Full Auto on the Xbox 360 should, in principal, work. At its core, it aims to take the wild arcade racing of Burnout and add guns to the mix. It then throws in wanton destruction on an at-times staggering scale, drops in a smidgen of nitro boost and then leaves to simmer. Plus there’s a secret ingredient called ‘unwreck’, which we’ll come to shortly.
And in practice there are moments when it really does work, times when Full Auto properly clicks into gear and the sheer potential of a modern day Road Blasters/Burnout hybrid is realised. Make no mistake, when Full Auto’s foot is firmly on the accelerator, this is proper, no-nonsense arcade gaming of a wildly entertaining kind. Yet those moments, particularly as you make your way through the game, turn out to be rather less common than you’d like.
At its heart the game is straightforward. You tackle a series of levels, across different classes of car and game modes, and on completion you pick up the equivalent of a gold, silver or bronze medal, depending on how well you’ve done.
These medals are usually gauged by a mixture of your placement in a race and the amount of damage you’ve managed to do. The levels feature fairly well designed courses too, particularly the there-and-back-again tracks, whereby you do a U-turn at the end and go back along the same road in the opposition direction. Carnage naturally ensues.
But picture this: you’re hurtling round at speed. Ahead of you is a car that’s just dropped a smoke grenade. An oil tanker you took out on the last lap is billowing out more pollution and there’s a big explosion ahead of you. Behind, there are two vehicles firing missiles in your direction and there’s a hidden corner just past that aforementioned tanker. It’s at moments like these, which do come more and more often, that the game is hopelessly weighted against you.
You’ll find that you simply can’t keep up with everything happening on screen and, ironically, neither can the Xbox 360. Full Auto’s visuals frequently judder when the curse of slowdown kicks in, and it’s not what we were expecting from a supposedly next generation console game. On top of that, you’re offered the option of aiming one of your two weapons with the right analogue stick. Sadly, as you’re driving with the left stick and accelerating with the trigger buttons, you’ll have to be particularly ambidextrous for targeting not to end in disaster.
Still, at least there’s ‘unwreck’ to throw into the mix. As you go through the game, racking up destruction points based on the amount of damage you do to other cars and the pretty much entirely destructible environments (there’s nothing quite like shooting a structure down so it lands slap bang on top of a couple of opponents), your ‘unwreck’ gauge fills.
Then, a tap of the right bumper button will rewind time, for as long as you keep the button depressed (assuming there’s juice in the ‘unwreck’ meter, of course). That means that should you miss a corner, should you be taken out by a well-placed missile, or should you simply mess up, you can rewind. In fact, when the ‘unwreck’ meter is full, you can probably rewind three or four times until you get it right.
It’s a neat idea, but one that works for slightly the wrong reasons. That moment that we mentioned earlier, where you can seemingly do nothing but crash, can clearly be tackled now by making the mistake, rewinding, and not making the same mistake again.
Certainly this offers a balance to the gameplay, but more often than not the ‘unwreck’ mode appears to be compensating for other areas of the game. In fact it ultimately goes too far, to the point where you’ll find yourself blitzing through a good chunk of the single player game in far less time than you might expect.
Yet we come back to the point we made near the start of this review. There are several glorious moments, particularly in the first day or two of owning Full Auto, where it all works so well. Loading up a vehicle with a front and rear weapon of your choice and taking it into battle does have the one-more-go feeling to it, and in the short term at least, Full Auto does have a lot to offer.
But it’s also exactly the kind of game that rental stores were invented for. Because with Xbox 360 games still attracting a £50 price tag, it’s hard to justify spending that amount on a good, solid, short term racing title. Even one with lots of guns.