Saturday, March 18, 2006

Auto Assault open beta thoughts

As I begin to tire of Guild Wars a bit I have been thinging about picking up a new MMORPG for a little varity having played WoW before Guild Wars I am looking to move away from the fantasy, swords and magic gameplay. Auto Assault seemed like a great option and previews thus far had been positive so I decided to check out the open beta running this weekend. For a quick bit of background the game is sent in a post apociliptic future with 3 different factions (pure humans, mutants and biomeks), the big draw here is the you spend almost the while game in a vehical rather than on foot resulting in some fresh gameplay opertunities.

Having sunk about 10 hours into it so far i have to say my feelngs are rather mixed. The vechial based combat is excellent, everything happens at a very fast pace and requires far more interactive than the normal click and wait MMORPG combat. Coustomisation is also supurb with both the characther and the car to play around with there is an upgraded part to test or a different skill to play with. Not to mention having a car means that the often frustrating travel times from other MMORPGs are virtually gone as you speed across the maps. The inventory system is also handy as when you select a part ist will compare it to the part of that type you already have installed making it very simple to quickly pick the best ine, install it and get on with the game.

Unfortunatly thats about where the positive expirence ends. Missions are particually bad with virtually all being generic "collect x of these", "kill x of them" or "take this to him/her". I was really hoping for more here given the freedom and versitility of being in a car, but I have now completed over 100 missions and thus far only 1 has been a race and none have involved anything like tricks/jumps/stunts or even "drive through this area of powerful enemies without being killed". This repetition in continued in the enemies, maps seem to break down to different people asking you to kill the exact same enemies over and over again until you finally progress to the next town, sucking much of the fun out of combat. This constent back and forth is made all more mind numbing by the relitivly poor graphics and peformance. I'm not normally one to be bothered by graphics but there are some extreamly bad pop-up issues here with objects suddenly appearing just meters ahead of you, not much fun when traveling at high speed, or trying to fell an enemy. Considering the limited draw distance and genrally uninspired graphical look of the game, peformance wasn't particually strong either with fairly common slow down and pauses. The final issue I had was you feel very thrown in the deep end and its often not clear at all what is actually expected of you, many missions don't have waypoints or clear instructions and the interface and vehical systems (such as engine overheating) are never clearly explained.

While this is a beta, and thus some bugs are expected, the game is due out in roughly a month but unfortunatly there are still a number of show stopping issues. The most frustrating are the sound issues with the prime offender being initial gun for amlost all characters. This continues to play its mechine gun style firing sound after you stop shotting, constantly. The only way to fix this is to disable then re-enable it every time you enter a new map, which deactivates all noise from the gun and combat in general, making it imposable to tell when you are shooting, a fatal flaw so earily in the game, which has already put many players off the game. These kind of sound issues continue through out with random drop-outs making combat a challange. The physics engine sufferes simmiler issues with a number if items (and vehicals) hanging in mid air and others being destroyed seemingly at random, particually frustrating when the destroyed object is a quest point. On top of this are the normal beta issues of fairly common error messages, issues with some missions/NPC as well both combat and economic imbalance. One can only hope thses are identified and corrected.

I was really hoping this game could breath some life into a genre which desperaty needs some originality and the combat system definattly achived that. Unfortunatly it is let down by extreamly poor misions, dated graphics and some frustrating bugs. At the end of the day if I am going to pay £10 a month on top the the normal entry fee I want something that really sets itself apart and unfortunatly AA doesn't quite deliver of that front.


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