FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage ReviewCain Dornan
Now in its third iteration, the FlatOut series has largely remained in the shadows of its larger, more prominent competitors, such as Need for Speed and, more significantly, the Burnout series. Likely due to the lack of promotion and recognition with the mainstream gamer, the series has never quite found its way into the limelight, instead remaining in the shadows of its competitors. Its disappointing, as although the series hasnt been without its fair share of faults, the games have provided a solid racing experience with its top physics, great track design and emphasis on destruction and mayhem.
FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is clearly designed and optimized for the next-generation of consoles, featuring significant improvements and enhancements over its predecessors. Developer Bugbear Entertainment has made appropriate use of the power available to them on the Xbox 360, creating beautiful track designs that are littered with destructible items that react accurately and realistically to any damage that you deal to them. Likewise, the games vehicle destruction is spectacular; crashing into a wall or another vehicle sees parts go flying everywhere. Crashes look spectacular, with some often exaggerated flips, rolls and tumbles that make the racing truly action packed, engaging and never shy of exciting.
The games two key game types are racing and derby smash-em-up events, in which youre pitted in an arena with a host of competitors which you must defeat by totaling the other vehicles. Both game types are plenty of fun and well formed, with most niggling problems or complaints that were found in the previous games ironed out in this iteration.
The games FlatOut Mode is the heart of the game in terms of gameplay life. Its your typical career mode in which you earn money for racing, beginning at the bottom of the pack with virtually nothing and then working your way to the top, purchasing new vehicles and modifications to improve their performance, competing in tournament races, time trials, derbys and more.
The FlatOut Modes races are divided into three different classes; Derby, Race and Street, each featuring differently styled vehicles. Youll begin in the Derby class, which consists of sturdy yet slow rust buckets as you barge your way through the scenery. Youll then move on to the Race category, offering faster yet strong rides that are a welcomed upgrade from Derby given their significant speed increase, changing the experience surprisingly well. The Street class is the faster collection of rides, generally being lighter and more nimble than the other categories. In select modes, such as in the online multiplayer, there is also a bonus category, which offers some more extravagant vehicles to drive, such as a large truck, which can prove fun to throw around in a destruction derby match.
Then theres the Carnage Mode, which is essentially an assortment of mini game type events, in which you compete to achieve set scores which earn you placements and subsequent unlocked events to take part in. Theres a fair collection here, many of which can prove to be quite challenge, which guarantee several hours of gameplay just in this mode alone. Events include derbys, high jumping and bowling which you must fling your driver out through the windscreen as needed, as well as the beat the bomb event which you must race through a series of checkpoints within strict time limits, otherwise your car ignites into flames.
On the multiplayer side is a solid multiplayer offering in which you can compete in races, derbys and the like online in both ranked and player matches. Lag is rare, although it can at times be difficult to find matches due to the apparent lack of players online during our time of play. Offline multiplayer is also available, which incorporates a party mode where you take turns in competing in different events. The mode is capable of serving two to eight players, which you can then proceed to select each players vehicle and then a series of stunt events where you send youre driving flying through the windscreen in a variety of different bone-crunching ways. Each player takes turns using the one controller, and can prove to be quite humorous and plenty of fun if you have a group of mates around for play.
FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage offers a visual splendor. The vehicles are well detailed and offer impressive damage effects; the track designs are well thought out and are exciting, and there are a fair collection of original tracks and alterations available to be played; and the damage physics, including the countless destructible items that litter tracks simply to be destroyed, all contribute to deliver a visually pleasing experience.
The audio side isnt quite as impressive, offering a mixture of both good and bad tracks to listen to as you go crashing through the scenery. The sound effects are solid, but never really impressive, with the typical bump, crash, smash, scraping and engine noises that youd expect to fill a game of this nature.
Like its predecessors, its unlikely that FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is going to get much attention from the mainstream public, as many will instead be blinded with their street racers or realistic racing simulators to bother with a quietly-released game with a smash-em-up derby heritage and a strong desire to deliver a more fun, exciting racing experience. If you enjoyed the previous games, definitely pick this one up. Otherwise, if you had fun with the Burnout games, or even arcade games in general, Bugbears smasherific racer is well worth a look.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.