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August 17, 2004
FlatOut - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
5/11/2004Empire InteractiveBugbear1-2$79.95

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Check out the carnage.
It takes something very special in the crowded racing market to stand out, but that is something which FlatOut is managing to do quite well. So many racing games have little or no damage with Criterion's Burnout series being the obvious exception, however FlatOut has made collision and damage models a focus during the development. The game is also set on dirt tracks, rather then bitchumen, making the handling quite a different experience. But it's not only the cars which can be damaged, but also the scenery and objects around the track. With many sections of the track able to be damaged this can therefor influence the cars behind you and how they perform in the race. Damaged objects remain on the track for the entire race and increases the mayhem as the race continues.

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Now that's car damage.
Developed by Bugbear Entertainment, FlatOut includes 45 tracks set across five different environments to master and 16 fully upgradeable unlicensed cars. The track environment is subject to the all-encompassing physics system that is unique to FlatOut, and is set to define a new standard in racing games. Fences will shatter, tyre walls will explode, water tanks and barrels will fly across the track into other cars. As previously mentioned these will then remain as obsticles for the duration of the race. Each of the cars have 40 deformable pieces allowing for some spectacular damage. Of course this damage will also affect the performance of the cars.

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Flipping the car.
An extensive championship mode will keep you 'FlatOut' for months on end, as you battle through a huge variety of races, mini-games, including 'Figure of 8' and 'Demolition Bowl', and the most outrageous arenas of destruction you could possibly imagine. And it doesn't stop there. Multiplayer gaming on the PS2 version is apparently limited to 2-player split screen mode, but shoud add even more variety to the game play. Sadly, as yet only XBox Live! support has been announced and indeed Red Ant and the developers have confirmed that there will be no online gameplay for the Playstation 2 version sadly.

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Carnage ahead!
Something which Empire Interactive and developers Bugbear must be commended for is their music selection - or at least potential - for FlatOut. Rather then use licensed music they teamed up with overplay.com, an up and coming music site for unsigned bands, to find new music for the game through a compeition. Not only does it help Empire keep licensing costs down but also allows new unsigned bands to potentially get their break in the entertainment business. So it may backfire, but it did give the developers a large selection of rock, metal and indie music to choose their 12 tracks from. The bands include No Connection (Love To Hate To Love, Living American, Burnin’), Central Supply Chain (The Ever Lasting, Are You Ready, FlatOut), Sixer (The Race), Adrenaline (Adrenaline, Dead Inside), Circa (Alive!), Deponeye (Anger Management, Tick Tock).

It's sad that FlatOut will almost certainly get lost in the pre-Christmas crush, but it deserves more attention then 90% of the games being released. If the game can do everything it promises - and at this stage there are no indications that it can't - then it should be phenomenal. I can't wait for this game and nor should you. Expect a release in early November.