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Full Auto 2: Battlelines
Preview By: Andrew Joy
Developer: Pseudo Interactive
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: Racing
ESRB: Teen
# Of Players: 1-2 (8 online)
Online Play: Yes
Accessories: HDTV 720p, PlayStation Network (online play)
Estimated Release: 11/17/2006

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For me, the announcement of Full Auto 2: Battlelines came as a bit of shock, and for a few reasons. First off, the original wasn’t received all that well on the Xbox 360, so the fact that a sequel was in the works was surprising, to say the least. Second, the decision to make this game a PS3-exclusive bewildered me, as, even if the first did do poorly on the 360, it would make more sense for SEGA to distribute the cost of Full Auto 2’s development across multiple systems. Finally, and perhaps most astonishing to me, was that no one even cared...on either side. I mean, it is a rare thing for a game to jump ship and switch consoles without either A) outrage from the abandoned party, B) merciless taunting of the abandoned party, or C) both. This time, there was nothing. Unlike a lot of people, I was impressed with my (albeit limited) playtime with the game. I mean, as you might be able to tell from that statement, I didn’t run out and by the game, but I did find it to be an enjoyable experience, so the thought of a sequel is kind of exciting to me. But, upon closer inspection, for those of you who found the original Full Auto to be lacking, it doesn’t look like Battlelines is offering much to change your mind.

Full Auto 2: Battlelines

Of the various modes in Full Auto 2, I had the most trouble finding information about the Story Mode. So, if I happen to gloss over those details, you’ll have to forgive; I don’t mean to, and I wouldn’t normally, but I can’t find anything. Then again, being primarily a racing game at its core, I don’t suppose it is as important, and the premise is simple enough...anything beyond that is superfluous, really. That said, essentially your main goal seems to be to become the best car combatant in Meridian City. Broken into six main districts (think Industrial, Financial, etc.), each part of the city has its own rival (or boss, if you prefer) who you must out-fight and out-race in order to take over their various territories and all that comes with it, including their cars. This time, there will be around 25 vehicles to obtain, a few more than the first game, and probably broken into similar classes. Each vehicle will be customizable, with the player being able to equip a variety of weapons to help compliment their play style and strategies against upcoming opponents. A lot of strategies from the last game will return as well, though there have been some changes. For instance, while you can still "unwreck" your car, rewinding time to undo a fatal mistake, less emphasis has been put on it this time around and its use is much more balanced. And, on the other end of the spectrum, destructable environments are now being put to more use. You can still destroy just about everything you see, but in addition to making shortcuts for yourself, you can also create better obstacles and traps to stop your opponents.

Really, without seeing the final version in action, it is hard to say how Full Auto 2 will look compared to other PS3 titles, though we do have some precedent. By more recent standards (especially against upcoming games like Ridge Racer 7), the original Full Auto certainly wouldn’t be considered one of the best looking games out there. However, as SEGA released the game within the Xbox 360’s launch window, they seem to have taken the quickest, easiest path to being considered next-gen: making everything shiny! Don’t get me wrong, the game didn’t look bad – at least, I liked it – but it wasn’t the strong show of the hardware’s capabilities that one might have hoped for. In addition to the oh-so-slick appearance of the cars, the game also made a big show with lots of explosions and tons of destructible environments, with millions of little pieces littering the screen.

Apart from the enhancements to destructible environments that I mentioned above, I don’t expect the two versions will be that different. I mean, there will be a boost in graphics, to be sure, likely with more impressive explosions and car models, but I don’t think Battlelines will be a real show of the system’s power, so in that sense they could be the same. We’ll also likely see, or rather hear, more of the same when it comes to the audio, though the developers are trying out a couple of new tricks here. For example, each rival will have their own theme song if you will, chosen from music ranging from Megadeth to Sum 41, and as you get closer to them, the music volume will increase. Now, that may not sound too exciting, I know, but we’ve seen similar concepts used in games like Painkiller: Hell Wars (Xbox) and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and it is quite effective in fueling the moment.

Full Auto 2: Battlelines

Outside of the main game, no doubt multiplayer matches will be able to fuel their own moments as well. Full Auto 2 has a variety of modes to support it, both online and off. Unfortunately, much to my displeasure, split screen is limited to just two players. Now, while I realize it may help keep the screen from becoming too cluttered, especially with all that action, I can’t help but think it would help make this game perfect for a group of friends if only it supported more players. But, for those of you who prefer your relationships to remain long distance, Battlelines will offer multiplayer for up to eight players over Sony’s burgeoning online network. While the game does offer a variety of modes, from a sort of destruction derby to your standard races and more, the player count again has me a little bothered. Now, perhaps I’m just asking too much, but so long as you’ve got the game online, you must as well give the race a proper twelve slots. Of course, the Xbox 360 version offered the same numbers, and this will likely serve to keep lag down as well. There’s really been no word yet on downloadable content and microtransactions, but with a game of this sort, it would be hard to imagine SEGA not offering up at least an exclusive car or something along those lines, but we’ll keep you posted.

It’s understandable that people can be under-whelmed with Full Auto 2: Battlelines. If you’ve never played the original, then the series likely looks like nothing more than your typical car combat game, and if you have played the game...then you know it is. And the sequel, for all intents and purpose, seems more like a port than a brand new game. However, the series does have its charms, and the destructible environments and "unwreck" feature are taken in slightly different directions this time around, so it should be interesting to see the end result. However, as I looked more and more into this game, I consistently found myself wondering where the real improvements were going to be, and I found myself coming up with all blanks. The multiplayer has identical numbers to the Xbox 360 version released almost a year ago and the controls, near as we can tell, will not make use of the SIXAXIS’ tilt-sensitive abilities, which would seem to suit the game perfectly. All in all, Full Auto 2 does not justify a $600+ purchase...but so long as you’re putting out that money for a console anyway, it may be worth a $5 rental.

Posted: 2006-10-31 22:35:00 PST