Review: FlatOut (PS2)

Game: FlatOut
Platform: PS2 (also available on Xbox)
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Publisher: Empire Interative
Rating: T for Teen

Let’s face it, even if racing purists don’t want to admit it there is one defining reason to watch Nascar: Someone might crash. People love car crashes, it’s why we slow down traffic to gawk at some unlucky guy whose car is laying in pieces by the side of the road and why our action movies are full of cars running into each other. Not everyone will admit to enjoying a good car crash but there are some of us who not only enjoy it but have developed crashing cars into one of the highest forms of redneck art, the Demolition Derby, otherwise known as competitive bumper cars for adults.

The video game industry recognizes those of us who like to smash other cars every now and then, while Gran Turismo and Project Gotham Racing might satisfy the racing needs for some, we need games like Eve of Destruction and Burnout 3 to feed out destructive appetites. FlatOut is the latest smash-em-up racer to hit the market, with the added thrill of being able to launch your driver out of the window. Let’s break it down and see how it holds uo up.


StoryModes:

It’s a racing game, what story? So let’s check out the modes:

Career- This mode starts you out with $4,000 and you can select a car to buy. After that you can race for the Broze medal or in one of the Bonus races. There are 9 tracks that you have to race through and must place within the top three in order to unlock the next track. Once you beat all of the Bronze tracks the Silver racetracks become available and more Bonus games are unlocked. Lather, rinse, repeat to the Gold medals. More cars will be unlocked to buy along the way and you can also use money from winning races to buy parts for your car.

It’s like the Attack of the Basic Career mode for a racing game. You play a track, beat it, unlock the next, move on. It’s blander than a saltine cracker. The mode is servicable for a racing game, but then so is sitting on your hand then giving yourself a ‘stranger’, just because it’s servicable doesn’t mean it’s good.

Quick Race- Race once through whatever tracks you’ve unlocked.

Time Trial- Do three laps around a track and try to get your best time. Think about baseball and you can make that third lap last awhile.

Bonus- Not only does the game include the ability to launch your driver through the window, but they included mini-games that revolve around this ability! These include Long and High ‘Jump’ where you send the driver out the window as far or as high as you can. There’s also Darts, Bowling, Clown, and Bullseye, which are pretty much different variations of high and long jump. Bowling you throw your driver far and try to knock down as many pins as you can. Darts, Clown, and Bullseye you launch your driver trying to hit different targets.

You’d think throwing the ragdoll driver through the window and watching him land in ways that no contortionist could bend wouldn’t get old. But it does. Pretty quickly actually and I like that sort of thing. The long and high jump just old once you figure out the best ways of doing them. Same with all the rest. Plus the directions you are given before playing them are frustratingly unclear.

There are also 3 different destruction derbies where you have to be the last man standing to win, and a couple of other gimmick races that feel almost tacked on.

Multiplayer:
Splitscreen- Race against one other person in any track you unlock. Lots of fun to cause a friend to go through their windshield, but what happened to the other drivers?

Hotseat- Play the driver toss mini-games with one controller that you pass back and forth.

Online- Unfortunantly I couldn’t get online with the game due to ISP problems I’m having, but it’s there and looks like it supposrts all of the games races/modes including the Hotseat games.

The modes are so basic for a racing game that if FlatOut was anymore bare Jack Thompson would be trying to change the rating. The online is a nice addition, but the main career mode compared to other racing games is like comparing a Happy Meal to dinner at a restaurant. The Bonus games just feel gimmicky and get old fast.

5/10


Graphics:

FlatOut might not be competing with Gran Turismo or Burnout 3 when it comes to graphics, but the game does look good. The damage modeling for the cars is fantastic and when beaten up look like a squished pop can on wheels. Tear enough of the hood off and you can even see the fan running. The tracks themself look good as well, a lot of the environment is destructable and after a couple laps on some of the courses and it’ll look like a small tornado blew through. When ejected the character model of the driver is on ragdoll physics so when he goes flying through the windshield it looks extremely painful.

That’s the good. Here’s the bad.

The tracks look great, and they also look very similar to each other. Sure there are almost 40 tracks, but in reality they are just slightly different variations of the same five tracks (snow, town, racetrack, construction, and woodland). I swear some of the tracks are just other tracks in reverse.

The cars look good…but that also don’t look very much like the stock cars used by demolition derby drivers. Then again the tracks certainly don’t look like real racetracks either so the game isn’t trying to be a bastion of realism so that’s more of a nitpick than anything. However like the racestracks the damage modeling is repetitive as well. The shell dents the same way everytime, the hood flies off after a certain amount of damage, etc. You wont see a door shear off or a wheel pop loose. At the beginning of every race the windows will break on all the cars if you so much as tap another car.

Still the game looks good and runs constantly at a decent framerate even in multiplayer.

7/10 (for a PS2 game)


Sound:

The people at Bugbear hate every single one of us. If you need proof of that don’t look any farther than the soundtrack. A weird mix of Euro rock music by bands I hope to jesus never make it on the radio here because I swear if I hear Killer Barbies ‘Baby with Two Heads’ one more time I’m going to f’n kill someone or pop my eardrums with a pencil and live the rest of my days in blissful silence.

