Genre: Racing Combat
Developer: Pseudo Interactive
Release Date: Fall 2006
If you're a fan of the first Full Auto, the Xbox 360 combat racer that arrived earlier this year to mixed, but positive-leaning reviews, you have reason to look forward to this fall – if you're also saving up for a PlayStation 3. The sequel, Full Auto 2: Battlelines, as of the last day of E3 2006, is set to be a PS3 exclusive. After some developer face-time and about 15 minutes of hands-on multiplayer combat at E3, I can say that Battlelines will deliver gameplay that feels quite similar to the first tour in Staunton City, but it will also include some welcome gameplay additions to increase the frenzy factor.
The standout newcomers to the Full Auto arsenal are the limited-use pickup weapons that trash opponents and environments alike. The only playable pickup at E3 was the mortar launcher, excellent for scrapping enemies foolish enough to get tangled too long in groups as well as knocking down structures like train tracks to score environmental kills. The devs promised that at least one such opportunity for using the environment to your advantage will be designed into each level. In addition to the new pickups, the standard arsenal will be pumped up, too. The new rear-mounted flamethrower made the demo, but the Pseudo Interactive reps weren't at liberty to reveal the nature of any other new tools for destroying fellow road warriors.
Full Auto veterans will remember that weapons loadouts came pre-configured in combos of front and rear weapons. That system's been junked in favor of freedom of choice, and Battlelines will offer more flexible options that only limit your selections from the 20 available weapons according to the size and weight of your vehicle. That should go a long way to encouraging the development of more diverse play styles, especially in online multiplayer matches. In that spirit, if you're more interested in pulling off t-bones than spamming the course with mines, collisions will pay off with more significant damage in Battlelines. Compensating for the relative slowness of SUVs with extra ramming power essentially gives them a free third weapon and adds another frantic element to the gameplay, as every time you drop to zero MPH thanks to a botched turn, you're vulnerable to any hulking death-mobiles that catch you feebly trying to back up and get back in the race.
If you played the original without paying attention to your armor, you may have to adopt a more mindful approach, or your Battlelines experience might be significantly more punishing. The comparative armor status of each combatant will be more important in the sequel, allowing more maneuverable sports cars to speed around chuggier trucks and soften up their armor with rocket fire, and then go in for the ram kill. On the other hand, if you charge your coupe at a truck with 100% armor, even if yours is equally healthy, you're going to hand the big guy an easy kill. If you still prefer speed over brute force, you'll have more of those faster, exotic cars to choose from this time around, including the HSK, designed to challenge the first game's Wraith, and several other muscle and sports models among the 25 total vehicles available.
The Unwreck function will return in Battlelines, though the devs said it's undergoing balancing to make it more of a challenge to keep your rewind meter full. They're hoping to make the feature more of a strategic asset, best reserved for undoing the most serious missteps, and less of a use-it-whenever crutch. It remains a single-player feature only, however. Multiplayer will support up to eight players per online match and two in splitscreen. Battlelines will get some new arena-style maps to support additional multiplayer modes, including some team-based deathmatch variations to be announced later.
Battlelines will be set in and around Staunton City again, including an expanded city outskirts track, though the playable level at E3 was a downtown area that looked very much like the original's environments. Lighting and reflections are clearly getting upgrades, and the flame effects, as well as the mortar round's shock wave, appear to go a bit beyond the visual polish of Full Auto on the Xbox 360. The Pseudo Interactive rep said the graphics will get their due, with an expanded roster of developers working on making the visuals take full advantage of the PS3's capabilities.
The return of the Unwreck rewind, more environmental destructibility, more emphasis on collisions and maintaining a heightened sense of action — these all sound like solid additions to the Full Auto formula, only you're going to have to add a PS3 to the formula, too. The PS3 exclusivity's going to disappoint Xbox 360 owners excited enough by the first title to want to see where the series is headed in its sophomore outing. If you're open-minded and open-walleted enough to get over the console wars politicking, though, what's new in Full Auto 2: Battlelines will be worth a look for fans of its predecessor, especially for the expanded online action, when it hits the PS3 before the end of the year.
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