XBOX REVIEW: FLAT OUT
FlatOut has all the makings of a great budget games, except that it's not great and that it's not budget priced.

Flatout is not your typical racer. It's more of an extreme-racing sport not unlike a cross between a stock-car race and a demolition derby. It really looks like a lot more fun that it is thanks to the unresponsive control system which tends to favor having you drag the car around the track than steer it. You have to use the brake and the handbrake to powerslide around the numerous curves. You can't just steer your vehicles around turns, you have to slide it them which slows the pace of the game down. Your car feels as thought it's always on the verge of going out of control. It's something that you do get used to but to be honest if I didn't have to review this game it wouldn't be worth the effort.

FlatOut is fun but it requires too much effort to unleash it. It's like going to Disneyland with a nagging toothache. When you finally get used to the controls you will find that the AI makes is incredibly difficult to win races. They are very aggressive and will attack you unmercifully - in packs if need be. Needless to say I didn't finish the game in time and I don't really know what I could do to finish it without playing it for weeks on end. That kind of challenge just doesn't appeal to me.

Nitrous will give you a speed boost but you can't buy it nor do you earn it the regular way. You earn nitrous by smashing into things. The more destructive you are to the environment the more nitrous you will gain. Smashing into fences, signs, poles, buildings and tire piles may seem like a lot of fun but it usually involves getting yourself into an accident that slows or stops your vehicle basically neutralizing the extra boost that you picked up because you'll need to use it just to get back to where you were.

The tracks will take you through towns, the countryside, farms and snow-slick regions. There is no shortage of things to hit including other vehicles. They take on a tremendous amount of damage but they keep on going. Fenders and hoods fly off while the frames twist and turn with engines catching on fire. Some of these vehicles are reduced to charred metal skeletons. More often than not it's yours.

The online mode is full of problems. You'll experience slowdown and some latency which takes any edge off of any skills you may have been able to cultivate. With the other players floundering around as much as me it was just one big mess. Like fat chicks mud wrestling on the side of a mountain.

I got a huge kick out of the Olympic mode which requires you to drive your speeding car up some kind of a ramp and then stop quickly so that you can launch the driver out of his seat toward the goal. These hilarious mini-games consist of Man-Darts, Man-Bowling and Man-Long Jump. Not only are they funny but they actually work very well. The sense of physics is more developed than that of the main game.

There is a lot of detail to the environments but only the immediate stuff is interactive. You'll have to memorize the track layout if you want to collect all of the nitrous and manage to take all of the turns properly. The car sounds are decent but the rock music is generic with more fizzle than punch.

FlatOut is at best, a rental. But it's at its best when it's left in the store.

Preview by Devin

Flat Out, from developer Bugbear, is an attempt at making a game about cruising laps enjoyable. The premise of the game is to race to the number one seed in the allotted time, while keeping your car in the best condition possible. Imagine "Need For Speed" in a demolition derby, and that's what we have to work with.

The player is initially allowed to choose from only a handful of the 16 total cars in the game. The remainder of the vehicles must be unlocked before they can be raced. Unfortunately, the selection is limited to just cars such as old Camaros, Corvettes and Mustangs. It would've been nice to see some bigger, more destructive vehicles to race, like a semi truck or a school bus, but that's just my personal flavor. The graphics, so far, look like a big let down. Although FlatOut does offer some pretty nifty lighting effects such as the glow of the sun, the car models are all too similar in shape and size. The texturing looks too bland and lifeless. Nothing there really grabs your attention and makes you think, "Wow, that looks amazing!" The game is still in development, so hopefully Bugbear touches up on these details instead of leaving the "rushed and unfinished" graphics.

Bugbear didn't drop the ball on the destruction aspect though. The damage each car can take in the game is unlike anything I've seen thus far. Each vehicle has up to 40 morph points, which determine which part of the vehicle can be damaged. The cars aren't the only objects in the game that can fall victim to carnage. The environment looks completely interactive. Anything you crash into and break will stay on the track for the remainder of the race, which will create obstacles (and more carnage) for other drivers as well as yourself.

A Demolition Derby mode is available, which is potentially immensely entertaining, unfortunately mostly resembles Twisted Metal without the weaponry. FlatOut does boast awesome rag doll physics, which from game play footage looks really funny with guys being tossed through the windshield up into the air and land on their heads. Bugbear allows you to explore how the physics works by unlocking Bonus Games. Included in one of these games is a giant dartboard, where you drive the car around a stunt track and, at the end, slam into a wall sending your driver flying through the windshield and through the dartboard itself. Pretty twisted, no pun intended. That's just one of the few bonus games that will be available, and at this point the bonus games seem to be more entertaining than the racing itself.

Don't think for one second that you're going to have to play this game all by yourself. No, no. FlatOut comes with a multiplayer and an online mode. The multiplayer is pretty weak, since it features only a split screen two player mode. However, with the online mode, you can play in a game with up to eight players. Racing alone in the Championship mode may be a daunting task, but with eight players, you to take out your frustrations on people across the net. It's not yet known if there will be a ranking system for the respective online services or if new features can be unlocked by achieving some sort of goal in online play. A new car or special parts to make your car faster or more durable would be nice.

FlatOut looks to be what most racing games should be by allowing you to interact with your environment and take damage accordingly. Unfortunately, it may be a little too late as the flashier more cartoon like games are taking the lead. FlatOut is going to become more of a destruction than a racing game, where most of your fun will be flying into other cars, houses and trees. If you're a racing fan, and you enjoy driving in circles for five hundred laps, then this game may not be for you. If "destruction" is your middle name, renting this game may be your best option to experience the physical carnage FlatOut offers. Purchase this game and you're left with just another racing game to collect dust on our shelves, like the many other racing games before it.

Features:

  • 16 different cars to race, customise and upgrade.
  • Full car damage modelling which also affects the performance of the car.
  • Unparalleled realistic scenery and debris damage with fully destructible driving environments with 3000 + items on each track to smash!
  • Carefully tuned car physics to give a truly realistic feel to each car.
  • 45 tracks to master over 5 different environments including the challenge of snow-covered terrain.
  • Two-player split screen mode for a AAA racing experience with friends.
  • Online play for up to eight players on Xbox Live!
  • A whole host of extra fun enhancing mini-games including 'Figure of 8' and 'Demolition Bowl'.
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System: Xbox, PS2, PC
Dev: Bugbear
Pub: Empire Interactive
Release: June 2005
Players: 1 - 8 online
Review by Fenix
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
2.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
2.0