Do yourself a favor after booting the game up, go to Options, Sound, and turn it off.

The engine noises in the game are the best thing about the sound, it’s a deep growl that makes you believe you’re driving a powerful car. The crashing noises are okay, they work but when you are plowing into the side of a car at 90MPH you want to hear SMASH! not smash. Also it would’ve been nice to have had some kind of noise when sending your driver sailing across the landscape. Maybe I’m just a sick bastard but adding a scream for the driver and the sound of bones snapping instead of just the thud noise would have put a smile on my face. The bowling mini-game doesn’t have ANY sound when you knock the pins over. How hard would that have been to add?

Put on a CD and turn your TV down for this one.

3/10


Controls:

It’s a racing game so X for gas and Square for brake/reverse, control with joystick. Handbrake is uncomfortably assigned to the circle button, triangle is to reset yourself back on the track, L1 looks behind and R1 is for using Nitro. L2 and R2 are used for shifting when on Manual.

Other than the ackward handbrake location the game controls just fine. The style of the game is more arcade and with the dirt/ice tracks there’s a lot of powersliding in the game but all of the cars are easy enough to control.

6/10


Balance:

This is where the game crashes and burns.

To build up Nitro you need to crash into objects. Crash hard enough and your driver gets thrown out the window requiring you to reset onto the track. See the problem?

In order to build Nitro you need to smash into things, however smashing into another car barely gives you anything. Smashing into the enviroment however gives you a lot more. Except when you do that you run a pretty good risk of getting stuck in the enviroment and you’ll need to then use the Nitro you gained just to catch back up and in some cases get so stuck or throw your driver then you’ll need to reset back on the track. This wouldn’t be so bad if the reseting was handled well, instead most of the time you’ll restart at the back of the pack at a dead standstill. Since there’s a LOT of junk on the track you will smash into something at least once.

As if that wasn’t frustrating enough to take FlatOut out of the PS2 and see how far you can make the disk fly, Bugbear must’ve wanted people to make a few dents in their wall from throwing their controllers with the games AI.

The AI is odd. The game using the elastic band most racing games use, I said f-it and drove off the track for awhile and still somehow managed to overtake first shortly after. At the same time the AI is aggresive and unforgiving, cars at the back of the pack will smash into you whenever possible and the leaders will barely make any mistakes. If you do manage to take the lead make any minor mistake and you’ll lose it in the blink of an eye.

So during the course of any race you are trying to crash enough to get Nitro to get up to the front without getting stuck on the enviroment, dealing with cars that can easily spin you around but it’s hard for you to pull the same stunt on the, if you do have to reset more than twice you’re pretty much screwed, and if you do get in the front any small mistake can cost you.

The game isn’t difficult, it’s cheap. All one needs to do is look at how Burnout has handled the same problems with reseting back onto the track after crashing and gaining boost from collisions to see how good a system like that can be if it’s well done. The Nitro system and driver through the window gimmick do more to hurt the game than add to it. For a game where crashing appears to be a main focus of the game, the system in place penalizes you for doing it. Where’s the fun in that?

2/10


Replayability:

After beating the career mode you will have unlocked everything in the game and with how similar many of the tracks are there’s not much of a reason to go through it all again. The online and the multiplayer are the only reasons to come back to the game.

4/10


Appeal:

Most of the appeal and advertising behind the game revolve around the driver through the windshield gimmick which is why I know I wanted to see the game in action.

6/10


Originality:

To my knowladge there isn’t any other racing game where you can shoot the driver out of the car, so that part is original. Other than that it’s about as basic of an arcade style racing game as you can get with a flawed Nitro system that’s been done better in other games.

4/10


Addictiveness:

As I’ve stated before in this review, the tracks are too similar and the Rag-Doll Driver gets old fast. Add those up and the game becomes tedious to play. The game does liven up with two players but not enough to save it. By yourself this game is about as addictive as root canal surgery, with a friend it’s a little less painful.

3/10


Miscellaneous:

The bonus races other than the Rag-Doll mini-games are a couple of themed Destruction Derbies and a couple of gimmick races. The Derbies are extremely disappointing for a fan of them like I am. You have a damage meter that is almost random with the amount of damage you recieve, pretty much the only constant is if you hit someone you only get a little bit of damage, if they hit you anywhere you recieve a larger chunk of damage. I appreciated in Eve of Destruction when you could drive backwards since getting hit in the trunk caused less damage than getting hit front on. Gave a little bit of strategy to the whole thing.

Other Bonus races are the races like the Figure Eight race where the track meets in the middle and in theory should cause mayhem, the idea sounds better than how it is executed in FlatOut. Then there’s an endurance style 8 lap race that is just not very fun at all.

But they could’ve not included any of the bonus races or Rag-Doll mini-games at all and it’s good to have something to break up the racing.

Bugbear should be ashamed that they’ve created a game that relies on such gimmicks so much that it defiles the great and noble art of car jousting.

2/10


Final Scores

Modes: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 3/10
Control: 6/10
Balance/Gameplay: 2/10
Replayability: 4/10
Appeal: 6/10
Originality: 4/10
Addictiveness: 3/10
Misc: 2/10

Final Score: 42/100