The second part of SEGA’s Xbox360 Launch portfolio, alongside Condemned: Criminal Origins, Full Auto was first previewed at E3 2005. It received praise at the time, but was ultimately recognised as being flawed. Nine months passed prior to launch, and a lot had changed. Three console launches and three film adaptations arrived in the time Full Auto took to reach completion. While that may not appear at first to have much of a direct impact, Full Auto is the pinnacle of Hollywood dramatisation. Fast cars, fast trucks and heavy ballistics, big explosions, big stunts and big crashes; everything a Hollywood Blockbuster wishes it had the budget to do.
Full Auto is charismatic release from a team comfortable with its produce. Cel Damage was a remarkable achievement for a debut title from the studio, and the follow-up was of equal merit. Even if many publishers wouldn’t agree. Moving on from their Crash Demo previewed at E3 and GDC in 2004, Pseudo Interactive decided it was a wise idea to create an entire game around the Crash Demo’s philosophy; mayhem.
Check Yo’ Self
The title plays through as most traditional racers. The Career Mode plays through a tutorial, offering classes featuring a set amount of trials. Each of these trials will have a specific requirement for each Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals – or rather Survivor, Semi-Auto and Full Auto – ranging from completion in a certain position with a specified amount of Wreck Points, to wrecking a pre-set number of civilian vehicles, to eliminating set cars. The Career Mode generally revolves around the idea of winning races. For more playful gamers there’s also Arcade Races and both on- and offline multiplayer.
The elephant in the room here is the weaponry. Yes, you have guns. Guns to shoot things with – anything. Wreck Points are acquired by, surprisingly, wrecking stuff. Almost anything and everything on the screen at any time can be blown away, if hit hard enough, with the right weapon.
The courses are numerous and can be varied with different routes. The race options are plentiful, including point-to-point, circuit, laps and down-and-back to name a few. Through Arcade Races or multiplayer you may select any of the above which you have unlocked while in Career Mode, as well as any vehicles you may have unlocked.
Unwreck Yo’ Self
To further the distance from reality, two additional features greatly alter Full Auto from the generic racing titles usually offered; something that Xbox 360 releases Project Gotham Racing 3, Need For Speed: Most Wanted and Ridge Racer 6 were sorely lacking. The boost meter is filed by sliding and performing stunts, whilst another ‘Unwreck’ meter refills by simply wrecking stuff. Between the two, with the cityscape and desert backdrops and series of unlicensed cars, the title feels very much like the pinnacle of the series that is clearly it’s influence; BurnOut 2: Point Of Impact.
At first, the Unwreck Meter feels like an unwieldy tool. Was it designated fit for entry into the final product simply to facilitate a marketers reverie? Perhaps, but through constant use and progression within the titles Career Mode the feature becomes more akin to that of DiRT 2. It allows the player to retake a single mistake. Once competent, you may recognise an opportunity before it hits, consuming less and less of your meter.
Surprisingly – but certainly not to the disgrace of the title – the combat seems almost secondary in nature to the racing. Whilst never presenting itself as such, the combat element sits behind the racing in both terms of qualification through Career Mode and the sheer adrenaline rush. But the weaponry association means that the difference is only noticeable almost subconsciously, as opposed to Vigilante 8’s more visceral expression of vehicular combat.
Full Auto Jacket
The multiplayer presentation, as stated above, takes it’s cue from the Arcade Races Mode. It allows you to play with anything you’ve unlocked. However, for those of you expecting some clever explanation as to just how that Unwreck feature works in multiplayer, sadly, there isn’t one. Bringing the feature into the multiplayer would’ve taken ingenuity and a fair deal of skilful programming. Instead the developers have taken the predictable route and removed it entirely. It would be hard to blame them for doing so considering such early arrival in the Xbox 360’s life. However, it would be so much easier to commend them had they seen fit to let the fire burn, rather than extinguish the flame.
At the time of launch online gaming on console was still nascent, yet here the functionality was almost flawless. Quick and easy to play and the rank system worked well. Sadly, this functionality has long since become defunct.
Full A/V Clout
To this day, Full Auto looks superb and handles at a fantastic pace. The realtime lighting effects were astonishing at launch and are still impressive now. As is the attention to detail and the frankly ridiculous amount things that can happen on-screen at any one time. Sadly however, the unstable framerate means it can often grind to a halt when seemingly little is happening on-screen. The beauty of the title is realised, much as with it’s SEGA brother-release, Condemned: Criminal Origins, by simply limiting the field of view. As detailed as it is, there will always be buildings, rocks or some other such horizon-infringement.
The sound featured in the title is used to great effect. The music will dim into the background on use of the Turbo Boost or Unwreck features whilst remaining constantly up-tempo. Conversely, it will raise the volume at moments of chaos with Rivals and other racers. Obviously influenced by its Arcade theme, the title furthers this by allowing the gunfire and destruction to remain loud. Very loud.
Killed in its Prime
Full Auto was the first title released to actually feel like an Xbox 360 game. Having obviously been built-up from scratch for the system, it reflected on the positive nature of its own origins and of that of it’s chosen format more forcefully than any peer release. Even that of Dead or Alive 4. It’s easy to consider Full Auto as shallow – it clearly is – but this only reinforces the Hollywood appeal of the title. Inevitably, Full Auto glorified the Xbox 360’s early days as carnage and a visual spectacle. While it may be flawed, it’s inarguably fun. Fast & Furious tie-ins wish they were Full Auto.
The game received a sequel some years later. However, rather shockingly, it skipped Xbox 360 entirely and was offered as a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Exactly why the decision to ignore an existing audience to bring a sequel to a new platform was made is not known. However, it was only a few years later that Pseudo Interactive closed it’s doors. The Full Auto franchise, sadly, has never been seen since.