Full Auto 2: Battlelines Review
When Full Auto was released earlier this year for Xbox 360, I went ahead and bought it. The demo was short but a lot of fun and I had heard the frame rate issues with the demo were solved. Unfortunately, I found the full game to be pretty disappointing since all I could do was race around on tracks similar to what was in the demo, and the frame rate seemed to be even worse. Now, publisher Sega and developer Pseudo Interactive have switched over to the Sony side and are making Full Auto 2: Battlelines a PSP/PS3 exclusive. It's only been about nine months since the first game was released, so the question is this: did Pseudo have enough time to put some polish in this one, and did they learn any lessons from the shallow gameplay of the first Full Auto?
I'm happy to say that the answer to both questions is yes. It's not a huge yes, but a significant one. Full Auto 2 takes the explosive racing action from the original game and beefs it up with new arena battles, a wider range of urban levels to tear it up on, the same great destructive environments, and a solid frame rate on the PS3.
There's a story about some sort of female AI taking over and sending you out to quell the streets of some city in pure chaos, but I really don't know why they bothered. The missions you need to complete are laid out in a somewhat linear fashion, and each mission will usually have one or two goals along with a few secondary objectives. The more secondary objectives you complete, the more weapons and cars you'll unlock.
At first, the game goes easy on you and just lets you get a hang of the controls. Full Auto 2 is a true arcade racer with car physics that are quite clearly unrealistic and over the top. One small tap on your handbrake and a little pull to the left or right will let you spin around, even if you're going at over 100mph already. Steering is very sensitive and sharp, but once you get the hang of the controls, you can wind up pulling almost hairpin 90-degree turns instantly. Of course, driving isn't the only thing going on here - in almost all stages you're going to be pitted against your opponent as well as some violent independents in vehicle combat.
You'll get to pick your car first, each of which are rated on Speed, Handling, Durability, and Weapon Capacity. All cars can get a primary and secondary weapon as long as a bonus third roof-mounted one, but the Weapon Capacity statistic tells you how much you can fire them before they overheat and need a cooldown period. In most races you're going to need some good aim with your car's weapons along with some fancy driving if you want to win, so it's important to learn how to steer your car while still putting your crosshairs right on your enemies.
But that's just the race events. New this time are Arena events where the only things you'll have are enemies to kill and several minutes on the clock. Taking out enemy cars racks up points, and getting killed yourself will take them away - but in most of these events you only have a limited number of lives, so you'll need to watch your damage as well as the clock to win.
The damage you take isn't permanent, as there are powerups spread across the map for anyone to take. The green repair wrench is always nice, but you'll also find roof-mounted weapons like a mortar launcher or a firebomb kit. There are even powerups that give you infinite main guns or unlimited boost for a short while. These are all necessary if you want to win, as the difficulty in Full Auto 2 ramps up quickly.
The diversity of the events isn't massive, but it is much improved over the first game. On some race levels you'll need to take out a specific guy and come in first (with secondary objectives attached, like doing it without dying or finishing off your target on the first lap), and on some arena levels they'll actually be racing and you'll need to "crash the party" and kill them all before their multi-lap race is over.
One of the bigger features available in Full Auto 2 is the Unwreck ability in single player mode. Cause enough destruction and do enough fast driving and power sliding, and your boost meter will fill up. You can press L1 to boost, and R1 is Unwreck - it rewinds time, allowing you to fix a big mistake. It's especially important if you just missed a turn and planted yourself into a wall. Unlike the first game, both the Boost and Unwreck features are fed off the same bar you're filling up, so you really need to use your Unwreck wisely.
While the graphics aren't terribly improved here in the sequel, you'll still find the same great destructible environments and totally deformable cars. The frame rate, which would dip into the teens on the Xbox 360, stays at a solid high-20s pretty much all the time here on the PS3. While the texture quality and special effects are pretty much the same as before, Full Auto 2 does run in full 1080p HD if you've got a TV that can handle it.
Along with the Career mode that lays out your plans to take over the city one district at a time, there's an Arcade mode that lets you pick out your equipment and choose a game mode to play. Unfortunately, your selection in Arcade mode is still limited to what you've unlocked in the Career mode, so you'll need to play the latter anyway if you want lots of Arcade-mode options. There's some two-player split screen competitive action as well, but again you'll be limited to what's available in the Career mode.
Unfortunately, online play is where things fall apart. Maybe it's because not enough people have bought both a PS3 and this game yet, but I couldn't find a single game to play in with the online modes. I'm also frustrated with the 9-page GameSpy license agreement I had to flip through and agree to just to play online; I've signed contracts and opened up savings accounts with less paperwork than this. Still, it does look like the online functionality works, but I simply couldn't find anyone to play against. The online play has five game modes that sound pretty unique and fun, but I've got to wonder why all five aren't actually used in any of the single player game. It would have been fun doing these against the AI, too.
Full Auto 2: Battlelines goes a pretty decent way towards fixing the crippling problems with the first game. With a much improved frame rate and new gameplay modes, the racing and action are more interesting and fun. Sure, this one won't go down in the history books alongside Twisted Metal or Interstate '76, but there's certainly nothing like it out on the PS3 yet. If you're a big fan of racing games with car combat, I can definitely recommend this one as a purchase - something I never would have done with the first Full Auto.