In a bold move that surprised everyone, Capcom, the company famous for it’s fighting games as well as the Resident Evil franchise, decided to produce a racing game. Capcom might not be seen as a company who develops racing games, but the same thing applies to Squaresoft and they did make a racing game for the PS2. Capcom does have the necessary resources to produce a great racing game to go head to head with the others though, but did they succeed?
The answer would be a big yes, and at the same time, a big no. It’s kind of difficult to decide because I’m not exactly sure what kind of racing game it’s supposed to be. Is it a simulation or an arcade racer? Games like Burnout or Ridge Racer are definitely arcade racers and it’s easy to see. This game though has licensed cars from 17 manufacturers as well as the possibility to fully tune your car with real car parts. At the same time, it has cel-shaded graphics which give it a cartoon look and make it seem less believable. The game is also very forgiving as you can run into walls and other cars and not really lose major speed. Same can be said about the driving experience; it feels more like an arcade racer disguised as a simulation, and I guess that’s the main problem with this game as it seems the developers were never sure of what exactly they were doing so you get a mix of the 2 which feels kind of weird at times.
Nonetheless, I had a very nice time with this game. From the moment you boot it up and see the cel-shaded graphics you fall in love with it. It really looks amazing! I never thought seeing real cars in cel-shading would be that great! Everything in the game has been given a cartoon look. The menus are colorful and really look like the kind of menus you’d expect from a cel-shaded game. They are very slick and cute and easy to navigate.
Soon the presentation side of, I don’t think it could have been much better. Everything in this game works well and cel-shading is used to its full potential, and Capcom tried to give everything racing fans would normally look for in a racing game. They went ahead and got licensed cars from 17 car manufacturers all around the world like Acura, Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Mazda… The list is long and the selection is great! For all of you racing fans on the Cube who wanted to drive real cars than you will be very satisfied with this game.
Off course, all of the cars are fully customizable. Heck, you even get to give them a name! In the movie Gone in 60 Seconds all of the cars had a name and in Auto Modellista it’s the same thing, except YOU get to name them all. It can be helpfull when you save lots of cars in your garage and want to remember which one it is. You can tune your cars by changing parts of them like the hood, mirrors, wings, wheels or by adding little touches like adding stickers on it, changing the color of the different parts or by changing your license plate number. You canoff course changethe r, computer, tires, reduceweight, etc to upgrade the performance of your car and get better in races.
Another cool part of the game, even though it is kind of pointless as it doesn’t do anything but look great, is the garage. You decide between 3 styles of garage and then you get to put whatever you want in it. There are nearly a hundred items available (most need to be unlocked) that you can move around however you like and create your own personnal garage. You’ve got oil tanks, shelves, buckets, tire racks, tool boxes, and something like 50 posters that you can hang anywhere. Like I said, it doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the game gameplay wise, it’s just there for you to put whatever you want in it and have fun.
This is all available, of course, in the main mode of the game called Garage Life. This is the meat of the game. You get to choose from all of the cars available and then race your way in the 7 levels of the game, each featuring a different number of races. Each race also has a certain difficulty level and each one unlocks certain things like new cars, new car parts or new stuff to put in your garage. Most of the tracks are repeated in more than one stage though, but sometimes you’ll be racing it backward and in a different season so it feels a little different, but not that much. There are also dirt tracks, but most of the time you’ll be racing on asphalt in various cities or circuits.
But how do the cars feel? Frankly, that has to be the most disapointing part of the game. It doesn’t control very well at all. You always feel like you are driving on ice as your car always wants to slide. I could often take hairpin turns and just hit the control pad in the right direction and the car would slide around the curve so much I wouldn’t even need to brake, but on the other end of the curve it would completely stop or make a few spins. When you do try to drive correctly and brake, the same thing often happens. You will be spinning a lot when you are in a race with lots of turns. It’s kind of difficult to get used to the controls as you’re never sure of how your car is gonna react. It might be because the physics engine wasn’t done correctly, who knows, but it should have been polished a lot more as I really thing this is the one thing that hurts this game the most.
If you can get used to the controls though then your gonna have lots of fun. This is actually the first time in a racing game that I took the time to tune my car before each race. Since I don’t know much about cars I really liked the fact that they added something that nearly tunes your car automatically for you. There is a setting for each of the game’s races and all you have to do is select a balance of like if you’d prefer to have more acceleration or a better maximum speed. You can off course still tune everything yourself but for those of us who don’t want to take the time to do it the auto tune ups are a great addition. You also receive e-mails telling you how to drive better and how to tune your car so that you can get better results and it is quite interesting.
When you’ve completed Garage Life though, and it’s not very long, you still have the arcade mode left where you can race any races that you want or play multiplayer with one of your friends as it only supports 2 players. You can also edit your replays if you’ve decided to save them but I didn’t really spend much time with that. There’s also time trial if you are into that kind of stuff, but like I said earlier, the meat of the game is the Garage Life mode and that’s where you will be spending nearly all of your time.
The game, as I also mentioned, looks wonderful. The cel-shaded graphics really make this game stand out from the rest, and since I love cel-shading I fell in love with the graphics immediately. The cars look great and the environments are really nice. You’ll be racing in cities full of big buildings with lights everywhere that make some nice lighting effects. Some races are also outside of cities with lots of trees and changing seasons. You’ll sometimes be playing in summer and then in autumn and the color of the leaves will change and so do the textures as you’ll find leaves on the ground and the lighting will also be a little different with a more orange feel to it.
You car shakes when you press the gas button to start it up and it makes some nice little effects when you powerslide. There’s also smoke and dust depending if your racing on asphalt or dirt and you’ll see the water splashing behind your wheels when driving under rain as well as every raindrop hitting the track. Another really cool effect is the sense of speed. White lines will appear all around the screen to make you think that you are going really fast and the screen also seems to stretch a little as when you break hard the effect completely dissapears.
Sound is kind of disapointing though as the engine noises don’t sound realistic at all compared to other games I’ve played. The same can be said about the rest of the sounds in this game but it might be something the developer wanted because they wanted it to suit the game since it already doesn’t look realistic because of the cel-shaded graphics. The anouncer will really get on your nerves, even on the first race as he really gets repetitive and doesn’t say anything interesting. The music was good though. It’s kind of a mix of soft music that is really bad, but with some stylish techno music and what sounds like some kind of techno-rock music, but nothing to heavy though. I had listened to the soundtrack before playing the game and I thought it was great.
Since there aren’t that many good racers on the GameCube, this game could be a good choice, but at the same time I’m not sure if I should recommend it. Most people were really dissapointed with it and it seems to be a love it or hate it game, but most people hate it. Since it can easily be finished in one day, it might be more of a game you’d want to rent unless you really fall in love with it. The graphics look great, this game has lots of style, but the gameplay really suffers and in the end it is what should be the most important part of a game. It is also too easy which might be why it is so short. If Capcom had taken the time to really polish it it could have been a great racing game, and I’m really hoping they’ll revisit it and give us the game we should have gotten in the first place.