Capcom's cel-shaded racer Auto Modellista was originally released on the PlayStation 2 in March of 2003. Back then it had a very impressive look, but the rest of the game simply didn't stand up to the cool, anime-inspired visuals. Now, nearly a year later, Capcom has released the same game on the Xbox. Only minor tweaks have been made here, the most relevant of which is the addition of headset support for Xbox Live. The game doesn't look nearly as impressive now as it did a year ago, and it also faces stiff competition from better driving games.
Auto Modellista is a fairly deceptive game. While it may have a crazy cartoon look, it also features licensed cars and aftermarket auto products from lots of different manufacturers. You'll find cars from Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and more, including a few Japanese concept cars. The game also gives you a fair amount of control over your car's tuning. While you won't find a Gran Turismo-like level of depth here, you can still adjust your car's suspension, tires, brakes, and weight. You'll also earn engine, computer, turbo, and muffler upgrades as you progress through the game's main mode.
The main mode in Auto Modellista is called garage life. Here you'll be able to choose one of the cars you've unlocked thus far--and the game gives you plenty to start with--and you can enter it in the game's various races. The garage life mode features seven levels, each of which has a different number of races. You'll need to place first in some or all of these races to proceed to the next level. When you finish first, you'll unlock new items, parts, and cars. New cars and parts have obvious purposes, but you'll also get posters, trophies, and other little items that you can use to decorate your garage. You'll be given the opportunity to save your modified cars in a sub-garage, which lets you try out all the game's different cars without having to retune your vehicle each time you change back. The sub-garage also gives you access to your tuned cars in online races, which is absolutely key to online victory.
Auto Modellista's online mode isn't perfect, but without it, the game would be over in 10 hours or less. Provided you can find someone online to race against, which is more difficult than it sounds, the game lets you race against up to seven opponents over Xbox Live. While the game uses standard language for the Xbox Live menus, with familiar terms like "optimatch," the game's supplementary text reads like poorly translated English. The game performs pretty well online, and there's only a little bit of noticeable lag, which surfaces here and there.
Beyond online and garage life, you can also run two-player races on a split-screen, participate in time trials against ghost cars, run one-off races in arcade mode, and view replays. In a somewhat strange touch, replays can be edited with a handful of audio-visual effects that can be toggled on the fly using an interface that may unpleasantly remind you of Sega's Make Your Own Music Video games for the Sega CD. The audio-sample editing interface features an option that will bring a smile to the face of any would-be Bruce Dickinson by giving players the option to lay as much cowbell as they can handle over saved replays.