The old axiom "if you don't succeed, try again" must have been the mantra at developer Pseudo Interactive this past year. Heeding the feedback from their first Full Auto on the Xbox 360, the PS3-exclusive follow-up has improved on its predecessor in every single ridiculously destructive way. An eviscerating visual cacophony, it sports a much wider array of weapons, vehicles, and - most importantly - mission variety. Played at a pace that just about borders on Ludicrous Speed, it's a feast for the eyes and ears as you tear through Meridian City's districts with a pin-your-ears-back-and-let-the-bullets-fly attitude.
The most obvious improvements are the new, arena-style gladiatorial matches that involve pure destruction - blast, smash, and dash. Sure, there are still plenty of old-fashioned races that'll have you focusing on finishing first, but you'll still get to annihilate your enemies, the racetrack and city in general.
No matter what the event, Battlelines will rekindle your love affair with fiery explosions. A surprisingly broad array of carnage-inducing tools are at your disposal, from good old machine guns and rear-end grenade launchers to napalm, lasers and mortars. The smokescreen actually functions pretty well this time around, too, causing the poor sap trailing you to be engulfed in a black, oily cloud of crap that'll virtually blind them for a few moments. Wouldn't you love to do that to all tailgaters?
The sounds and sights of the fury are impressive, from the extravagantly destructible environments to the myriad paths around a single track. It doesn't take long for the difficulty to ramp up, and there'll be more than a few occasions where you'll end up trying dozens of times to finish a single mission. Many times, victory depends on picking the right car/weapon combination in addition to a steady hand and a bit of luck, especially since the computer-controlled racers will deal out loads of punitive beatdowns on your ride.
The car handling is a bit strange; kind of a point-and-turn-on-rails feel as opposed to a true driving simulator. The arcade-y controls won't cause much grief for you, but the difference in the ways cars behave here is quite a departure from most of the auto titles you've been playing lately. Burnout or Gran Turismo this ain't - steering and brakes clearly take a back seat to the weapons and environmental destruction. Considering how well those two aspects work, we can live with that decision.
There are a few nifty online options too, although with the scant numbers of PS3s out in the world, it can be pretty tough to find a decent match. Here's hoping that, as more units flood our collective living rooms, the community at large will come ready to roll. What few multiplayer matches we did get rolling were wickedly entertaining - another serious improvement from last time.
While it's got a couple of nagging problems - the animation quality drops when there's too much action going on, for one - it's pretty clear that Battlelines is one of the better early PS3 titles. If you can handle the challenge, there's a whole lot going on under the hood that'll get your motor running and guns blazing.