Full Auto 2: Battlelines is the sequel to Sega's Full Auto, a launch title for the Xbox 360. The original Full Auto was a pretty average game that was quickly forgotten in a big launch line-up. Fast-forward twelve months, and Sega are at it again, with Full Auto 2: Battlelines arriving just in time for the PlayStation 3 launch. However, with only minor improvements and non-evolving gameplay, Full Auto 2: Battlelines is tough to recommend in yet another very crowded launch line up.
If you're not familiar with the Full Auto franchise, it essentially takes two of the most destructive things you can imagine and pairs them up: cars and weapons. The original Full Auto also introduced the ability to rewind time, so if you went head-on into traffic or destroyed a building, then a simple tap would rewind what happened so you can correct your mistake and stay in first place. When it comes to the sequel, Sega hasn't changed the formula too drastically, so you're still able to rewind time to save yourself from a major accident.
The original Full Auto was all about chaotic destruction without meaning, though for Battlelines, Sega has tried to add a storyline to the mix. In the single-player story mode, you'll be answering to S.A.G.E, a computer program that beckons to you for help. An evil gang is running the streets and the police cannot stop them, so you need to participate in events to eliminate the gang. The story is extremely weak and feels tacked-on at best. One of our original complaints of the first Full Auto wasn't the lack of a story, so we don't see why Sega saw the need to include one. You'll learn to ignore the storyline, but to progress through the single-player mode you'll need to compete in a wide variety of increasingly difficult series.
Each series is divided up into several events with tracks or arenas. Arenas are a new addition to Battlelines - the arena matches lock you into a dome where you need to try and defeat all the other cars while trying to avoid damage. The arena matches are a decent addition to Battlelines, and it can be quite a bit of fun racing around the arenas causing a bundle of carnage. Each event also has primary and secondary objectives. The objectives will vary, and may require you to finish first in a race or destroy a certain number of vehicles.
Once you jump into a game it's hard not to be disappointed by how the game plays. The cars feel lifeless, and all feel very similar to one another. The button placement for the controls makes it hard to reach the handbrake. The left trigger is used to brake, whereas the right trigger accelerates the vehicle, yet if you would like to execute the handbrake, you'll need to press the square button. This is too fiddly, as you'll want to use the handbrake consistently, since the brakes aren't that effective. There are two possible control settings, but neither allows you to assign R1 to accelerating and R2 to the handbrake.
Each vehicle also has two weapons, and you'll initially begin with machine guns and smoke screens, though eventually will be granted access to grenade launchers, flamethrowers and rockets. Battlelines also features more weapons than its predecessor. Shooting your missiles or weapons can be a little bit difficult at times, because you have to actually aim your turret at the vehicle that is racing at a blistering speed. The game hasn't really changed that much from its predecessor either, so you're not getting a new experience with Battlelines if you played the previous title.
If you want to deviate from the single-player campaign, then the game includes support for up to eight players online. Gamespy powers the online play, and you can choose either ranked or unranked play. Unfortunately, we tried logging on several times and had trouble finding anyone to compete against, which may indicate PlayStation 3 owners are focusing on other PS3 games while online. The servers are worldwide too, so you'll be able to play online against gamers overseas. The search function in the game is incredibly slow mind, so you'll be waiting a while to find out whether or not there is a race happening. You're able to choose to race or drive around in the gladiator events. The game also includes leaderboards that track all time statistics and the monthly stats.
If you don't want to enter the career mode, but still want to have a quick race, then there is an arcade mode - in the arcade mode you can choose a race, an arena battle or a team arena battle. After you've chosen your location, vehicle and weapons you're ready to "loadout". One of the most impressive elements of Full Auto 2: Battlelines are the short loading times. You're never waiting more than five seconds to jump into a race, which is very impressive. If you can't find anyone online or don't have an online connection then the game also features split screen multiplayer. In the offline multiplayer you have the same options available to you as online players, so you can play gladiator events or straight races. The split screen multiplayer can be rather enjoyable and impressively the framerate for the game keeps up well.
Graphically the game looks a little better than the Xbox 360 version. The framerate, which dipped severely at times, has been improved and runs well most of the time. It does still dip, but nowhere near as often as in the original Full Auto. The levels are a little more detailed and the cars are better looking this time around. S.A.G.E provides pretty standard commentary and the audio fits the game well, but the music isn't all that memorable.
The career mode is lengthy enough to keep you entertained for a while, and there are plenty of unlockables including new car decals and of course, more powerful weapons. The split screen multiplayer is pretty chaotic and enjoyable, although the online mode just isn't all that populated.
Full Auto 2: Battlelines is a quick sequel (released only ten months after its predecessor in America) that is only a minor upgrade from its predecessor. There are far better games available on the PlayStation 3, though there is still hope for the Full Auto series. The game does show glimmers of hope but Sega will need to rework the game engine and provide something different, rather than a generic combat racing game.