After the original Auto Modellista debuted on PS2, GameCube owners now get their own version without online play - does it offer enough to make it a worthy purchase?
Auto Modellista for the GameCube is based on the U.S. version of the original PS2 game which contained additional tracks not found in the Japanese version. The conversion gives players a chance to experience an arcade-style racer with customization features that have made games like the Sega GT and Gran Turismo such hot properties.
The game has a unique presentation style that sports an arcade look and sim-driving feel providing fans of racing games with a very unique cel-shaded driving experience that'll take players through a variety of dirt tracks, rainy/wet courses, mountainous passages, US Speedways, and more.
Auto Modellista controls pretty well when compared to other driving games out there. Control consists your basic acceleration, brake, drift, and view change setup, with no real deviations from the norm outside of the bizarre use of hazard lights that you can toggle on and off with the C stick. While some of the cars controlled well with the sim-styled controls, most are still prone to involuntary sliding, and if the player isn't careful, may spinning out of control in 180 or 360-degree fashion. The default handling of many of the vehicles will likely have players counter-steering throughout most of the race.
The gameplay is a rich mixture of driving simulation and arcade styled racing elements. It features many of the car enhancement features of a Gran Turismo or Sega GT along with the sense of speed of an arcade racing game.
Auto Modellista offers many fun modes to explore. There's the Arcade Mode which offers several play options including a Single Race mode where you can pick a car, pick a track to race on and then hit the asphalt, allowing you to try out many different cars to practice on various race courses. The VS Mode is basically where you and a friend can race it out via head-to-head split-screen action to see who truly deserves first place. And last, there's also a Time Attack mode where you can hit the tracks alone and strive to achieve the best race times.
While the arcade mode provides plenty of enjoyment for those who can't be bothered with fine tuning cars and prefer 'pick up and go' arcade racing games, the heart of Auto Modellista lies within its Garage Life mode. It's in the Garage Life mode where you can purchase cars, tune them up for optimal performance as well as unlock new cars by coming in 1st or 2nd in many of the races.
There are 17 different car manufacturers listed with a total of 69 cars you'll be able to gain access to at some point during the game. Once selecting your vehicles you can then fine-tune them by installing different components available from different manufactures. For example, you can change the tires and select from different tire manufacturers such as Good Year, Fire Stone, etc. Of course, car nuts need apply to the Garage Life mode as it is where you can spend your days in a virtual garage, tweaking the vehicles to your taste.
Before and after each race you can spend time customizing and fine-tuning almost every aspect of your cars including the tires, suspensions, decals, colors, and more. You can slap a variety of decals on your vehicles. What's cool about the decal feature is the option to create your own, paste them on your car and race around the tracks showing off your artistry.
There are also unlockable cars and tune-up parts that become available after being successful in some of the races in the Garage mode. The GameCube version presents players with additional car brands as well as more tuning and customization menus, adding some incentive to make away with the online disabled GameCube version over the online enabled PS2 version.
The customization features don't stop with just the cars though, players can even redecorate their garage by adding decorative items such as posters, oil drums, and tool boxes. You can even unlock extra posters and floor items to help change the interior design of your virtual garage.
Once you've customized and tuned your car to near perfection in Garage Life and finally decide to leave the garage after 2 months of tweaking, you can then begin the Garage race.
You'll race through many different tracks including ones offered in reversed mode, rainy versions and even a pretty lengthy secret track that can be unlocked. Some of the track designs are really good on a somewhat nostalgic level as they share some similarities with other past high quality racing games. One of my favorite tracks was definitely the "U.S. Speedway", which looked and felt like one of Sega's all-time greats, Daytona USA. Other cool tracks range from the "U.S. Dirt Track", a course that has your speedsters constantly drifting, kicking up dirt and dust trails throughout the entire race, giving the track a cel-shaded Sega Rally feel.
Auto Modellista is by no means an easy game. The difficulty level varies from track to track and is likely to have you celebrating your victory like a champion after conquering some of the early courses which consist of more oval shaped tracks that aren't difficult to navigate through. But once you access some of the later courses you'll spend more time laying on the ground defeated. The game's AI is actually aggressive and smart, posing a substantial challenge.
At the end of each race you're treated to some very cool replays. But unlike the replays of other racing games, Auto Modellista allows you some control over your replays as you can view the races from a variety of camera angles and rewind, fast forward and pause any part of the replays.
Other cool features of Auto Modellista include the VJ & Theatre mode, where you can record, edit and apply a very cool variety of visual effects filters to your replays and watch them in any view. It's almost like having lite versions of Adobe Photoshop and After Effects imbedded into the game and should keep the artistic video editors entertained for a little while. You can also assign any of the in-game songs to your replays as well.
The cel-shaded visuals of Auto Modellista are quite delightful. Featuring a wide range of beautifully modeled locales and cars complete with plenty of details, Capcom has done an excellent job with the tracks and cars in the game. Each exhibiting very slick, detailed and cartoon-ish looks about them.
The vehicles in the game represent their real world counterparts superbly. The tracks themselves look better than some of the cars, with well modeled, detailed, and vibrant looking backdrops such as cityscapes, mountain passes, dirt tracks and more. You'll also encounter different weather conditions throughout some of the courses. You'll blast through the akagi course and watch as the autumn leaves flutter into the air as your car speeds over the fallen leaves, and you'll bare witness to rainy courses that are great to look at but hard to drive in as the rain drops dance all over the pavements and the cars, increasing the difficulty of the steering.
The Lighting effects are well implemented and help illuminate the nighttime and daytime courses nicely. Their usage seems quite subtle and conventional, you won't be blinded by any overuse of lens flares and super intense sun light while speeding through the tracks and rounding the corners.
Other cool visual effects throughout the races are the visual wind streaks that appear around each car as they're burning rubber across the speedways. The frame rate remained consistently smooth throughout the races even during split-screen two player mode and there were no signs of pop-up to be found anywhere in the game.
The Replays are very nice, allowing you to focus the camera on any of the vehicles during the race and enjoy the lush visuals of an actual race without having to worry about steering your car.
Audio wise, Auto Modellista is a mixed bag. Some of the songs are pretty good while most of the others are a little above average. The music ranges from various versions of rock music including Alternative rock, pop rock and many other guitar driven musical offerings. "Spring field Ave." was definitely my favorite track of them all, a very catchy and fun vocal rock track that added a little more energy to the already energetic races.
Other musical styles in the game also include some Techno music along with a little Funk and some Jazzy sounding stuff such as the track titled "Cluisin'". All in all, the music throughout the game contains some good rhythms and cool break beats. One song in particular titled, "XFER", has a very similar sounding beat to the song "Dare Devil" from Namco's Ridge Racer V. Both sound great and sport some driving beats.
The sound effects used throughout the game aren't so hot though, for the most part they're all passable and somewhat tolerable. The sound effects of the cars range from mediocre to good but never great sounding. The tire screeching sounds leave a lot to be desired and can eventually grate on one's nerves if exposed to them long enough.
Fortunately the English speaking announcer that announces everything throughout the races sounds quite excitable and adds a little excitement to the races as he's literally shouting everything at you, something you encounter mostly in arcade racing games and gets the ol adrenaline pumping a bit.
Overall, Auto Modellista was a fun ride from start to finish. It's accessible and enjoyable thanks to the sense of speed, good controls and cel-shaded graphics. The GameCube version is on shelves in the US now, with a European release to follow soon.