The original Full Auto debuted on the Xbox 360 and tried to be a thrilling combat racing game but ultimately failed. The explosions were cool, but the handling was bad, the car physics made everything feel weightless, and the weapons weren't much fun to use. Full Auto 2: Battlelines has switched sides and is exclusively available on the PlayStation 3. It makes some changes to how you outfit your vehicle, attempts to add a storyline, and adds a new arena mode that makes it a bit more like the car combat games of old. But it doesn't fix the core problems of the first game, so all the new modes only serve to make the bad handling, questionable physics, and dull weaponry stand out that much more. Whether you're familiar with the previous game or not, this game probably isn't for you.
The storyline has you answering to a computer-based authority figure called S.A.G.E. This female-voiced computer summons you because an evil gang is running the streets. The police can't stop them, so it's up to you to enter the gang's car combat events and take them out from the inside. It's a very thin story that doesn't add anything meaningful to the game. The career mode takes you from one series to the next, and each series has a number of different events in it. While there are more events than there are tracks or arenas, the game changes things up by giving you different primary and secondary objectives. Sometimes you'll just need to finish first. At other times, you'll have to gun down a specific vehicle, then finish first. There are also arena levels that take away the racetrack and give you a wide-open level on which to fight. In the arena levels, you'll have to blow up your enemies to succeed, and you're usually on a time limit too. You'll have to hit the primary objectives to move on, and meeting the secondary objectives, helps you to unlock more stuff. But you'll unlock most of what you need just by getting the primaries, so unless you're crazy about getting new paint jobs for your car, you don't need to get every single little thing.
So the main focus of the game is racing around in cars and shooting everything that moves; two things that are cornerstones of the video game industry. But the way Full Auto 2 brings them together isn't very exciting. The driving is brought down by poor car control. The vehicles all very floaty and weightless, and the way they fly through the air after hitting jumps just doesn't feel right. Also, the handling lacks finesse, making it very easy to just bang your way through every corner without really caring that you're hitting walls all over the place. The hand brake lets you slide a bit through turns; but the sliding, too, doesn't feel right at all. In addition to basic driving, you can fire two weapons. You select your weapons individually prior to starting the race and unlock more as you go. So the weak machine gun and smoke screen combo you're limited to at the beginning quickly gives way to a shotgun, grenade launchers, mines, and so on. The fire controls work decently, and you can even aim some of the front weapons with the right stick. But because you need to hit the face buttons pretty frequently to fire your secondary weapon or hit the hand brake, you don't have much time to fiddle around with aiming your front weapon. The other two things at your disposal are a speed boost and "unwreck," which is a button that lets you rewind time when things go wrong and hope that they pan out a bit better the next time. Unlike the first game, your boost and unwreck are linked to the same meter; so if you boost a lot, you'll be unable to unwreck as frequently. But the speed boost almost always seems more useful than the ability to rewind your mistakes, so unwreck feels mostly useless.
In addition to the career mode, you can jump into any race or arena via an arcade mode and just play, but you'll still be limited by what you've unlocked in the career. The multiplayer options let you play two-player games locally or up to eight players online. The online mode has options for ranked and unranked arena battles and races, and you can limit which cars are chosen to help keep things fair, but the weapon selection is always based on what you've unlocked in the career. Of course, there is a catch. It's either a function of the rarity of the PlayStation 3 or a statement about the popularity of Full Auto 2, but it seems like almost no one is playing this game online. Ranked matches require four players to start, and even after sitting in a ranked connection screen with one other racer for more than an hour, no one else joined up to play. Unranked games can go with just two players, but even those seem to be in extremely short supply. To add an extra layer of frustration, there's no way to communicate with other players, so you can't even put on a headset or plug in a keyboard and say "Hey, instead of sitting here for another hour, how about we go try an unranked match instead?" In the few multiplayer games we were able to find, the game ran reasonably well, but there was a noticeable amount of jumpiness and lag to the way the opposing cars move. Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to online experiences of any kind, but don't expect to find a bustling community to play with online.
Full Auto 2 runs in 1080p, if you're equipped with a television that can handle it. Even at this high resolution, the game runs at a mostly stable frame rate, but it isn't as smooth as Ridge Racer 7, the other 1080p racing game on the PS3. The game has decent explosions, but the environments are sort of plain, and the game doesn't deliver an especially thrilling sense of speed either. If you're looking for a point of comparison, it does look better and run smoother than its Xbox 360-based predecessor, but the difference never seems huge. The sound is essentially what you'd expect it to be, with plenty of explosions, gun fire, and engine noises. The music is pretty generic electronic music that fits with the action. The more important vehicles in the career mode actually have licensed music associated with them, with the idea that as you get closer, that car's theme song starts getting louder and louder. But the jarring switch from the regular racing music over to the licensed track and then back again if you fall behind, makes this better in concept than it is in practice.
In fact, that's the case for all of Full Auto 2: Battlelines. A high-speed racing game with action-packed weaponry and destructible environments is a solid, if somewhat uninspired, concept. But in practice, not a single aspect of the game comes out feeling right, and what's left is a generic racing shooter that fails to excite from end to end. Unless you're absolutely, positively desperate for something new on the PlayStation 3, you can most definitely stay away from Full Auto 2.