Auto Age: Standoff Review

I feel as though car combat is an underappreciated genre in the gaming world. Twisted Metal remains one of my favorite series of all time, and I’ve found myself heavily enjoying other titles such as Full Auto and Gas Guzzlers Extreme. When I discovered the existence of Phantom Compass’s Auto Age: Standoff, I was nothing short of excited. Once I started the game, however, I was met with disappointment. The grounds for a great game are here, but it just doesn’t go far enough with its concept.

Auto Age: Standoff takes place in the year 2080, where America is now a wasteland ruled by vehicular gangs. The main conflict takes place between Val Vega, who works alongside the AI “SAIGE” to maintain peace, and Dark Jaw, who leads his army of Jawlings to dominate the wastes. What little story there is has a silly Vigilante 8 vibe to it, and the 80s cartoon aesthetic helps bring a lot of character into what’s otherwise a somewhat empty experience.

The graphics have a simple, but pleasant appearance. It’s not the prettiest game out there, but it’s easy on the eyes, and maps are a breeze to navigate as a result – an important factor into making a good car combat game. This game has an absolutely banging soundtrack, too, combining rock and retrowave into one gloriously hammy package.

Aside from the enjoyable presentation, the gameplay itself is also worthy of praise, but not without some nitpicks. There are essentially four car types – a small run-and-gun vehicle, a medium-weight vehicle that can heal itself, a large and slow tank-like vehicle, and a heavily-armored tower vehicle that doesn’t have much offense but can heal its teammates. Instead of picking up powerups, your attacks work on a cooldown system. Firing your main weapon for too long will cause it to overheat, and special attacks will recharge through a timer whenever you use them. You can also customize your own loadouts, which is always a nice little feature.

Cars are a joy to handle, as they’re able to easily jump, turbo, powerslide, and spin in the air, and it’s always satisfying to make a quick getaway or surprise some opponents by flying halfway across the map and getting the drop on them. However, as solid as the movement and shooting is, it doesn’t take long to notice that it all feels... well... barebones. Shoot vehicles, escape, wait for your weapons to cool down, then repeat.

There are three modes, but none of them felt particularly unique. There’s your standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Point Capture – where your team must fight off the enemy and claim a designated area. In the end, it mostly just felt like Team Deathmatch in a smaller space. The combination of this and the barebones gameplay made Auto Age: Standoff fun for me in short bursts, rather than long play sessions.

Speaking of only three modes, the content is sorely lacking as well. There are a measly four maps, and the Point Capture mode only supports one of them. The tutorial is your only real source of story content, playing as Val Vega and taking on the Jawlings. It’s an enjoyable little sequence, but outside of that, there’s only multiplayer. Auto Age: Standoff has a tiny playerbase, so I was only able to partake in a couple of online games. Otherwise, I was stuck with the AI, which tends to be obscenely stupid. On the bright side, there is local multiplayer, which supports up to four players.

Finally, I wish this game just did more with its setting. Auto Age: Standoff wants to be a wacky 80s action cartoon, but there are no characters outside of Val Vega, SAIGE, and Dark Jaw. Both teams have similar-looking vehicles, just with different color variations. There’s no real personality between the two sides. Maps generally feel the same as well, basically just being generic combinations of desert and industrial. The fact that Phantom Compass had all the reason in the world to go completely crazy with this game makes this design choice all the more irritating. It really holds itself back.

Auto Age: Standoff is a tough one to recommend at $20. There's a great game wanting to claw its way out, but there’s hardly any content, and it doesn’t go far enough with its concept to leave any kind of lasting impact. I was ultimately left wanting more. There are upcoming content updates, but without a solid singleplayer mode or a strong playerbase, there's simply not much to enjoy here.

Hi, I'm James. I like to play video games and then scream at people's faces about them. I started getting into gaming around the PS1 and N64 days, and I've been addicted ever since.