Auto Age: Stand­off

Twisted me­tal age, more like



the car­toon M.A.S.K.? That’s the one about the good­ies and bad­dies driv­ing around in weaponised ve­hi­cles wear­ing goofy masks, with a sweet theme song that goes some­thing like: “Masked Crusaders, Work­ing Over­time, Fight­ing Crime, Fight­ing Crime! Se­cret Raiders Who Will Neu­tralise, As Soon As They Ar­rive, At The Site Trakker’s Gonna Lead The Mis­sion, And Spec­trum’s Got Such Su­per Vi­sion! M-M-M-M.A.S.K.!” Well, Auto Age: Stand­off is some­thing like that. It’s colour­ful with bright cel-shaded graph­ics, is about ve­hic­u­lar com­bat and has a sweet theme song. It also has one up on Mask by not fea­tur­ing an an­noy­ing kid on an even more an­noy­ing trans­form­ing ro­bot scooter thing.

Rather than hav­ing the forces of M.A.S.K. fight­ing the evil of V.E.N.O.M., Auto Age in­stead sees teams of ve­hic­u­lar com­bat­ants fac­ing off against each other across a small num­ber of maps in a few dif­fer­ent game modes. The core me­chan­ics are solid, with play­ers cus­tomis­ing their ve­hi­cles and rac­ing around at break­neck speeds try­ing to de­stroy en­emy ve­hi­cles. The cars con­trol more like re­mote con­trol ve­hi­cles than any­thing in the real world, ac­cel­er­at­ing at dizzy­ing speed and turn­ing on a dime, but this re­spon­sive­ness feels good in con­text. Weapons auto-aim for the most part, mak­ing ma­noeu­vring a more im­por­tant as­pect of play than try­ing to send lead down range.

The big­gest prob­lem with Auto Age is that it ini­tially prom­ises some­thing the game doesn’t in any way de­liver. The ini­tial tu­to­rial is a nar­ra­tive af­fair telling the story of Val Vega hunt­ing the evil Dark Jaw to avenge the death of her sis­ter. Team­ing up with a friendly AI, Val guns her way through a gi­ant, dried up dam in the game’s three main ve­hi­cle types, de­stroy­ing a range of in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult foes un­til you reach the boss. Things quickly turn to crap as soon as the boss ap­pears, with his screen cov­er­ing field of fire and abil­ity to end­lessly re­gen­er­ate a bunch of health on the reg­u­lar, but that isn’t the prob­lem with the game. The prob­lem is that de­vel­op­ers in­tro­duce what could be a re­ally fun world and then strip it away, leav­ing play­ers with noth­ing but mul­ti­player or AI team matches over four maps.

The ac­tion isn’t bad, but it does feel lim­ited. The small num­ber of maps is a dis­ap­point­ment, and the game modes are by the book. With the vastly dif­fer­ent feel of the tu­to­rial and the lim­ited num­ber of maps and modes, it leaves the im­pres­sion that the de­vel­op­ers weren’t sure if they wanted to make a sin­gle player game or a mul­ti­player game, split their time be­tween the two and didn’t quite man­age to fin­ish ei­ther. At the time of writ­ing it wasn’t too hard to find a match on­line, but given the lack of maps and modes, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that player num­bers will most prob­a­bly drop pre­cip­i­tously. Fin­gers crossed that Phan­tom Com­pass have some more maps and modes com­ing soon, be­cause with some more con­tent, Auto Age: Stand­off could be a great in­die shooter.

the cars con­trol more like re­mote con­trol ve­hi­cles than any­thing in the real world

Wilks is still singing that damn theme song.

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