this area would have been nice. You’d be hard-pressed to argue against Auto Modellista’s aesthetics being a definite eye-pleaser. However, gameplay is what ultimately makes or breaks any racing game; in the end, Auto Modellista’s wonky physics hold it back from its true potential. The extent to which you’re able to modify vehicles is an added plus, but there are other games out there that do it better. Network play, while a definite draw, is becoming more and more common in other recent titles such as Midnight Club II. If you can weather the learning curve inherent in the game’s controls, you might get some enjoyment out of this title. For everyone else, Auto Modellista is likely to be nothing but a forgettable novelty.