The racing season seems to have started, and Xbox 360 owners are spoiled for choice. The excellent Forza Motorsport 2 has just been released, as has the superb Colin McRae DiRT, but what about gamers who don’t really care about realistic handling and learning racing lines to perfection? What about us gamers who don’t want to play fair with our competitors and would rather run them off the road than overtake them safely on a straightaway?
Well, if you’re the kind of gamer that wants rough and tumble in your racing game, Flatout: Ultimate Carnage is the game for you
This is no Formula 1 here, folks… this is dirty, rough racing on mud and tarmac (and sometimes on rooftops, through shopping malls and off ramps for major airtime) against 11 other competitors who don’t exactly follow road safety guidelines.
Flatout: Ultimate Carnage is essentially an enhanced version of Flatout 2, remade exclusively for the Xbox 360, with new levels, music, graphics, and game types. Ultimate Carnage gives you two main game modes to play through. First off is Flatout mode. This would be the equivalent of your standard career mode in any other racing game, but it’s anything but “standard”. This mode is basically the same as the original Flatout 2 game previously available on Xbox, PC, and PS2 – albeit with really lovely visuals, silky smooth frame rate, and a completely new soundtrack.
In Flatout mode, you have three car classes: Derby, which basically lets you drive battered cars only fit for the scrapyard in all out, anything goes races on dirt tracks and Destruction Derby events; Race Cars, which you take on road and track based courses and events; and finally, Street Cars, which as the name suggests, allow you to race your way through city streets.
No matter what type of car you’re driving, racing is fast, furious, and hectic. The A.I. drivers all have differing personalities — some will ram you relentlessly, some will only fight when you hit them first, and some suckers will try to race clean — but the real personalities lie in the courses themselves, this is where Flatout: Ultimate Carnage excels.
Due to a mixture of top-notch level design and fantastic physics engine the levels are built upon, no two races are ever exactly the same. Each course is littered with over eight thousand destructible items, each with its own physics. You can accidentally hit a pylon and cause a major chain reaction, causing the roof of a nearby building to cave in and litter the road with obstructions, or hit a pile of tires on a corner and see them bounce onto the road and cause drivers behind you to lose control… or you could simply ram your competition through the side of a bridge, causing the competitor (and the bridge) to sink into the water below. The possibilities are limitless, not to mention damn entertaining. Sometimes you can’t help but be taken aback by the sheer scale of destruction even a simple object can make.
In one race, I accidentally clipped a log. The log spun 90 degrees at high speed, and hit a pile of other logs it was next to. Those logs started to roll off their pile, across the road, down a hill, and hit one of the A.I. racers below, who subsequently got caught in a spin – right into a petrol station, which proceeded to explode and take out three other racers driving past it at the time! Passing the area on the second lap was like driving through a minefield as I tried to maneuver my car through the debris of logs, tires, and car parts strewn across the course. Fun things like this are commonplace in this game.
The destructible objects aren’t just for show though, as destroying them (or hitting enemy cars, or lifting your car off the ground) builds up your Nitro meter, allowing you to hit the juice and get a big boost of speed. And the physics aren’t just limited to the cars and the tracks. Even the drivers have ragdoll physics, meaning that if you hit an object hard enough, your driver will fly out of the windscreen and splatter hilariously into whatever you just smacked into.
The driver’s ragdoll physics also lead into the mini-games included. There are 12 Stunt Events that you can participate in. These all basically consist of driving your car down a hill, and catapulting your driver to complete various activities like bowling, baseball, “stone” skipping, and Human Darts. These mini-games are a fantastic little distraction from the main game type, and can be played alone, or with up to eight players in party mode.
The second game mode is rather lovingly named Carnage. Totally new and exclusive to Flatout: Ultimate Carnage, Carnage Mode is arcade based mayhem. Coming first in this game mode just makes you a bigger target for the opposition. This is all about tearing your competitors a new one through various games such as Deathmatch Derby, Beat the Bomb, races, and stunt games. The main difference between Carnage and Flatout modes is that in Carnage you are not only racing the other players, but against the clock too. Luckily, power ups are on hand to make completing a race or obliterating anything else on the track easier.
And of course, no Xbox 360 game review would be complete without mentioning the Xbox Live game play. All game types and stunts are available for maximum online bang for buck, not to mention obligatory leaderboards for each race course. Online play is quick to start, easy to navigate, lag free and really, REALLY good fun. There’s nothing quite like side swiping a human player and hearing him sigh with disappointment as he drops from first to last place while his car tumbles into the void.
Overall, there’s nothing in this game that I can fault. It does what it was designed to do, and it does it well. Even if you owned Flatout 2, there’s enough extra content in this package to make it worth the entry fee. Flatout: Ultimate Carnage deserves to be in everyone’s collection, not just the racing aficionados. It’s pure adrenaline fueled fun with a destructible twist that’s impossible not to love.