IGN Review of Full Auto 2: Battlelines
The Full Auto franchise has always tried to deliver motorized mayhem, destructible environments, and plenty of cars strapped with powerful weaponry. While the car combat concept has been done before, the series tried to stretch the genre with the Unwreck ability, which provided players with the opportunity to avoid mistakes made on the road. The high speed battles have raged on the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and now they're coming to the PSP with Full Auto 2: Battlelines. But does it take first place or suffer from blown tires?
Like many other racing titles, the primary thrust of the game revolves around the career mode's practically non-existent storyline. After a number of natural disasters decimate the population of the world, humanity creates a sentient supercomputer called SAGE to solve mankind's problems. To counteract the machine, a rebellious organization starts staging violent races around the world, with the overall first prize being control of the group itself. Players take on the role of a racer looking to prove themselves in this underground racing scene, taking on various events and racers to prove that they're the best in the world.
However, the story doesn't ever come into play when you're racing around, blowing up cars and destroying opponents. With the exception of a few text screens scattered around at random intervals during the career mode, there's no development of the story at all. As a result, you'll feel let down and cheated out of a true ending, since you'll only receive a quick text screen telling you of your "accomplishment." There is a mild amount of flexibility when it comes to playing through the career mode -- you can choose any territory you want to explore at any time, and can specifically complete half of the events in a location before you face off against the "boss" racer. Unfortunately, since fully completing every event only takes six hours, this method of shortcutting your way through the career mode makes it feel even shallower.
Regardless of whether or not you attempt to complete every contest in career mode, or you enter the single Event Attack mode, you'll take part in one of three different kinds of races. Circuit races give you a specific number of laps to complete before the competition is over. Point to Point races are outright sprints through the city, while Arena mode throws cars in an enclosed space as they attempt to destroy each other. Each race type has its own win conditions that you're forced to complete before time runs out, such as getting a specific number of kills, destroying a large number of environmental objects or finishing in a specific position. In theory, this would provide a certain level of flexibility when it comes to passing an event, as you wouldn't need to be first over the finish line to still win that race.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well as it should, primarily because most events have at least two separate conditions, most of which are easily accomplishable within the first minute of that track. Even when the game starts stacking numerous conditions on top of each other so you've literally got five separate tasks to complete, you're given plenty of time and opportunity to finish all of these objectives without breaking a sweat. What's more, since there's no way to adjust the difficulty of the game to increase the challenge of each event, you'll probably wind up blowing through both Career and Event Attack modes and never return. Don't expect to unlock any special extras either, because the gallery is already accessible as soon as you start the game. Even stranger is the fact that the game technically allows for cheats to be input, but you have no way to actually insert them.
What players will wind up unlocking throughout the Career mode are different vehicles that can be used in any of the races. 15 separate cars will be available, ranging from roadsters to trucks to sports cars, each with their own separate statistics for armor, handling and unwreck charging. For some reason, though, it takes at least 3-5 seconds to load every car model, which really becomes grating when you're trying to choose a machine and a vinyl skin. Unfortunately, you'll be subjected to this for every race, which will wear your patience extremely thin. Players will also need to select from the 15 selectable weapons, which now include EMP and chain guns, radial mines and homing missiles. Unlike previous Full Auto titles, players can now also choose to mount weapons on the sides of cars. This allows players to have up to three separate streams of bullets that fly forward from their machine or other dangerous configurations that can maximize a player's firepower. To aid players with their shooting because of the lack of a second analog stick, Battlelines provides for a mild auto-lock on opponents that are within sight, as well as a targeting mechanic for destructible obstacles. Blast these, and you can litter the course with debris that can destroy your opponents.
The largest problem is that the vehicles and weapons are so unbalanced that it's easy to exploit the later equipment for unfair advantages. Once you've unlocked some of the later vehicles, like the Coercer or the Nosferatu, you can breeze around the various curves and obstacles without fear of fishtailing, which inadvertently happens to many of the earlier machines. This literally reduces the amount of times that you'll need to trigger the unwreck option at all. What's more, some of the weapons, like the chain guns, are so powerful that you can chew through two or more vehicles before they overheat and need to cool down. Considering that you can supplement your firepower with various weapon pick-ups, it's not particularly difficult to sit back and trash everything in front of you, race past their smoking shells, then slow down until they respawn and blast them again to complete your win conditions. This slows down the pacing of the game and doesn't make it particularly engaging. But don't be too concerned about using this tactic and not reaching the finish line in time: all of the cars are fast enough to beat every single AI opponent on a course with plenty of time to spare, so you'll never need to use the boost available for your cars.
With all of the single player issues, you'd wonder if the multiplayer is any better, solely because this is where the actual extension of the game's short single player life comes into play. Battlelines does support Ad Hoc play for up to four players, allowing you to host a game of any stage that you happen to have unlocked from the career mode. However, you can also carry over any of the later vehicles and weapons, so people who have just picked up the title start off with a massive disadvantage, especially if they're trying to face off against you in an Arena battle with a massively inferior machine. The only way that you'd be able to make the odds somewhat fair would be restricting play to the exact same vehicle and weapons. Even stranger, Game sharing doesn't let you play against your friends in a match. Instead, it sends over a single player circuit level demo.
At least Battlelines runs without the same slowdown problems that plagued some of the console titles in the series. Cars can fly through various fruit carts, panes of glass and other obstacles without detecting a hit on the frame rate, which is pretty impressive. Vehicles look pretty good as well, with car enthusiasts easily being able to pick out what the non-licensed vehicles are modeled after. Damage modeling is also rather nice for the PSP; however, the level designs are somewhat boring, with a large number of destructible objects that are repeated over and over again. It is impressive that any scattered detritus will remain on the ground, which can be potentially hazardous during circuit races, but the object detection is somewhat hit and miss: sometimes you can fly through the remnants of overpasses and statues, and other times you'll be halted in your tracks.
While the sound effects are pretty good, with differing sound levels based on the caliber of weapon fired or object that's smashed. This adds a lot to the experience, especially when you're racing around and you hear a triggered pick up behind you or the whine of a gun blasting around you. This is important, since there's no dialogue within the game, and while the soundtrack is okay, it's largely forgettable because of the weaker gameplay. Songs from groups like Wolfmother, The Used and Stone Sour crop up here and there, and are supposed to be there to add to the aggressive, "Destruction Matters" sense of gameplay. However, since you won't feel that with the gameplay, you're better served listening to the group's CDs on your own.
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