Archives by Day


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Xbox 360 Preview - 'FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 27, 2007 @ 5:19 a.m. PDT

FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is a re-imagining of FlatOut 2 rebuilt from the ground up and specifically developed to make use of the additional feature sets and improved processing ability of third generation technologies.

Genre: Racing
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Developer: Bugbear
Release Date: October 4, 2007

If you've ever put money into a one of those quarter-driven supermarket vending machines, odds are you've at least once gotten a Sticky Guy or something similar to it. Sticky Guys are tiny human figures made of goo that, when thrown, fly in amusing ways before they splat against a flat surface, and then they slowly tumble down the wall. These poor guys were always popular to stick in slingshots, rubber bands or other spring-loaded devices, all of which would inevitably end with them flying at a solid surface. FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage combines the fun of these rather simple toys with the blistering pace of an arcade racer, and the results are both fun and hilarious. You see, FlatOut is an arcade racer where seatbelts don't exist. Should you crash in a particularly nasty way, you can expect to see your driver go flying. The amazing thing is that the developers of FlatOut managed to take such a simple concept and do some extremely fun things with it.

The primary mode of play in FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is the titular FlatOut mode, which is effectively a career mode. You're throwing into the shoes of an anonymous racer on the FlatOut racing circuit, and your goal is to earn as much money as possible. Naturally, the best way to earn money is to come in first, but it's not quite so simple. Races in FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage are divided into one of three types: Derby, Race and Street. Derby cars are cheap and durable, and events involving them usually take advantage of this. The cars are not fast, but they can take a beating, and events like Destruction Derbies can really show that off. Racing cars are the balanced cars. They're both fast and durable but not quite up to par with the other cars in general, so race events tend to be off-road speed tests, which require a solid mix of attributes. Street cars are the fastest of the lot by far, but they come at a price and simply can't soak damage. Unlike the other modes, avoiding damage with Street cars is much more important. The good news is that this means that players will find reasons to switch between the various kinds of races, rather than simply going from easy to hard challenges. You might want to go back to the "down and dirty" Derby in order to enjoy smashing opponents without hesitation, or jump up to the Street for a fast-paced high-risk race instead.

While FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is technically a racing game, it might make more sense to describe it as a crashing game. Don't misunderstand: FlatOut mode's goal is indeed to outrun the other racers and reach first place, but that doesn't mean that safe driving is the way to go. Instead, FlatOut rewards you for wrecking up the track. Each stage in FlatOut: Ultimate Destruction is covered with a wide variety of breakable objects, including billboards, farmhouses, stacks of crates and, of course, other drivers. Every time you smash something, your car earns a bit of nitro fuel, which can send your car flying forward much faster than it can normally hope to go. Thus, the key to victory isn't just good driving; you must drive recklessly enough to wreck the track while still remaining in enough control to avoid driving headfirst into a barrier you can't break through.

One interesting element is that every racer you compete against in FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage has a name and personality. This means that not every AI character will act the same. Some prefer smashing themselves into other racers, while others focus on pure speed. Some will leave you alone, provided you're not aggressive to them, while others may go specifically for you from the moment the race starts. While it isn't necessary to know every single racer's personality in order to succeed, learning exactly who you're racing against can give you a slight advantage. It's a surprisingly interesting feature and really helps brings those AI drivers to life.

While the FlatOut mode in FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is fun, it's hard not to be drawn to the Carnage mode as well. Carnage is basically a series of unlockable mini-games that are built around FlatOut's unique and bizarre physics. Some of them are fairly simple, such as destruction derbies, but the real fun comes from the stunt mini-games. Each stunt involves performing some completely insane trick, usually entailing maiming and mutilating your poor driver in some fashion. You launch him from the car in an attempt to slam him into a fence at a specific height, knock down bowling pins, skip him across the water like a stone or any other number of bizarre and unusual events. While it isn't as detailed as the FlatOut mode, Carnage mode is clearly the area to which gamers who just want to fool around will flock. It's difficult to describe just how fun (and frustrating) these games can be, but giving them a try for five minutes will have you hooked.

For those players who've managed to trounce the AI in every race and get gold medals on all the stunts, FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage also offers a detailed Xbox Live mode. Offering both ranked and unranked play, FlatOut's online play allows gamers to compete in Derby, Race and Stunt events. Much like their single-player counterparts, each type of race has different focuses. Derby races are all about taking down the other guy's cars for points, Race events are about speed and Stunt events ask you to perform unusual tricks for high scores. These different modes can even be mixed-and-matched together, allowing online gamers to switch between Derby, Race and Stunt events at will, or simply use a pre-created or customized mix of events in a tournament for maximum challenge.

Unsurprisingly, FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is significantly better looking than its last-generation iteration. Everything has been improved and cleaned up, and there are more object and cars onscreen than ever before. Furthermore, the gameplay runs without a hitch, and the frame rate remains smooth regardless of how many obstacles you crash into or how fast you're going. The various racetracks are well designed and interesting, a healthy mix of dirty country roads and regular oval racing tracks that keeps things fresh and exciting. Likewise, Ultimate Carnage has a top-notch soundtrack, featuring a number of pulse-pounding licensed songs that really set the mood for the smash-and-crash action that FlatOut provides.

Like Burnout, the FlatOut series exists for those racing fans who prefer a bit more rough and tumble in their racing game. While it does offer difficult and challenging races, customizable cars and a large number of different tracks to speed around on, those factors aren't the primary appeal. The fun part is pulling off a mind-bending stunt jump off a ramp into a conveniently placed stack of barrels just in time to send the driver crashing into a nearby opponent. The Carnage mode offers even more unusual takes on the racing genre, and completing everything offered is sure to keep even the most talented of racers busy for quite a while. Xbox 360 owners who missed out on the last generation FlatOut games or are just looking to sate a thirst for vehicular destruction that Burnout can't satisfy will want to take a look at Fallout: Ultimate Destruction when it hits stores early next month.

blog comments powered by Disqus