Auto Modellista

Review

posted 10/20/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: GC
I first came in contact with Auto Modellista during last year’s E3 and while I was mildly interested, I was far from impressed. The look of it was unique and appealing, as evidenced by the massive crowds that gathered to check it out, but something was missing. Racing in the game didn’t just quite feeling like racing, the vehicles lacked weight and the tracks were far from inspired. It was almost as if the designers were trying to walk a fine line with the physics in combining arcade-like elements with a heavy dose of simulation-style elements. The game was then released on the PlayStation 2 and all of our fears came to a head, although Capcom had promised that the controls were tightened in relation to the Japanese version the game still had a “skates on ice” sort of feel to it. While the game has seen some minor improvements since its last iteration, I must say that the GameCube version is nothing short of disappointing.

Racing games are a dime a dozen nowadays. Without a defining characteristic or element, there’s a tendency for them to get lost amongst the masses. The game needs a gimmick to survive and differentiate itself away from the others but as Capcom’s Auto Modellista has shown, a game cannot survive on the premise of gimmick alone. Strip away the fancy visuals and the only redeeming element of the PS2 game, the online aspect, and you’ve got a barebones title that doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

In a lot of ways Auto Modellista reminds me of a more organized version of Squaresoft’s PSOne cult-hit Racing Lagoon. There’s a garage life mode which serves as the game’s core career mode and your usual single-race modes which allow for head-to-head and time trails. You’ll probably spend the majority of your time in the garage life mode as it serves as that’s where most of the game’s content lies. It’s not enough to satisfy the cravings of most gamers and the absence of the online mode further highlights this deficiency.

Garage life allows you to tune and tweak your car with aftermarket parts from real companies. You’ll be able to add mufflers, turbo and other performance enhancing products that will help you squeeze every last ounce of horsepower from your imports. While the level of customization isn’t quite up to the level of Gran Turismo, there’s a good deal of customization here. This is one of the few games that I’ve played where I was given the option to change the outward appearance of my vehicle. It’s not just limited to rims and wings either, you can change bumpers, rears, side skirts, headlights and even side-view mirrors. Each car only has about two or three different options available but the ability to change the look of my vehicle was a pleasing and welcome addition.

As opposed to earning cash in the races and purchasing new cars or upgrades, AM opts to go with the unlocking method that is all the rage in your usual arcade racer. Instead of competing in numerous races and saving up the cash to purchase that costly turbo system, all you’ll have to do is place first in a specific race. The same system also applies to the vehicles in the game. You can switch and change vehicles at any point of the game without cost of repercussions and as a nice touch, the AI vehicles change as well to suit your vehicle’s performance level. This means you won’t be racing a Honda Civic against Nissan Skylines and Dodge Vipers because obviously you’ll be left light-years behind the pack. I’m glad that the designers had to foresight to instill these changes because otherwise, the less powerful vehicles would have been rendered useless.

There are a wide variety of tracks to race on, all of which are modeled after real-life locations. There are two types of tracks, point-to-point tracks that take place on what appears to be the countryside and lap-based races that take place in the city or on ovals. The variety that each one brings in them is what really makes them worth racing on again and again. Being able to race each of them backwards also adds a bit of replay value to the game. Of the tracks I’d say that the ones with the least amount of twists and turns are the most entertaining, mainly due to the game’s shaky physics.
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