FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage
Developer: Bugbear
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-8 online
Words By:

Before I wrote the review for the next-gen smash Ďem up FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage I went back over the review I wrote for the original game for the Xbox. I whole-heartedly agree with everything I wrote in the review, and more things are the same than have changed, only this time there seems to have been a lot more love put into the game. Regardless of what you read in the review the first time you play this game you will have a big smile on your face.

FlatOut has firstly upped the stakes in its racing engine. Where before it felt like a pepped-up Destruction Derby it now plays a lot alike the Burnout games, but a lot grittier so perhaps like its inbred cousin. The ante has definitely been upped with the 360 as more of everything has been crammed onto the tracks: more cars on track (twelve now), more alternate routes and way more interactive items and scenery.

Apparently there are over 8,000 interactive items on each track and its no joke-each track is literally crammed with log piles to smash through, department stores to create holes in and barns to storm, not to mention the other eleven cars to use as battering rams. Itís hard to describe that much destruction on-screen but everything is individually animated and lighter things bounce for miles if you hit them hard enough - smashing into tyre walls is the most impressive as individual tyres billow into the air and litter the road behind you. The destruction in FlatOut is an orchestrated symphony where everything seems to click.

The graphics are some of the best Iíve seen on the 360, with the cars looking amazing until you bend the metal and cave the roof inÖ and then they look even better! The sun and shadow effects are very impressive (driving at dusk is almost impossible because of the glare!) and the tracks are intricately detailed. The interactive items blend perfectly with the static ones and when all hell breaks loose the frame rate stays constantly high, even with twelve cars causing mayhem on screen.

The computer racers all have names, back-stories and personalities. At first you think itís gimmicky but as you play youíll notice the same racers trying to stay ahead of the pack or out of the mid-pack mayhem and the ones trying to spin you off the track. Some of them will leave you alone if you donít mess with them and if you shove them around too much theyíll shove back. Having dynamic competition like this makes the races much more interesting as everyoneís not just interested in taking the racing line or smashing each other up.

The handling I took to quite quickly and is quite arcadey in its feel; youíll rarely have to use the brake. The cars all handle differently and you can feel the difference when you tune up your car. The signature Ďno seatbeltsí flying out the windscreen malarkey, which I never really took to, has been significantly toned down and is only really used when you crash pretty spectacularly and will have to reset anyway.

The single player mode is still pretty similar: you buy a car, race in short cups and destruction derbies until youíve got enough to add simple upgrades to the car and so forth. The SP is split into three classes: Derby, Race and Street. The differences are essentially speed and difficulty; the cars are newer and less rusty and battered the higher up you go, but you race on pretty much the same courses.

The online mode is much improved and thankfully has more of a following. As well as having the same modes available in single player (races, derbies) you also get a few online exclusives, the best of which being a mode where after each lap the cars turn around and head the other way!

Although the game is lots of fun and, in my opinion a better racer than the Burnout series so far, there are a few problems and it depends on what type of gamer you are as to whether you can forgive them or not. The physics is impressive with all that it deals with but is very unpredictable and slightly flawed. Sometimes itís the inconsistency - you can punt a giant rubbish skip across the map like a beach ball but run into a mailbox or, heaven forbid, black bags of rubbish and youíll either stop dead or flip all over the shop until you land into a crumpled heap. This leads to a lot of restarts.

Another problem, which I found the worst, is when youíre dealing with other drivers. The best way to get another driver out of the way is to get up behind them and turn into their rear end so they spin out and end up facing the wrong way. Unfortunately nine times out of ten when you try this the car will start to spin and then attach itself to your bonnet sideways and itís pretty much impossible to get them off without ruining the race so you have to restart. Again.

The game also isnít without its share of bugs, which arenít too bad but when combined with the other problems lead to a few more restarts. Most of the problems revolve around the interactive items; some will hover in mid-air after their supports have been knocked out and some will rest on the front of your car as youíre driving along until you turn a sharp corner or make a jump. In more extreme cases, items actually get stuck inside the car. Itís quite annoying to be on the last lap of a race in first only for a fence post to stick lengthways through your car. You drive more slowly because the game recognises youíre constantly hitting an obstruction but you canít dislodge items that get stuck in the car, so you have to restart again.

In fact the developers even acknowledge how bastard-hard their game is as after youíve restarted for the umpteenth time you get an award for perseverance. Itís almost as if theyíre mocking usÖ

But even throughout the physics problems, bugs or times the other drivers rammed you into a wall on the last corner I always did restart. In the original FlatOut the constant restarting began to grate quickly but even through the problems itís the most fun Iíve had on my 360 in a long time. The handlingís just how I like it, the action is fast, the races donít last more than a few minutes and I can smash more stuff up than the cast of Mercenaries on the commute home. Other reviewers may give this a 7 but every other element of the game is exactly what I want and without the problems it would be a 9 for sure.

FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is a really fun arcade racing game with destruction galore, challenging AI and inventive track design. However, the unpredictable and at times buggy physics may be a little unforgiving for some gamers and it takes a lot of patience to keep playing.

Best Bits

- Top-notch graphics
- More destruction than an Arnie film
- Varied AI
- Online play
- Did I mention you can smash a lot of stuff?
Worst Bits

- Physics buggy in places
- Just plain wrong in others
- Playing with the faster cars will hurt your eyes
- You might lose your license (or an arm) if you tried it in real lifeÖ

by: Crazypunk

Copyright © Gamecell 2007