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November 23, 2004
FlatOut - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
16/11/2004Red AntBugbear1-2GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Hitting the hydrant...
Developers Bugbear Entertainment aren't a company many people would be familiar with, in fact they're a relatively new developer with this being their first game on PS2. But what a way to kick off. Without a doubt FlatOut is one of the most exhilarating racing games to date...

For this game the developers made collision and damage models a focus during the development. Racing takes place (mostly) 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 therefore 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.
FlatOut includes 46 tracks set across five different environments as well as 16 fully upgradeable cars which, although not named after real cars, often have a strong similarity. Rather then being a standard racing game, the developers have included an all-encompassing physics system that is unique to FlatOut. Fences will shatter, tyre walls will explode, water tanks and barrels will fly across the track into other cars. These will then remain as obstacles 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 and handling of the cars. As with most games these days the cars also have a FlatOut meter (which is the name for the nitro) which allows you to get a speed boost for a short amount of time.

Looking at the game modes the bulk of your time with FlatOut will be spent in the Career Mode. In this mode you start with a paltry $4,000 and have to select from a handful of cars of offer. As you progress through the races it is possible to upgrade your car, or even purchase new ones. This mode also has two shops, the car shop to purchase new cars, and the tuning shop where you can upgrade the engine, drive train, exhaust, suspension, tyres and body. Other game modes include Time Trial in single player mode, and Bonus events such as Demolition Arenas and Rag Doll Sports events. The biggest disappointment with this game is the lack of online racing. While XBox owners get to play online PS2 owners miss out. Still, the game includes a 2-player split-screen mode as well as a 4-player turn based racing game.

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Flipping the car.
Graphically there was never going to be a chance that FlatOut would catch up to the flare and speed in Electronic Arts' Burnout 3, but having said that, this game is a different kettle of fish. This game is about racing on dirt tracks, destroying the levels and the opposing cars. The cars are stunningly detailed, even more so then in EA's title, but it's their destruction that impressive the most. All the panels can be damaged or broken off, and then remain on the track as obstacles to the other racers (and yourself the next time around the track).

Levels look splendid with a wide variety of locations on offer. Each has unique destructible objects such as water tanks, fences, poles, and, well, almost anything else you can imagine. The FlatOut speed boost also looks spectacular as the game starts a wonderful blur effect and everything speeds up insanely. The frame rate, while not rock steady, is solid enough and the entire game presentation is pretty solid.

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Carnage ahead!
The music in FlatOut really is impressive. Bugbear made a wise decision is joining up with to find unsigned bands to create heavy metal styled tracks for use on the game. 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). As well as these unsigned bands the developers have included 16 tracks from signed bands such as Whitmore, Aplifire and Killer Barbies - OK, so I haven't heard of them either. The music won't be to everyone's taste, but I certainly didn't mind it - and that's from someone who typically prefers dance/rave music. The sound effects are very impressive as cars roar their way around the tracks before crunching into other cars and objects.

FlatOut has been one of the biggest surprises this year. Bugbear certainly know how to create an entertaining game, and FlatOut is a game I highly recommend. The game has also been released with the slightly lower RRP of only $AU79.95 here in Australia. Get it...

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSThe graphics are smooth, the tracks wonderful. Overall impressive.
SOUNDSome great rock music sets the tone and is backed by solid effects.
GAMEPLAYFlatOut is tremendous fun. You'll be playing this for weeks.
VALUE46 tracks, 6 mini-games, 6 destruction bowls - but no online modes.
OVERALLFlatOut is one of those games that has flown under the radar for a lot of people, but deserves to be noticed. Everything has come together superbly in this title with online gameplay (or lack thereof) being the major disappointment. Check this game out - you won't be disappointed.

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