Version tested: PC
FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage
- Publisher: Empire
- Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
- Genre: Racing
FlatOut racing has no rules. It's just floor-the-accelerator and do what you must to win. The tracks consist mostly of straights and gentle corners you can fly down, although there are some tighter bends it's necessary to brake for and power-slide around, so the game isn't a complete blundering no-skill affair.
If you've not experienced it before, FlatOut is a destruction-based racer. Smashing into obstacles and other drivers, as well as catching air off big ramps, fills your nitro boost meter up. This means even on those tighter turns, you can batter your way around on other cars, as the time lost in the bumping and scraping is made up for by the turbo boost you'll bag and use on the next straight.
As a result, the races in the career mode are pretty wild. Be prepared for T-boned cars, bonnets and doors flying everywhere, ripped up chain-link fences and smashed shop windows (one track has you driving through the plate glass windows of a shopping mall). It's total carnage, and some of the huge pile-ups that occur on a lap-by-lap basis are fabulously chaotic, not to mention lusciously rendered with some excellent damage modelling.
Although this maximum wreckage policy does have its drawbacks. It plays merry hell with your insurance for starters (just how many points do you get for driving through a shopping centre?) and the savage AI opposition can prove more than a handful. Quite often you'll be tootling along quite happily nudging up towards the podium places, and some bugger behind you will use their nitro boost and come flying up, bumping and spinning you out. Then you'll be hit by someone else while you're trying to get back onto the track. On the one hand, it's kind of cool that the AI drivers are as malevolent as any human would be, but on the other it's bloody annoying to be suddenly blindsided and effectively out of the race with nothing you could realistically have done about it.
The lack of variety in the vehicles is a slight concern, too. There's a choice between faster sports cars and more durable pick-up trucks, but to be honest there isn't a huge deal of difference no matter what you drive. Although FlatOut can't be accused of lacking diversity in the events it throws at the player.
Even the straightforward races are run through a wide range of environments, with novelty shortcuts aplenty, and there are also time trials, destruction derbies, plus challenges where you've got to reach checkpoints before a timer bomb ticks down and the car explodes. On top of that, there's also a range of stunt mini-games which involve craziness such as launching your driver through the windscreen to knock down pins in a large-scale version of ten-pin bowling that'd make Tufty spin in his pet cemetery.
Overall, it's a very entertaining low-tech drive and demolish racer, but with one caveat for veterans of the series - they'll have seen much of the game already in FlatOut 2. Sure, some content has been added to the single-player, although the multiplayer has been beefed up more with online racing provided courtesy of Games For Windows Live. The visuals are far more polished, and upping the amount of cars in a race from eight to twelve has certainly increased FlatOut's carnage factor (to an ultimate level, no less). Whether that's enough to warrant a purchase is a judgement call, and a thin one to which we'll give a marginal nod.