V12 Engines for the people! That is the decree of Carbitrage during their 1951 debut of the Carbitrage Chonk Supreme. An affordable peoples car with a 678 HP 16.3L V12 feeding through a manual transmission to the rear wheels and priced out the door at an affordable $12,000, adjusted for inflation. That is the sales pitch of our company we have produced in Automation – The Car Company Tycoon Game by Camshaft Software.
For the car enthusiast who is also a gamer, this game really allows you to feel like you can make the car of your dreams. Almost everything is in your control from the exact placement of your headlights to the design of the factory itself.
The engine builder is deep enough to drown in. You can create anything you want from a 1.5L V12 to a 3L Inline-3 engine, pick your fuel injection, exhaust and intake design. You can even pick if you want a cross-plane or flat-plane crankshaft in your V8!
It should be warned that this game can turn into a massive timesuck if you’re not careful as I experienced when doing this article. After what felt like 20 minutes, I found that I had just sunk an hour and a half into balancing transmission gearing with tire size, it was all worth it for the added 2.1 points of customer satisfaction though.
While Automation is largely just adjusting sliders and reading graphs, it has an addictive element to it, much like tuning gearing and suspension settings in the Forza games. Automation might be one of the better automobile games we’ve played in years and it’s still well within its Early Access period. It hasn’t officially been released and Camshaft Software is still regularly rolling out massive updates. One of which dropped during our review and it caused us to have to completely restart our Campaign Lite game, so it’s worth being forewarned about that.
The best gameplay in Automation right now is the campaign lite mode and it makes us really excited for when the full campaign is available. The campaign mode is set in a fictional continent where five countries have their own car companies competing against each other for market share. While sandbox is fun, the campaign mode gives you a sense of purpose with your designs and really makes you appreciate how car companies are able to make a successful car.
While I found myself playing on the Campaign Lite mode, Erik particularly enjoys sandbox mode where he can build whatever he wants. If you’re looking for more of a challenge then there are the scenario modes for specific challenges. A photography mode exists as well. Note that we haven’t mentioned about driving or have called this a racing game because those don’t exist in Automation.
That isn’t to say that you can’t drive your creations. While they could have easily implemented some sort of half cooked driving scenario, they chose to have an exporter that allows you to export your cars to the physics based driving simulator Beam.NG Drive and you can even play on the Automation Test Track from campaign mode. That single feature is by far the greatest boon to this game.
While Beam.NG Drive is a really good game it is far from perfect. Automation falls in the same category, but when combining the two good games together, you are left with a product that is much more than the sum of it’s parts. Automation combined with Beam.NG Drive feels like they were meant to be designed together and you should consider just buying the two games together.
Note that the cars don’t transfer over perfectly across the two games and the handling is downright uncontrollable at high speed for most cars. Additionally, you get some oddly long gearing if you transfer over a successful campaign car to Beam.NG Drive. That being said, this game is still in Early Access and even during our review an update was released that greatly improved the quality of transferred cars, so we will not be holding that against Automation.
Not everything is perfect with this game however. It is endlessly frustrating when you finally stabilize your car company, then a game update drops that makes your previous campaign saves incompatible and you’re back to square one. There are also some issues with various menus not working correctly, I currently cannot change a car’s target market after I begin designing the car and as you can see there are quite a few target markets.
With the engine designer, while it is deep, there is a bottom. There are no flathead engines, no diesel engines, no engines larger than a V12 and while you can equip turbochargers, you cannot equip superchargers. You can’t build an air cooled engine or specify what type of ignition system the engine will have either. Finally, something that becomes more relevant by the day, there are no electric powerplants.
Once you get past the relatively deep engine building and get to the transmission design, you feel like the designer was a complete after thought. You can’t even adjust individual gear ratios which can cause you to have an uselessly short first gear and still have the world’s longest 5th gear. Hopefully this will be addressed before the official launch.
Inside of the car designer, the various fixtures that you add to the car such as headlights and bumper bars often can’t be configured to fit correctly. This is especially apparent on corners where you find jagged edges that make you wonder if your GPU is on the fritz. There also isn’t any sort of modeled interior, which seems like a bit of a miss to me as well but I imagine that will be added in future updates.
It sounds like we just ravaged this game but we are aware that it is still in early access and, with that, this game is well within playable state. In fact the game is actually more playable than many AAA titles have been at launch and Camshaft is in the process of tackling a project that would leave larger devs spinning their tires.
I eagerly await the final product and each update has provided a vast improvement. In it’s current state, we will give Automation a Carbitrage Score of 8/10. It has some glaring flaws in it’s game play but as it stands the game is worth hundreds of hours of fun and you should absolutely play it. Now excuse us, we have to finagle this tiny V12 into the trunk of our subcompact.
REVIEW SCORE: 8/10 (early access version LCV4.0)
Pros: Unlimited possibilities to create your dream car, detailed engine builder, makes you appreciate car manufacturers that make good cars, Export cars to Beam.NG Drive.
Cons: Interior and Transmission tuning is shallow compared to the engine builder, no modeled interiors, still very incomplete and clunky feeling.