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.