Full Auto didn't go down too well with the Xbox 360 crowd when it hit Microsoft's console early in 2006, but its combination of high speed racing and vehicular combat filled a nice gap in the console's software line-up. A year on and it's time for PlayStation 3 owners to get their taste of SEGA's action packed racer, although this platform shifting sequel seems to have lost some of its appeal in the process.
If you're not familiar with Full Auto, its premise is incredibly simple. You race in vehicles armed with two weapons and attempt to win races while destroying rival racers. It has a Burnout crossed with Twisted Metal vibe to it, although Full Auto 2 sadly fails to match either in overall quality. The driving model doesn't feel tight enough for the game to excel as an arcade racer and the shooting mechanics are flawed due to an awkward aiming mechanism.
Additions to this sequel are rather meagre, to the degree that calling it a full sequel might be pushing things slightly. An awful lot of content from the original returns here, but there are new tracks, a brand-new 'story' and destruction arenas. Things also seem much faster than before, although if anything this worsens the experience, making racing while trying to shoot other racers even more tricky than before. Rubber-band AI means that shooting enemies for anything other than achieving certain objectives is often pointless, so for the most part it's easier to concentrate on driving.
Full Auto's unwreck (rewind time) feature returns, but it's been tied to your boost meter. Using either drains the meter, but seeing as unwreck is generally more useful it's easy to just ignore the boost altogether. Of course, the idea behind the combination was to introduce an added layer of depth but it's only served to add more frustration to a game that already had plenty.
The story is bizarre in the extreme and sees you taking orders from some kind of futuristic police artificial intelligence. From your garage you are sent on various missions to clear the streets of gangs, but it's really nothing more than a slightly glamorous front-end to what we saw last year on the Xbox 360. The introduction of combat arenas is good, seeing as they were sorely missed in the original game, but their implementation within the main story isn't as good as it should have been.
Early levels are good fun, with free-for-all events being both action packed and a genuine challenge, but things soon turn sour. For some reason the designers saw fit to pit you against teams of drivers, and these packs make for some horrendously unfair events that will test your patience to its limit. Due to the way the story mode is set-up, you'll often have to get past these tricky encounters before being able to attempt a more manageable race event, and before too long your will to continue will be completely drained.
Other changes are largely superficial and I found it hard to shake the feeling that I'd played most of what's on offer last year. Visually the game has been tweaked, now sporting some improved lighting and a marginally improved frame rate - although it's still far from smooth. It also runs in 1080p if you've got a TV that supports it and there's an option for 7.1 surround sound, but 5.1 does the job just fine.
Online play has been included and lets you take part in all of the main race types, in an every racer for himself or team-based scenario, but you'll be lucky to find anyone playing online. The few games I did manage to set-up worked practically hitch-free, although not being able to talk to fellow racers (as you could in the 360 game) lessened the experience somewhat - you ideally want to let someone know your thoughts on receiving a missile up your exhaust pipe.
While the PlayStation 3launch line-up is lacking in true exclusive titles, Full Auto 2 isn't of the quality early adopters will be looking for. Despite its sequel status it's largely the same game that Xbox 360 gamers have been playing for over a year and the new additions do little to enhance the game as a whole - in some cases they make it a more frustrating game. The Full Auto franchise certainly has the potential to grow into something that every gamer will have an interest in, but its PS3 debut fails to capitalise on this obvious opportunity.