Auto Modellista
Platform:  PlayStation 2
Players:  1-2  (Supports 8 Players Online - Broadband Only)
Memory Usage:  240 kb

    Cel-shading has become what FMV was a few years back, and what 3-D polygons were a few years before that, a sign of the video game times and the current area of exploration in the medium.  While not the blissful and amazing level of cel-heaven that the newest Zelda title contains, Auto Modellista takes cel-shading to a place it has never been before... arcade racing.

Description:  In my mind, Auto Modellista is the spiritual successor to the early Ridge Racer games.  While the Ridge Racer series is a Namco franchise and Auto Modellista is a Capcom game, this title bears more resemblance to those innovative arcade racers than it does to say, Gran Turismo.  Make no mistake about it, this is ARCADE RACING, not the technical assault that the GT series is known for.  You'll unlock upgrades for both your car's performance and body as well as unlock new cars all together.  You also have the option to tweak the graphics and rims of your car and set up the appearance of your garage.  The game itself has the standard single race and competition modes (called Garage Life), time attack, and online play via the PS2 broadband adapter.  There are circuit races, but the real difference in this title are the uphill and downhill races along winding Japanese roads.

Graphics:  Here's where the Gran Turismo influences come into play.  The game looks great, with an anime feel, and GT detail.  The backgrounds are busy, to the point where you might not notice trains whizzing by over a bridge, or skyscrapers in the background with companies such as Epson embossed on their billboards.  Speed lines draw in when moving at high speed or braking quickly, this game was definitely made with flare geared toward the anime / manga fan.  The biggest problem you will come upon in this game is the slowdown, especially on the rainy circuits.  Now, the slowdown is pretty rare, but it always comes at the absolute worst time causing you to overcorrect and spin your car.  Also while the cars look great sometimes the backgrounds, despite how much is going on, look really dead.  Lighting effects are done well and the cars are all modeled after real-life counterparts with a montage of different body tweaks for each model.

Sound:  The music is definitely a mixed bag.  It ranges from the standard driving game techno beats, to songs with catchy vocals, a few ska anthems, and some horridly performed uptempo jazz.  The cars all sound different, but they're so overwhelming against the music, you'll probably turn down the sound effects anyway.  The same lazy jazz beat plays during the selection menus and load screens, which I suppose is better than nothing at all.  You have an announcer that blurts out commentary as the race progresses but this becomes very annoying very fast.

Play Control:  I said it's more like Ridge Racer than Gran Turismo and here's where you'll figure out why.  Toss any concept of realistic physics out the window, Auto Modellista doesn't contain them.  Truthfully, this game doesn't use arcade feeling physics either, it uses a touch and control rhythm unique to itself.  An Impreza will handle like a turtle, an NSX like a Porsche on ice... at first.  Your first initial hour with this game probably won't be all that fun until you settle in to how this game wants to be played and learn the characteristics of each car.  Another gripe I have is the collision detection... why do so many games have horrible collision detection??  Granted, the collision detection in Auto Modellista isn't that bad, but it's nearly impossible to block cars behind you because if you really start bumping into one your car will lose speed and traction at an incredible rate ah la the original Wipeout.  Control in the wet feels like nothing but normal conditions with delayed reaction, no difference in physics that I can notice.  The one really nice thing I can say about the control is even with an automatic transmission you can still manually override gear selection, which is a touch I like.

Replay:  You have the standard racing game fluff, two player split screen, time attack, etc.  It will take a few days to unlock all the items in the Garage Life mode and set up your garage to your liking, however you can also take this game online, so one would suppose there is endless replay value like with Daytona USA Network Racing on the Dreamcast.  (Note:  I did not play the network mode at the time of this review)

Final Verdict:  It's different... and while it might seem like all I've done is bash this game from the start, I am still having a great time with it.  It's like the opposite of Maximo, a game I wanted so very much to like but just couldn't...  I should hate Auto Modellista, the controls need some work, there's graphical slowdown, it loads way too often, but I just can't dislike this game.  However, this game could really use a rear view mirror, half the point of point to point racing is to block your competitors, and the arrow that notifies you of a car approaching just doesn't cut it.  If I have one overall problem with the game it's that it loads between nearly every selection menu, which wouldn't be a problem except this makes it a chore to check stats, save your game, or the like.  Again, more gripes... but when I'm playing the game and I see my tweaked NSX painted like Sailor Jupiter's sailor fuku (sugar pink and green with white trim) fling through an anime metropolis, I can't help but smile a little.  My honest advice is to give this game a rental to see how you like it.  If you run out and buy it expecting a lot I think you'll be disappointed, but if you pick it up expecting a unique take on the arcade racing genre, then you'll have yourself a great time.

Written on 03-31-03 by David,
Last amended 04-13-06 by David,

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