IGN Review of Full Auto 2: Battlelines
Most gamers love to make things explode. They also love blasting through traffic at skin-searing speeds. Naturally, there's good reason to get excited when a game comes along that combines both elements. Just look at the success of Burnout 3. And before that was Mario Kart, a game whose cute aesthetic couldn't hide the underlying appeal of destroying other players. The same thing goes for Full Auto 2, only without the sanitized violence and copious turtle shells.
The first game in the Full Auto series shipped for the Xbox 360 back in February. It offered a decent mix high-speed racing and devastation, though a few issues kept it from achieving higher marks. It suffered from a few performance issues, for starters, which caused certain hectic races to slow to a crawl. The game also lacked a dedicated battle mode where players could forget about racing and simply tear each other to pieces. But the biggest issue dealt with racing - even with added firepower, Full Auto failed to bring something new to the genre as a whole. So while it definitely entertained as a simple death racer, it could have added a few things to differentiate itself from similar titles.
In steps Full Auto 2: Battlelines for the PS3. It strives to improve the original game by addressing every complaint listed in the above paragraph. And to a certain extent, it succeeds admirably. The whole experience runs better on the PS3, though it still slows down when tearing down entire builds. It also chugs a little when plowing through a roadblock of six flaming police cars. Having said that, there's a noticeable decrease of slowdown in the PS3 version. Most of the time players will crash through skyscrapers and watch as enemy vehicles detonate in midair without noticing a significant drop in framerate. The screen will often explode with countless pieces of debris from cars, buildings, signs, bridges and have little effect on the flow of a race. And that's rad.
Players can also expect changes in a few of the modes in Full Auto 2. The selection still offers the usual lot, including arcade, multiplayer, online and career, but each has additional content. Take career mode, for instance. The game opens up a little so players can choose from several missions at once. Actual objectives received little attention, so plan on doing about the same number of things as in the original game. This includes a number of escort runs and straightforward races, but also rival challenges and time trials. Players also score a number of race variations, such as tracks that call for protection of teammates. Most have a series of primary and secondary objectives, ranging from taking out specific vehicles to killing a specific number of them.
That's what hasn't changed. Fortunately, developers added several things to make Full Auto 2 a better game than its predecessor. The first and biggest change introduces arena-style combat. Good thing, too, since it didn't make any sense to leave it out of the first game. It simply made sense in a game where cars squirt napalm and fire rockets. Combat arenas show up as missions in career mode, but also has its own dedicated mode found in the start menu. And guess what, its damn fine addition. Of the six available combat arenas, most benefit from good design and power-up placements. Players can duke it out near the outskirts of town, at a shipyard and in industrial complex, among others. A few of them stink a little due to bland design and obstacle layout, but overall it's a nice set.
Arena battles make Full Auto 2 play like a next-generation Twisted Metal. As any fan would admit, this translates to a chaotic mess filled with exploding vehicles and charred bodies; a wonderful time, in other words. Players can find a number of power-ups scattered about each stage. They grant all sorts of groovy enhancements like unlimited firepower, ammo and instant repair. Knowing where each item is located can make or break an encounter, so there's definitely some strategy involved. Better still, each arena supports splitscreen and online multiplayer, so there's plenty of chances to cook live players right out of their seats.
Whether battling in arenas or racing through career mode, players will notice the improved environments. And it's not just a cosmetic thing - every stage has strategic positions that players can target to block or destroy rival cars. Heavy fire can now topple entire buildings, railway systems, as well as bridges, cargo containers, and even docked ships. If an enemy driver is about to throttle under a sign or overpass, it's just a matter of blasting the scenery to have it come crashing down.
Stages also have massive structures that actually change a good portion of a map when destroyed. Take the casino stage, for instance - when players knock it down by blasting three support columns, the devastation creates a mini combat area right in the middle of the map. The debris creates new jumps and houses new power-ups, too. The same thing happens with numerous environments, all of which brings a new dynamic missing from the first game. Plus, it adds challenge. It's not easy timing shots to make a set of metal cylinders smash into a rival car. It takes patience, skill and a thorough understanding of the way physics work in the game. With a little practice, the possibilities really open up and add a lot to the experience.
Destructible environments wouldn't matter much if players had nothing to destroy them with, so Full Auto 2 delivers a garage full of new rides. Players can now choose from a list of SUVs, sports and muscle cars, as well as police cruisers and trucks. Each vehicle has different ratings, such as speed and durability, so choosing the right vehicle for the right job is paramount. For instance, it'd be dumb to smash through arena combat in a sexy sports car or try to win a race in a lumbering pickup. Each car boasts a decent level of customization, too. Winning races and events garners new skins and weapons.
Speaking of weapons, Full Auto 2 has a bunch of new types for players to use. In addition to the missiles, machineguns and mines of the first game, there's also lasers, spiked ram plates and napalm. The mines have also changed a little. Known as "rear grenades", they now form circular clusters on the ground, making them difficult to dodge. Cars can also be fitted with smokescreen and other semi-neutral gadgets, making item selection before every event that much more important. In the end, vehicles dictate how many placements are available, but it's possible to roll into battle brimming with 20mm cannons, grenades, missiles, shotguns and spiked armor plating. It's a very nice menu.
Full Auto 2 offers a vast improvement over the original when it comes to multiplayer. In addition to the offline deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, the game also offers a set of online-only options, such as Base Assault and Cat and Mouse. The former pits two teams against each other in a bid to detonate a bomb in one of the bases. The bomb spawns somewhere in the map so members of each team can try to snag it and then somehow survive the journey into the enemy camp.
Cat and Mouse is as one-sided as it sounds. One player plays the mouse while others play the cat. Just like in real-life, it's all about chasing down the mouse and making short work of it. The online modes, in addition to the offline options, really help Full Auto 2 gain much-needed longevity. Depending on the mode, it's possible to play for minutes or hours. But honestly, the latter is more likely.
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