Great body, but not enough under the hood.
It’s 2 am. You just got out of the club and are headed over to the local Denny’s
for a late night snack. As you merrily cruise down the freeway, a set of headlights
close in on your position. Before you know it, a Honda/Acura/Toyota/Mitsubishi/Nissan
pulls to your side just long enough for the two of you to exchange glances. You
slam on the gas and the race is on. Welcome to my world. Welcome to the world
of import racing.
Take one car, add performance parts and a ton of accessories and you’ve got
the basic idea of import racing. Then take the gameplay of Sega
GT, stir in the customization of Tokyo
Xtreme, slam it together with the visual stylings of Jet
Set Radio and you’ve got Capcom’s import racing game, Auto Modellista.
If you’re an import gearhead, this is one game that will definitely get your
attention. But will it be all show and no go? Let’s find out.
game is broken down into two simple modes: Arcade for a quick race or even a
head to head match with a buddy and Garage Life, where most of the action drops.
You’ll customize your own garage and fill it with the best performance car you
can put together. Then head out to the track and let the competition get a good
look at your rear end.
The interesting thing about Garage Life is the amount of customization that
can be done. Besides being able to set up your garage any way you want, there
are a ton of after-market parts that you’ll find for your car. And I’m not just
talking about generic ‘sport tires’ or ‘suspension level 2’. I’m talking about
Toyos and Teins, GReddys and Goodyears, Volk and Veilside. Yep – real world
manufacturers! All the parts in the game can be found on the streets somewhere
and all you tuners will have a better chance than ever of building a video game
version of your own car. It’s about time.
Interestingly enough, the parts don’t cost a thing. As you win races, more
and more parts are simply unlocked. You’ll also unlock stuff for your garage
and new cars to test out. Not a bad reason to keep winning those races.
Auto Modellista features arcade style racing with one little twist
– cars drift like the tracks were given a liberal dose of grease before the
race. People used to arcade sticky tires will be in for quite a shock as they
slip and slide their way around turns. It definitely takes a little bit of time
to get used to. Other than that, cars will zip through the tracks with little
regard for anything else. Crashing into other cars won’t slow you down much
and hitting the walls is usually not a problem.
That’s where Auto Modellista falls flat. Once you learn how to hit
the walls correctly, you’ll bounce into the lead in no time. This doesn’t help
much during the mountain courses, but nail this technique and you’ll never have
to use the brakes in a street course. No skills = no problem.
Speaking of tracks, Auto Modellista only has a handful. The seven tracks
go from mountain tops to simple dirt tracks, but they don’t provide much in
the way of diversity.
AI can also be a little screwy on occasions, sometime for and sometimes against
your favor. Every once in a while, you’ll have a nice lead only to fall prey
to a guy that’s sporting enough NOS to blow himself up. Then again, sometimes
you’ll feel like there’s no way you’ll be able to catch the leader, only to
pass him up right before the line.
But at least you’ll be able to experience the game’s headline visual feature
throughout. Auto Modellista‘s visual style makes it stand out from the
pack. The cel-shaded look applied to a serious racer does wonders in the showoff
category. This thing beats strobe lights and under glow kits any day. Even the
effects bring out the visual flavor. Speed lines draw at top speeds, “screech”
lines draw as a car slides and the halos of nighttime lights look great. There
are some aliasing problem that mar the shiny surface of this auto, but for the
most part everything looks well polished.
And if you’re lucky enough to have your PS2 set up with a broadband connection,
you’ll be able to take the race to the cyber streets. Auto Modellista
supports online play and gives you a chance to run against people around the
country. Due to the wall-bounce technique, racing isn’t as fun as it could be,
but it’s nice to be able to show off your creations to the other racers out
Although Auto Modellista does an outstanding job in its visuals and
customization, the racing aspect certainly did not get enough attention. With
the mechanics of Gran Turismo, this one might
have been a winner, but as the wheels turn now, the actual gameplay feels like
running the quarter mile over and over and over. If you’ve ever been to Hot
Import Nights, this is definitely something to check out, but moderate racing
fans might want to test drive this car before putting down the first payment.