FlatOut ReviewCain Dornan
Although there is an abundance of racers available on the market today, demolition derby racing appears to be a sub genre of racing that gets little attention from developers. The little number of demolition derby games available has generally been rather poorly designed often suffering from plenty of problems that makes the gameplay more annoying than enjoyable. Bugbear Entertainment has noticed this, and has decided to develop their own take on the genre. FlatOut is the result of this. Combining interesting, varied gameplay with detailed graphics and great sound effects, FlatOut provides much more than any other demolition derby game available.
The essence of FlatOut is the career mode, which offers a relatively large number of races, which are progressively unlocked in three different stages. You begin the game with only the bronze tournament unlocked, with silver and gold to be unlocked by successfully placing in the top three positions in each of the races available in the previous tournament. Completing races in the career mode will result in you earning money depending upon the position you came in the race.
Money used to purchase new, faster vehicles, as well as purchasing parts to upgrade your vehicle. Customising your car performed through a simple menu screen, where a range of parts, such as turbo, exhausts, drive train, suspension, roll cage, tyres and so on. Although the customisation mode isnt a key aspect of the game and is rather simple, it plays a major role in being able to compete against the faster competitors. There are around sixteen vehicles available, with each handling differently when compared to other vehicles available on the game.
The race modes simply require you to race against seven other competitors, in fully destructible tracks. Aggressive driving is required, as your competitors will not think twice about smashing you into a wall. The tracks are littered with destructible objects, such as tires, construction poles, vehicles and various other objects. As the game is heavily based on a destruction derby type idea, objects accurately cause damage physically and performance-wise to your vehicle, as does smashing into an oppositions car. Surprisingly, developer Bugbear Entertainment has managed to accurately reflect damage performance-wise to your vehicles. A large number of your vehicles internal parts that affect the performance of your vehicle, such as the radiator and suspension, can be damaged as a result of smashing into objects. Tracks also include indestructible material. If you smash into these, your driver will be sent smashing through the windscreen and sprawling along the ground like a rag-doll. This adds a rather amusing, unique touch to the game.
As well as the racing mode, FlatOut also offers a range of bonus modes. This includes Demolition Arena, where the last vehicle surviving being the winner of the game. Bonus tracks consist of small, simple tracks that often involve a lot of bumping into the opposition in order to stay within the track. Finally there is a range of amusing rag-doll sports, which require you to throw your driver out of your vehicle in a range of ways. In long jump, you need to throw your driver into the air as far as possible, as with throwing your man for a length horizontal wise as you would in the actual sport. Darts and 10-pin bowling require you to throw your driver accordingly as you would in the actual game itself. Finally, clowns face features holes cut into a clown face. Throwing your driver into a hole will reward you with a set amount of money. These extra, rather unique modes add further playability to FlatOut.
FlatOut also features a number of different seasons in which you are able to compete in. Your car also handles appropriately depending on the season you are in. There are a number of dry, muddy, snowy and raining levels available, with each drastically affecting your cars speed and handling.
FlatOut generally controls in a smooth, arcade-type way. A problem that often occurs, however, is that once your vehicle leaves the track, it can often take a lengthy amount of time to return to the track. Developer Bugbear has managed to combat this problem, by allowing the player to return to the track simply by pressing a button. Although this reduces the amount of time that is lost off-course, the amount of time required to be re-placed on the track often results in you placing in last position.
Although nothing sensational when compared to todays standards, the graphics in FlatOut both look and work well. Vehicles have received some quality detail, with both the interior and exterior being well detailed. Even the motor itself, once the hood has been ripped off, looks close to realistic even the fan on the radiator is viewable spinning.
The damage effects are outstanding. A small bump into another vehicle or one of the many detailed obstacles that are scattered throughout the cleverly and uniquely designed levels will result in a small dint being viewable in the exact position that the vehicle has connected with another object. Harder hits not only result in larger dints, but parts of the panel will begin falling off the vehicle. By the end of a race, your vehicle can often look like a complete wreck the roof being smashed in, no glass, doors ripped off and the entire front of the vehicle gone.
Track design has also received some major attention from the developers, with each track being unique and interestingly designed. Tracks are filled with destructible objects, all of which look and react realistically. Objects will roll along the ground or smash into pieces depending upon the force and angle that you hit them.
One factor that does let FlatOut down is the music. Although it does feature the heavy metal music that you would expect from such a game, the majority of the songs are simply poor, often invading the gameplay and ruining the enjoyable gameplay experience.
The sound effects, on the other hand, have been produced well. Although the progressive drone of the cars racing around the track, the sound effects, such as smashing, glass breaking and the sound of the tyres on a range of surfaces, sounds great. The sound of the panels on your vehicle smashing has never sounded better, as with the scream of your driver as he is thrown out of the windscreen.
Although FlatOut isnt the best arcade racer released this year, it is easily the best derby racer for a long time. Considering that little coverage has been provided on this game on most gaming websites and magazines, FlatOut surprised us in the terms of enjoyment obtained by playing this game. Although the games lifetime is rather short, whilst the game does last, plenty of panel-smashing fun is ensured. If you have been waiting for a solid, enjoyable destruction derby racer, be sure to give FlatOut a try.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.