Full Auto 2: Battlelines Review
Sega seems to be keen on turning Full Auto into a flagship series for the company. Though, of course, before a series can become a flagship, it actually has to be good. Alas, Full Auto 1 and 2 haven't exactly been unanimously accepted on either Xbox 360 or PS3. Car combat hasn't been a fledging genre, altogether, lately. With Twisted Metal missing in action, there's an enormous void to fill, and nothing is capable of filling that void, especially not Full Auto. If you ask me, my idea of proper car combat doesn't consist of poorly balanced gameplay and mediocre racing.
Battlelines is developed completely from the ground up for the PSP and it isn't a port of the PS3 version. But port or no port, it doesn't really matter, as Full Auto 2: Battlelines retains its uninspired formula. The game's biggest issue is a lack of balance. For instance, you'll find yourself unloading everything you've got on an opponent only to see him/her stay alive. What's worse is that when you're being attacked, it seems as if all it takes is a few hits to destroy you -- it's frustrating, to say the least. You'll be even more frustrated when you learn that destroying your opponents is often a core objective in progressing through the career.
In addition to destroying your opponents a specified amount of times, there'll be additional objectives you'll have to complete, which makes the game that much more bothersome to play, seeing as how just destroying opponents is pretty time-consuming. There's 50 missions in total, all with a bunch of different variation in objectives, and for each event completed you'll unlock something in the game. One event will require that you destroy a certain amount of opponents before crossing the finish, another one will require you to destroy 60 objects, 6 civilian cars, 4 opponents, and finish better than 3rd -- something to that effect.
The PSP version of Full Auto 2 allows for the rear mounting of some weapons, a feature previously not available on the console games. In addition to that, there's 10 new cars to choose from, with 10 more weapons to select and 100 decals to apply on to your car. Sure there seems to be plenty of features in the game, but seeing as how the game isn't very fun, you likely won't care about any of it. The multiplayer is offline, and limited to four player ad-hoc. Really, pretty much everything about the gameplay is underwhelming...even the story makes no sense.
Visually, the game overcame its frame rate problems that plagued the earlier builds. Battlelines runs at a consistent 30 frames per second, and I've yet to see it chug despite the frenzy going on the screen. The environments are pretty destructible, and destroying them will often be a required objective in order to progress in the game. Textures range from solid to very bland, but as long as you don't slow down to enjoy the scenery, you won't notice most of the poor looking textures. The vehicles look decent, for the most part, with some rough edges here and there. There's a good amount of lighting work, which helps prevent a dull looking picture and makes the game look vibrant. Special effects, such as explosions, are well done too. Full Auto 2: Battlelines is actually a pretty solid looking PSP game. It may not push any boundaries, and there are some rough spots in places, but even when it gets pretty frenzied it retains a solid framerate.
The audio is ho-hum. On one hand, there's a soundtrack of pretty decent bands (Stone Sour, Wolfmother, The Used, Megadeth). On the other hand, the soundtrack is really short, featuring a modest 11 songs. And the sound effects are pretty boring. A game that has this much going on needs to sound louder and more explosive. If you plug in a pair of headphones or a set of speakers, the game begins to sound better, but you'll quickly notice how there's just way too much noise getting tangled up and it makes the game hard to listen to. The sound could've complemented the visuals well if the effects were a bit more bassy, and had some oomph to them, but they're pretty generic instead.
Full Auto 2: Battlelines is not a bad game, but it is incredibly average. It isn't worth a $40 price-tag, but if you happen to see it for closer to $10-15, you should consider picking it up. There's a lot of game to be had, but with very little depth, innovation, and a lot of frustration. The gameplay isn't very balanced, so you'll end up getting killed by the A.I. constantly, despite your best efforts to stay alive. It's visually decent, but the sound is generic, with the exception of a decent, but short, soundtrack. A lack of proper online multiplayer also dampers things quite a bit. Unless you really enjoy the Full Auto games, I wouldn't recommend the PSP version. Instead, go track down a copy of Twisted Metal for the PSP, if you haven't played it already.
4/30/2007 Arnold Katayev