Full Auto 2: Battlelines Review
The concept behind a game like Full Auto 2: Battlelines is spectacular: drive around at maximum velocity, targeting enemy racers and other aspects of the environment and launching a barrage of ammunition in their direction. It's essentially Ridge Racer melded with Twisted Metal, as there are both racing and car combat elements. The original Full Auto debuted on the Xbox 360 and was a moderately entertaining title, but can the sequel iron out all those initial kinks and provide us with an appropriate next-gen high-octane experience?
Well, in looking at the graphics, there is some definite improvement. There's a bit more detail and refinement in this sequel, and due to the 1080p resolution option, Full Auto 2 can look surprisingly pretty. On the other hand, despite the enhancements, the game doesn't exactly present the picture of PS3 potential. Although it's only a pseudo-launch title - from Pseudo Interactive, ironically enough - there are several other titles that certainly look better; Resistance: Fall of Man and Ridge Racer 7, for starters. But at least we've got a goodly amount of color, consistent quality design, and a smooth frame rate, so we can finish out the visual analysis on a high note.
Unfortunately, the sound isn't quite as good. Throughout every level, the player is treated to a fairly large selection of tracks, but they're just too darn similar. The constant battle effects (which are quite good) frequently drown out the electronic and rock-based orchestration, and the repetitiveness of the tracks doesn't help. But in terms of atmosphere and style, the developers chose the correct assembly of music, so that's a plus. Still, we too often downplay the importance of sound in games like these, and for Full Auto, great effects and tracks are a necessity. While the inherent quality is undeniable, everything just sounds watered down, for some reason.
The original title was relatively fun, provided you could overlook some of the more glaring flaws and inconsistencies. Several of the biggest issues that plagued Full Auto was some extraordinarily loose and "boat-y" control, a very bland and uninspired inventory of weaponry, some lamebrain AI, and a mostly non-existent storyline to go along with the main quest/career. So of course, we were looking for a revamped and enhanced gameplay mechanic in the sequel. After all, what's the point of producing a sequel if you can't address the problems of the original?
However, before diving into the "what was changed for the better?" question, let's examine the new stuff first. You'll immediately notice a slightly more robust Career mode and some semblance of a story, which the original didn't really bother to include. The player is greeted by S.A.G.E, a computer with the voice of a very robotic-sounding female, and you learn evil vehicle gangs have overrun the city. They're causing a lot of problems and the authorities apparently can't control them, so it's up to you to take them down, one by one. By entering a series of events, winning enough races, blowing up enough opponents, and completing your primary objectives, you will succeed. The question is, will you care enough to complete the mission?
At the very least, you'll have a variety of cool event types that switch around, ranging from all-out races to all-out battles and even a few things in between. For example, you may find yourself in a race that requires you to destroy a particular opponent before finishing, so merely coming in first doesn't cut the mustard. Therefore, you might actually have to use a bit of strategy, even though the core gameplay still comes down to fast reactions and solid aiming. Speaking of which, it's time to answer that question we posed earlier...even though we'd rather not. Thus far, Full Auto 2: Battlelines sounds like a game really worth playing and even owning.
But alas, the world can be a cold and brutal place. It gets all the more harsh when we reveal that Pseudo clearly didn't repair the problems found in the original. Yes, the gameplay is indeed smoother and better looking, but the basics are sorely lacking. All the vehicles still control as if they're giant Grand Marquis' from the early Ď90s; they tend to float big-time when turning and stability is a definite issue. It's difficult to tell if the AI is any better considering the hectic action, but we can give it the benefit of the doubt and simply say opponent intelligence is passable. As for the weapons, not much has changed, and that's definitely not a good thing.
You'll obtain new weapons and gadgets as you progress through the game, but none of them feel all that special. The machine guns work well, especially in the beginning, and for the most part, all the weapons eventually serve some purpose. However, things like the smokescreen and land mines, while intriguing in theory, simply don't deliver in terms of excitement. For a game that so heavily relies upon racing and combat, the control and weapon selection is founded in mediocrity and general blandness, which can completely eradicate all player interest. Regardless of how many other frills a game may have, if the foundation is questionable, the production built on that foundation will always be rickety.
Arena battle can be a lot of fun, you can enjoy ranked and unranked matches online with up to eight players, the addition of primary and secondary objectives in each event adds both depth and longevity to the Career mode, and the action never slows or becomes tiresome. That's all the good stuff, and it's absolutely worth mentioning. It's just too bad about that foundation, because the sequel is only rehashing a lot of the same ol' issues evident in the original. The control is still off in all aspects, both the cars and weapons are just kinda "meh," and even though you can bust up many things in the environment, no level is particularly stimulating.
Full Auto 2: Battlelines, in many ways, is superior to the original, especially with that 1080p option, better detailing, smoother frame rate, and a more fully realized Career Mode. But in many other ways, it fails to advance the new series to new heights and in the end, it's very much the same game with a slightly flashier wrapping. That's not what we wanted or expected from this game, but even so, Battlelines does have plenty of appeal. The multiplayer can be crazy entertaining, for example, and even though it's not a great addition to the PS3 lineup and certainly not worth the price of admission, this title isn't too bad. It's probably worth a rent on a rainy day, especially if you have a friend to play with, but beyond that, we can't recommend it for a $60 purchase.
1/1/2007 Ben Dutka