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Auto Modellista Review
game: Auto Modellista
four star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Capcom
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Apr 20th, 2003
last revision: 07:43 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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Driving around the tracks in Auto Modellista reminds me an awful lot of what it was like to drive on the icy roads last winter here in Podunk, USA. At first it was scary because my car would slide around and try to spin out, but the more I drove in those conditions the better I got. Auto Modellista is exactly the same. The cars feel like the tracks are covered in ice, but the more you play and the more you learn, the more enjoyable the game becomes. Once you get used to the controls, Auto Modellista is a decent racing game that has a lot to offer. It is just too bad there isn\'t nearly enough of it to last very long outside of racing online and the novelty of the cel-shaded graphics wears off pretty fast.

In all honesty, the game doesn\'t control all that bad. I guarantee that you\'ll spin out quite a bit during your first lap, but unless you are completely dense you\'ll learn from it and do better on the very next lap. You do have to make a lot of course corrections even going down the straights, but it isn\'t anything to cry about because once you learn what you are doing the game is pretty darn fun.

If the tracks had been full of sharp corners or were overly difficult the control could have been a problem. Instead, the tracks are nice and wide and don\'t have very many corners that require you to slow down too much which make them perfect for this game. It makes you wonder, though. Which came first, the slippy-slidey cars or the wide-open tracks?

Auto Modellista has all of the options and modes you\'d expect in a racing game with the main single player focus being on the Garage Life mode. In Garage Life mode, you choose a car and enter it in races where you can win new tuning parts as well as items you can use to customize your garage. There isn\'t a money system in AM so don\'t worry about not being able to choose your favorite car right form the beginning. You are allowed to change cars whenever you desire as most of the 60+ cars are available to you from the start with the rest being unlocked when you finish certain races. When you find the car you want to use, you can then choose from different body modifications as well as adjust several tuning options so the car not only looks exactly like you want it, but performs just the way you like it too. The items you can win to decorate your garage are things like posters and sponsor logos you can put on the walls as well as tools and other junk you would normally find in a racing garage. You will also receive e-mail in Garage Life mode that will give you tips on the tracks as well as tell you about any new parts or options you unlock.

The Garage Life mode has quite a few shortcomings, however. There aren\'t all that many races to actually compete in and it is possible to win all of the races and unlock all of the hidden parts and options in only seven or eight hours. Any new parts you earn are applied to every car you own so there isn\'t any reason to play through the races more than the one or two times it takes to open up everything. Also, the car customization options seem pretty cool at first but there just aren\'t enough of them to keep you interested for very long. You only have two or three choices for hoods or spoilers or other aerodynamic pieces on each car so the customization options are pretty limited. Another thing that would have made the game better is if more cars were included. There are over sixty cars available in Auto Modellista, but they are mostly from Japanese manufacturers. I would have liked to have seen more American and European carmakers represented because it is pretty hard for me to get excited over the selection of low horsepower Japanese \"mini\" minivans. The cars are all officially licensed, but I just wish there were more of them that I would actually want to use.

Garage Life does have quite a few good things going for it, though. You can design your own stickers with an easy to use paint program and put them on your car. There is also a feature called Shop Auto Modellista that allows you to swap engines between cars made by the same manufacturer. A lot of the cars you can use are classic Japanese sports cars that, sadly, don\'t have much horsepower. By putting a newer engine into these older cars you can make them perform as sporty as they look. The racing is also pretty good while it lasts, but like I said above it doesn\'t take very long to do everything there is to do.

Another mode in Auto Modellista that is surprisingly fun is the VJ & Theater mode where you can make custom replay videos. You can take a saved replay and add music and special effects to create your own video. There are a lot of different filters and overlays you can put on the video as well as a lot of different camera options, so you can actually create some pretty impressive videos with this mode.

And now onto Auto Modellista\'s most recognizable feature, the cel-shaded graphics. Overall, they look very good and offer the game a distinctive look that does a much better job of setting it apart from other racers than the gameplay. The environments you race in look nice and include areas such as mountain roads and city streets. There are night races and races in rainy weather, and the graphics look spectacular throughout. The cars look great but aren\'t as detailed as they could have been. This is just a minor complaint but an extra line here or some shading there could have added a lot of extra depth to the cars that gear-heads would have appreciated. The cars cannot be damaged and you\'ll see the same special effects for wind and skids over and over, but the graphics are stunning overall.

The sound in AM isn\'t as good, which is a shame. The music is decent, but the sound effects are annoying. None of the cars sound like they should and the monotonous buzzing/whining sound the engine makes when you hit top speed is absolutely grating. There is an announcer in the game that likes to scream out things like \"Good job!\" and \"That was close!\" at seemingly random times, something that becomes annoying very quickly.

Auto Modellista\'s main attraction once you have completed the Garage Life mode can be found in the online mode provided you have a Network Adapter and broadband Internet access. You can race against up to seven other cars at a time. This is strange to me since there can be up to eight cars on screen in a race online but you can only have six in the single player game. Customizing the look of your car and tuning the performance so you can show off online is an intriguing concept and could definitely become an addiction for people who really get into the Auto Modellista style. I wasn\'t actually able to race online since my local ISP still thinks that it is OK to charge $100 a month for broadband. I have heard that online races run pretty much lag free and that your experience varies depending on whether you can find people who want to actually race or people who just crash and bash into walls.

Auto Modellista is a decent racing game, but it almost feels incomplete. The racing is fun once you learn what you\'re doing, but the lack of \"stuff\' in the game is a bit of a disappointment. I want more options to customize my car. I want more races to compete in. I also want more cars that I actually would want to use. Online play is a nice addition and the Garage Life mode is fun while it lasts. While playing the game I just couldn\'t shake the feeling that this game was more Capcom showing the world that it is possible to make a cel-shaded racing game than a serious effort on their part to make a superb racing title. The bad news is that Auto Modellista is a good but not great racing game. The good news is that Auto Modellista 2 should be freaking awesome provided they give us more stuff to play with and tweak the gameplay a little bit. Auto Modellista is worth a rental just to find out what all of the fuss is about, but is only worth a purchase to hardcore racing fans or people who intend to spend a lot of time with it online.