Developer: Deep Fried Entertainment
Release Date: March 20, 2007
The car combat game genre virtually exploded during the original PlayStation era with Sony's Twisted Metal franchise. Many publishers and developers tried to emulate Twisted Metal's success, but none of them could find the right formula to dethrone the triumphant king. Sony themselves couldn't even top the PSOne-era Twisted Metal series with their slightly less well-received PS2 iteration.
After years of fruitless attempts, the car combat genre had almost completely disappeared altogether, until Sega decided to roll out Full Auto for the Xbox 360 last year. The first game showed some promise but was overall very lacking in the gameplay department. Sega tried its luck again with the PS3-exclusive Full Auto 2 near the console's launch window and still failed to make any significant waves. Unable to draw substantial gaming dollars for the home console versions, Sega opted to test their new franchise in the handheld market, with the release of Full Auto 2: Battlelines for the PSP.
This would initially seem like a step in the right direction, as most handheld games are better suited for pick-up-and-play gaming. Full Auto 2's fairly elementary "drive and gun" formula does make it easily accessible to just about any video game player, but it doesn't offer much in the way of longevity. The game's difficulty ramps at an even pace, and there are plenty of different "courses" available to get your race on, but the fun just doesn't last very long because of its rather garden variety approach toward gameplay.
In the game's career mode, you'll work your way through a tree table of races that take place in urban city environments, from top to bottom, until you've finished enough to move forward to the next tree. As you complete each race and manage to meet all of your objectives, you'll unlock different skins for your vehicles, and eventually, more vehicles. On the negative side, though, you're mostly unlocking skins that have no impact on the actual gameplay whatsoever.
At the start of Full Auto 2, you have three car options, each with their own defining strengths and weaknesses, such as speed, defense, and handling. Further down the road, you'll have a fairly wide assortment of vehicles at your disposal, as the stat gaps between cars become much smaller. Still, it's really nice to have the choice, because some events or races are more aligned toward different strengths. You're not always going to be gunning for first place; sometimes, your only goal is to take out a certain number of your opponents, in which case you'd rather have a car with good handling. There are also destruction derby-like events, where whoever gets the most "kills" wins the match; therefore, you want a car with a higher defense rating. It's pretty basic, but nonetheless a finely crafted system.
On the PS3 version of Full Auto 2, steering was delegated to the left analog, while targeting was operated by the right. Since the PSP doesn't have that control option, Full Auto 2 on the PSP uses an auto-targeting system. You're able to steer left or right with either the directional pad or the analog nub, and the Triangle button will lock onto a specific target. The largest problem you'll find with the controls, though, is that while you're trying to steer and hold down the X button to accelerate, moving your fingers up to the trigger buttons to fire your weapons will cause your hands to start to cramp up. This is more a limitation of the PSP, and not necessarily the game's fault, but it makes extended playing sessions literally painful.
Your weapons obviously play a large role in Full Auto 2, and at the beginning of each race, you're allowed to choose your tools of destruction. They range from machine gun turrets, to rocket launchers and backwards dropping mines. You set one as your primary weapon to the right trigger, and the other as your secondary weapon to the left. They have unlimited ammunition but will overheat if you use them too much in rapid succession. If that situation occurs, they have varying cool-down rates; once the meter has replenished, you can start firing at will.
You have to inflict vast amounts of damage to your opponents to crash their vehicles, so it can be quite challenging to rack up kills. You'll waste a lot of time and overheat your weapons far too often, as the default targeting system isn't always entirely accurate. If you can't seem to get it done with your main weapons, though, there are all kinds of power-ups you can pick up along the way that cause all sorts of devastating chaos to your surroundings and will easily help you rack up some one-hit kills.
As mentioned earlier, finishing a race in one of the top slots isn't always your primary objective. Coming in first place in most races is rarely a problem, but completing the rest of your objectives in addition to finishing first is a much more complicated exercise. If you try to soar out ahead and go for first place, the competition is usually lagging too far behind for you to complete the "kill (X) amount of opponents" objective. Then, every once in a while, you'll also have to smash through and destroy a certain amount of environmental objects before you cross the finish line.
Probably the most innovative objective, though, is when you're tasked with destroying special targets. These are destructible objects in the environment that will physically alter the course pathway, such as collapsing a bridge overpass, or wrecking up the road terrain. For the most part, these nifty environmental changes do a good job. They look pretty cool, and you can drop an overpass on one of your enemies, but sometimes they can be detrimental to your success, as you'll forget about them during the next lap and slam headfirst into a collapsed bridge at 100 mph.
Battlelines does support multiplayer, but only in Ad Hoc mode, so there's nothing to do online. You can share the game with a friend and do some matches that way, but with the fast-paced play Full Auto 2 offers, some online support could have taken the game's overall experience a long way. The game supports four players in any of the match types available in the single-player mode.
Full Auto 2 has a lot going on, visually. There are destructible items strewn all over the city streets, plenty of traffic to get in your way and a surprisingly large amount of buildings to crash into. The environments are colorful enough, and there's a decent amount of detail put into your surroundings. The car models, however, just look passable. They fall apart as you take damage and do so quasi-realistically, but some of them are almost box-shaped, and a lot of clipping and pop-up occurs. The frame rate dips every now and again, also, to the point where the cars sort of look like they're blinking in and out.
Battlelines has an entirely licensed soundtrack, featuring mostly generic rock/punk pop artists, such as Sum 41, Stretch Arm Strong, The Used, Stone Sour and Methods of Mayhem. If you're into this type of music you won't be disappointed, other than the lack of available tracks. As for the rest, the sounds of destruction and weapons fire are crisp and clear and thoroughly commendable.
In the end, Full Auto 2: Battlelines's another car combat game that fails to deliver on the level of Twisted Metal. There are a decent amount of races, events and courses to keep you occupied, but there's not much to it, gameplay-wise, to keep you playing for long, as everything is fairly basic and by-the-numbers. Sadly, there's also the hand-cramping situation, sure to pop up for anyone involved in extended playing sessions. Full Auto 2 is a decent idea if you're looking for a game to just pick up and play for short periods of time, but as a worthwhile purchase, it doesn't have the goods to back it up. If the multiplayer had included online support, this easily could've been a good addition to the PSP library. As it stands, it's just another shallow wave in the sea of mediocrity.
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