August 10, 2005

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/flatout/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Demolition derbies are great to watch and undoubtedly more fun to be in, assuming you can avoid the risk of certain death. [i]FlatOut[/i], the new demolition racer from Bugbear, places you in the middle of that action and eliminates the risk of serious bodily harm (at least for you).

At its core, [i]FlatOut[/i] is an entertaining racer that is very shallow but packs in quite a few outlandish bonus games that are sure to keep you playing. Upon loading [i]FlatOut[/i], you are presented with a few gameplay options: Career, Quick Race, Time Trial, and Multiplayer. You will spend quite a bit of your time playing Career mode, and it is very similar to what you would expect. Career mode is basically a series of races in three different racing circuits: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Placing in the top three slots for each race will unlock the next race for you, and the higher up you place, the more cash you are awarded to upgrade your clunker with new parts or even buy a new car. In addition to standard races, you will also get to try your hand at some wacky bonus races. Bonus races are a collection of races that range from Demo Derbies to very strange High Jump challenges. These special races make special use of one aspect of the physics engine that some people will find offensive: hurling your driver through the windshield at neck-breaking speeds. Bonus courses also reward you for your hard work, and I have found that mastering the High Jump is the fastest way to build a sizeable amount of cash for purchasing vehicle upgrades.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/flatout/ss10_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Actual races in [i]FlatOut[/i] are quite simple and will require a mix of skills from standard racing as well as rally racing. Powersliding is a technique that will come in quite handy. Launching your driver from the car is also present in these standard races and can become highly annoying. The AI racers in Career mode are very aggressive and will oftentimes run you into a tree or some other obstacle and send your driver tumbling in the road. As expected, this causes quite an annoying delay in getting back on the track and continuing your race. The advantage to this is that the AI drivers are just as prone to slamming into obstacles as you are, so they don’t ever seem to get too far ahead. Rubberbanding also makes a nasty appearance in [i]FlatOut[/i] that keeps you from getting too far ahead as well.

One of the great things about [i]FlatOut[/i] is that the environments are incredibly destructible. Just about anything on or off the track can be slammed into and broken. Clipping a sign will cause it to come crashing down, possibly slowing down your opponents that are right on your tail. As the races progress, your car will also reflect impressive levels of damage. Unlike most games, you are basically rewarded for wrecking your car and hitting obstacles. Nitro boost is awarded as you plow into objects or other cars on the track. Not to worry about the damage, though, as it takes an awful lot to prevent your car from driving.

One complaint I have about [i]FlatOut[/i] is the lack of variety in cars and tracks. There are only a few areas that make up the settings for the races, and oftentimes they feel highly repetitive. The models and environments look great, but a wider variety would have been nice.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/flatout/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]I didn’t take [i]FlatOut[/i] online, but the multiplayer is apparently a blast with eight drivers causing massive carnage. A few key points about the online gaming is that the Xbox version is missing online demo derbies, and the PC version is missing the online component completely, only providing LAN play. So the one console that lacks a solid online solution is the only one that gets the full range of online options.

[i]FlatOut[/i]’s developer Bugbear is based in Europe, so the music will be a little strange for those in the States. After awhile, the music just blended it, but Bugbear would be wise to allow Xbox and PC gamers to make use of custom soundtracks in future games.

When it is all said and done, [i]FlatOut[/i] delivers a rusty demolition racing experience that provides a shallow amount of entertainment. The bonus levels are good for short bursts of entertainment and carnage, and the Career mode is provided as the staple for current racing games. My recommendation is that race fans should give this one a shot. The spectacular crash sequences may just be worth it.

Score: 2/5

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