Auto Assault Review
|Release Date:||April 13, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Grant Wilson (Midnight)|
|Buy now at Amazon.co.uk|
I've been looking forward to playing this game since I had seen the first video's of it online, it looked like it could breathe a new life into what at the moment is a pretty stagnant genre. Any game coming into the MMORPG scene is going to be facing some stiff competition for your cash, WoW being the main contender of course. Everything has to feel right, from missions to gameplay, trade and player interaction. It's a whole lot of things to consider and one that not many games companies have pulled off successfully.
I was pleasantly surprised with just how detailed the character customization is, this is one area that I wish all mmorpg's should have. It's ok being able to select different races, but who wants to run around with the same character and only a new hairstyle to separate you from everyone else ? Thankfully Auto Assault lets you customize pretty much anything you can think of, from the height of your character right down to the sunglasses and helmets. This same customisation level is applied to your vehicle; you can pick the colour-schemes and decals that adorn the sides of your killing machine.
There are 3 races to pick from in Auto Assault, the Humans, the Biomeks and the Mutants with each faction having their own distinguishable vehicle style. Each faction starts in a corner of the game world (which is 100 square KM, so pretty huge !) and your first glimpse of the game is through a simple tutorial that takes you through moving around, to shooting and how to repair your vehicle on the many repair-pads strewn across the landscape. Each race has a choice of classes too, ranging from Engineer, to Commando or Bounty Hunter. Each class has their own set of skills enabling you to repair yourself of friends on the battlefield, go stealth and sneak up on unsuspecting players, or just use the extra firepower gained from picking a 'grunt' class to blast everything you can see.
Each vehicle is fitted with 3 'hard-points' too, this enables to you fit a front mounted gun, a rear mounted gun, and a rotatable turret gun controlled by your mouse to shoot in a 360 degree direction. Different classes also have different skills, the engineer class that I am playing was able to heal myself and team mates, drop mines and use different area of effect spells that would harm anything in a certain radius. Combat is in real time, meaning you can do drive-bys on unsuspecting enemies, there's no queuing up moves and attacks. Although it feels like your aim is counted for because of the method in which you aim your weapons, all attacks are statistically based with misses and hits determined by your equipped items. Personally I think this should have been more skill-based like in Planetside where if you dodge, you actually dodge the missiles instead of letting the computer be the judge - it just seems like it would fit the gamestyle more.
Picking up missions is a simple case of talking to people in these outposts and then following the waypoint to your destination, many of these missions involve just killing lots of random creatures, civilians or other NPC vehicles. This is unfortunately where the game starts to come unglued too. Having the missions pointed out to you makes the game feel linear and at times it can get pretty repetitive when you're told to just drive to a location and blast everything in site, only to drive back and hand in the mission and find the next few are the same. The low level missions are the worst of these, some of them require you to 'patrol' an area and defend it, which in game terms just means driving between a few waypoints until you're told that's enough. The waypoints often seem to be placed in such a strange manner as to seem like you are just going around in circles for a few minutes. To aid you in completing missions, you can join up as a 'convoy' with your buddies and work together. This works especially well if you're teamed up with players of different classes - especially engineers!
Guilds are of course catered for, but you never really notice them. This is due to some strange oversight of not being able to see who's in what guild under the player names. In fact as far as I and anyone I asked could see, there is no way of identifying who is in what guild at all, which kind of defeats the purpose don't you think ? Also you have to be next to the player to add them to your guild, which is no mean feat considering the size of the game world, and the speed at which players whizz by. Guilds do come into their own in PVP though, there is both world PVP and arena's in Auto Assault. The arena combat is the most promising though. You are able to enter arenas with guild mates or a group of random players and then compete against another group to see who is best; the interesting part comes in the form of player rewards though. Winning teams are able to earn in game money and rare items with which to customise their character. Soon you will be able to win real-world prizes too, ranging from graphics cards to T-shirts. Hopefully this will keep PVP alive for a long time in Auto Assault. World PVP exists too in the form of contested zone. There is one huge problem with this though, the human race have far more missions when you start out so you can level up much faster than the other races can - when you enter the contested zone, it's .. well.. not very contested at all due to the level advantage ! Surely this is what beta tests are for?
When entering one of the many cities in the game-world, you are exited from your vehicle and able to run around on foot. You'll spend a lot of time in the cities crafting items and learning new skills. The craft system is confusing to say the least, all of the icons in your inventory are pretty hard to remember mainly due to the fact that there is about 10 of each type of item. Add the fact that each of these items can be 'refined' into purer versions of themselves and there's a whole lot to remember when you're trying to find something that you need. To take advantage of the scrap littering the game world you can learn to master a few different trades, from Weapon creation to armour and Chassis building. Again these are pretty confusing, requiring to you train up levels first and with no real indication of which things will increase your skill the fastest.
These little niggles extend to the UI as well, the main one for me being that there was no real indication of your health status. To see a health figure you have to mouse-over the green icon in the bottom right, this may sound pedantic but the green area showing your health fades at the top, thus you can never really tell whether you're at full health or missing a quarter until you stop to hover your mouse over it. Many times I would think I was at full health only to see I had 50hp missing, which is quite a lot when you only have 300 or so in the first 10 hrs of play.
The UI looks dated too, when in a 'convoy' your team-mates icons are probably the worst I've seen in a long time, looking like they were drawn in paint and with some weird blue blob in the top corner of the image which serves no purpose. This is a shame considering the 3d graphics can be quite impressive at times, from the heat emanating from flame weapons and explosions, to the jungle environments and creatures that litter the landscape. Explosions are aided by the havoc physics engine which is used by many other games on the market, including Half-Life 2 in some form. This makes collisions all the more exciting when you can see things being thrown around as you smash into them. Full weather cycles are also impressive, the game can look totally different in a night time setting and watching it slowly change to daytime looks very pretty.
The cities seem to be a big FPS hit though, considering there's nothing going on in them except static buildings. Surely the large explosions and frantic action should be slower? The city is where you will see one of the worst animations for a human character running seen in a game for a long time too, it's simply awful.
However, sounds in the game are reasonably pleasing, the gutsy explosions and screeching of tires on different surfaces all sounds excellent. Atmospheric noises all help to build up the feeling of a busy city or open desert environment. Just as satisfying is the squelch made as you run over humans and aliens and smear their guts all over the place. Nasty but fun all the same.
Of course, as this is an MMORPG and free updates are applied on a near daily basis, with what looks to be well over a hundred additions and fixes since I've started playing the game already. It's just a shame that some of these weren't included from the start considering how long this game was in beta. I really hope they manage to iron out some of the niggles and definitely improve on the trade system. For this game, despite its flaws is very addictive, it's so satisfying being able to blow up pretty much anything you can see. If you're a fan of the Carmaggedon series or just looking out for a different MMORPG to get your teeth into then I'd definitely recommend taking a look at this, I would just suggest waiting a few months for them to improve on the foundations they've already built. On the whole I found Auto Assault a fun but rather frustrating experience.
- Addictive gameplay
- Weapons feel powerful
- Good physics
- Lots of skills to learn for each class
Not so good stuff
- Lots of bugs
- Lack of decent pvp
- Trade system needs overhauling
- Guild names are not viewable
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