Ahh, a brand new console. Brand new marketing, brand new hype and of course brand new racing games. It seems game publishers bank on racing games being big when a console comes out and generally they are right. SEGA is building a racing game for the Xbox 360 known as Full Auto but it's racing as you typically don't know it. Cars with guns are nothing new but what SEGA is doing utilizes the 360 hardware very well turning what sounds like a boring idea on paper to what could be one of the better 360 launch games.
Full Auto at this stage doesn't really have a storyline that SEGA want to reveal but we are guessing it's something along the lines of "build up your car, get more guns, race around and become the most wanted driver". The setting of the game and feel just seems to suit that style and it wouldn't surprise us to see that. However what we can talk about is what exactly the aim of the game is and how it is played.
The aim of the game is to win the race, no surprise there but how you do it is quite unique. On your car you will find a number of weapons to destroy the opposition but the game is more than just shooting each other. You do gain points for destroying cars and gaining positions but the most unique feature occurs when you wreck your car or are destroyed. With the shoulder button you can rewind time in a very cool graphical sequence to a point where you were alive and continue racing. You gain the ability to do this by driving well and destroying AI cars.
This may sound like a pretty generic game but it's not until you play it that you realise how fun and furious the game really is. We describe it as Burnout with guns due to the high speed nature, massive crashes and the ability to rewind time. The environment is also completely destructible and you can use this to your advantage such as blasting through glass buildings, shooting down trees for shortcuts and blowing up an oil tanker to create more road. While on the surface it can seem repetitive, these options will offer much replay ability once the game ships.
The build contained two very different levels with very different cars. One was a charger with heavy handling and generally a tank feel as opposed to the high speed sports car in the other level. The levels greatly differed as well showing the variety that will be on offer including jumps and, of course, the destructible oil tanker.
The visuals of the game were always going to be super important and SEGA hasn't let us down. We were playing the game in high definition and it looked stunning to say the least. Shiny, detailed car models, huge draw distance with no pop up, massive explosions and generally just a fun game to play. It's not as impressive as the anticipated "Condemned" but it still shows some of the 360's power quite well. Sound effects are hard to comment on at this stage due to the limited build but what we heard sounds well done and surround should add to the game experience.
Full Auto does have the feeling of a typical console launch game but it's also a heck of a lot of fun to play with huge explosions, tight handling and a stable framerate at all times. Online play should be more fun and we'll definitely be looking to get more hands on time with this potential racing gem before the launch of the new console.