With the exception of retina-searingly exotic visual effects, there's no surer way for a racing game to catch our attention than explosions, debris and heavily deformed cars. Carmageddon made that point with bloody aplomb, and it's been emphasised ever since by a succession of increasingly destructible ARRRGH-'em-ups. Empire is presumably hoping that FlatOut, in development at Bugbear Entertainment, can woo us in much the same way. And, in the absence of screenshots, shattering this and exploding that is all we really have to go on.
To be fair there is an awful lot of it. Across 45 tracks, the 16 (upgradeable) cars will go at it, smashing fences, sending tyre walls all over the place, and leaving water tanks and barrels strewn across the track for other cars to run into and then careen, arms presumably flailing, toward barns and other smashable trackside buildings. Cars will apparently handle with a decent weight, causing masses of damage to everything on the track including themselves - Empire promises "40 deformable pieces" per car - and creating obstacles that last the length of the race.
What's more, FlatOut can apparently be played in a bunch of ways - serving fans of free-roaming racing with shortcuts and jumps, whilst also catering for fans of racing lines and speedy lap times. Throw in some mini-games and the now-requisite online options and - assuming it's more than just a crash simulator - you ought to have something worth keeping an eye on. We'll do just that, and let you know how it's faring in the run-up to a Q3 2004 release on PS2, Xbox and PC.
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