Full Auto 2: Battlelines

Destruction matters, says Full Auto 2: Battlelines’ producer Mike Gallo. In Auto 2, the race won’t always go to the most talented driver in the fastest car. Sometimes, it will go to the man smart enough to create his own personal shortcut through the office building, or devious enough to drop the overhanging cargo container on the opposition…

Consider Auto 2 to be Electronic Arts’ racer Burnout with weapons-laden cars. The game offers destructive-themed racing at high speeds; environments that can be smashed through, blown up, or otherwise wrecked but good; and vehicles that splinter, spark, shatter, and shear in the most delightful ways.

With the mantra “destruction matters” in mind, Sega’s crafted a game where explosions and wrecks serve a greater purpose. Burnout rewards players for causing spectacular crashes, creating huge traffic snarls, and wiping out the competition, but it never gives players the opportunity to wreck the environment to sabotage other racers.

Auto 2 lets players use its malleable environments to create shortcuts and impassable obstacles. Better still, it gives players the power to be creative in the way they defeat or eliminate their opposition. Now, when a driver rockets by a nearby water tower, it’s entirely possible for him to target it with a rocket, knock it off its base, and cause it to crash and roll along the race course, crushing all in its path.

Crashes in Auto 2 (and it’s a slow minute when there aren’t at least five of them), are greeted with on-screen exclamations such as “Wrecked!” and “Splat!” In the game’s single-player mode, it’s possible to undo crashes and other mishaps by hitting the R1 button and reversing time; Sega calls the feature “unwreck.” Unwreck, beyond its obvious cool factor, also lends a strategic aspect to play; if used correctly, the feature lets players restore their position in a race or gives them the opportunity to try something new.

On the PlayStation 3, the game looks simply smashing. The burnished metal cars, polished to a high shine, reflect the words from an overhanging sign (“Arrive Alive / Don’t Drink and Drive”) on their roofs and rear windshields. Blur lines complement the game’s already pervasive sense of speed. Chimneys in industrial areas belch out puffs of grayish-white smoke. Fire and a blackened char erupt from a car’s cannon, and a player’s view will be briefly obstructed by the rocket’s blazing trail. Sparks fly out indiscriminately when two cars make contact with one another, or when one car scrapes against a wall or rail.

With further contact, a car’s windows shatter, its frame buckles, and it begins to toss off body parts: a trunk hood here, a bumper there. Finally, the game goes black-and-white when a car wrecks, and it might be possible to see a hapless driver flung from the stricken vehicle. All told, the effects come together to form an almost-dizzying high-speed blur for players to take in.

Auto 2 features more than 25 different vehicles, six of which are brand-new for the game. Each, of course, has its own strengths and inclinations. Players can load their cars with 20 different front- and rear-mounted weapons such as cannons, shotguns, and mortar launchers. Powerups are scattered throughout the game’s routes, allowing for speed boosts and limitless ammunition for a short period of time.

Recently, Sega let a series of game critics test out Full Auto 2’s multiplayer options in a series of 8-man competitions. Deathmatch and team deathmatch were straightforward auto brawls made ever more interesting by a series of narrow underground corridors players could use alternately as escape routes when things got too hot, or a well-mined deathtrap when being pursued by other racers.

A base assault mode proved to be Auto 2’s great draw in terms of multiplayer action. Teams of four were paired off into red and blue teams (driving, of course, red and blue cars) and asked to hunt down a randomly placed bomb. Once captured, the bomb could be used to take out opposing drivers — provided its carrier blew up his car, that is. The goal, however, was to drive the bomb to the enemy’s headquarters and explode it. Here, it was necessary to take advantage of the game’s destructive environments to quickly get from one end of the course to another; a huge glass tower’s entrance pavilion could be pulverized allowing the creation of a very handy shortcut leading to the both sides’ headquarters.

The knock on the original Full Auto, which saw release on the Xbox 360, was that it was fairly mindless, an exercise in destruction for destruction’s sake. Sega’s seemingly addressed this with the sequel and, although it remains to be seen how much Auto 2’s destruction really matters, it’s at least somewhat comforting to know that it now has a method to go with its madness.
(By Greg Orlando. http://videogames.yahoo.com/masthead)