Well I'll Be FUCed...

   21/06/2007 at 21:12       Phil May       20 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
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The first question on Stevas' lips would probably be...

..."Well, is there tearing? Is there?"

Yes, our beloved ranty Canadian / Geordie gameshound will want to know and so to kick off the review, I will say that Bugbear - a relatively small outfit, seem to be able to do something that the big boys can't - throw around some very pretty models without you-know-what ruining your suspension of disbelief.

Right, that's out of the way - on with the first impressions then.

To start with, I'm going to get a steel ruler out and crack it across the knuckles of all of you who didn't buy Flatout 1 or Flatout 2 on the original Xbox. You missed out on two little gems, which had a reasonably good and nice to play single player experience in both cases, but an absolutely rip roaring laugh a minute crackingly smashing LIVE play experience too.

For those of you with steel ruler marks across your knuckles, Flatout is the spiritual heir to such games as Destruction Derby and its ilk, mixing together a nice floaty dose of physics, sliding around corners, bashing the hell out of any trackside objects and the opposition - along with a goodly dose of eye-melting nitro boosting to secure a win.

If you have the chance to revisit these two classics, do so. If not, reach into your pocket, fish around past the fluff, those polos that have gone a bit brown, and your lucky condom (expiry date: 12/12/2001) and dig out 30 quid because that's what it's going to cost you to grab a slice of genuinely fun gaming.

Hairy Trees

Flatout Ultimate Carnage (or FUC as we're going to refer to it from now on, tee hee snigger guffaw hoot) is the third game in as many weeks to give petrol heads everywhere a nice moist set of unders. It makes no pretence at being a simulation for those of you who loved Forza 2, nor does it batter you round the head by pretending to be a Rally game dressed up in 51st state colours a la DiRT. It basically dishes up a rather smooth floaty slice of destruction-derby-esque racing, crashing and stunt mayhem.

At its heart is Flatout Mode - this is where your career begins, and you start off in the usual fashion with a modest bunch of credits to slap down against the junk heap of a car of your choice. To begin with, as they say in the old west, "Pickins is slim, muchacho" so depending on the sort of racer you are, you can pick a good all rounder, a hefty weapon on wheels, or something slick and slippery and fast but as weak as a kitten in an auto-brawl.

Flatout does not wrap you in cotton wool and the AI in single player modes is merciless. No easy ride for you if you breezed through DiRT's career mode in 6 hours like I did. Flatout makes you earn every single last credit so pay attention.

There are three distinct classes in Flatout that you get to play with:

Derby Class

These are the bolted together crap heap scrap junkers of the series. Old, a bit knackered but still able to be thrown around the track gracefully and with the player not needing to worry too much about messing up their paint job (most Derby class cars are available in two colours - the colour you choose, and rust!) Upgrades can be purchased for these to make them into mean machines but you may feel your money's better spent on:

Race Cars

These are fast, speedy and able to slip-slide out of tricky situations nice and rapido. In a head on with a Derby car though, Race cars will be reduced to a smoking pile of trash in no time at all. If you're the sort of racer who likes to get round the track as quickly as possible and avoid trouble, lay your money down here. Or if you're a wee bit vain and shallow you may prefer:

Street Cars

The "Polished Turds" of Flatout. These cars look gorgeous, sound gorgeous, are fast and polished. As with Race cars though, forget it in an all out brawl as bits fly off these quicker than a female Big Brother contestant loses her rag.

All three classes offer limited choice to begin with but as you race and earn more cash, you can unlock more cars with better performance from each class.

Strict machine

As briefly mentioned above, cars can be upgraded with a variety of different parts to improve speed, acceleration, performance, handling, braking, sliding and other factors. Don't expect Forza 2 levels of sophistication here, but at the same time never discount the value of cheap add-ons for your car as they really are worth the investment and can mean the difference between first and second place in a race series.

Winning cups in each series is all about places and points. The higher up the leaderboard you are, the more points you earn, and after a race series finishes - if you're at the top of the points table you win, and can unlock more vehicles, achievements and of course that all important cash.

Beautifully, Flatout 2 borrows a nice idea from DiRT in that your scores are persistent. Pull a stonkingly fast lap in a car, or a really good race time and it'll be uploaded to LIVE. A quick tweak when examining the worldwide leaderboard and you can filter in all your friends list to see who's the top of the tree. Best of all (so far) the Yanks aren't getting this yet, so you've got till september to enjoy some nice cheat-free results tables. W00T!

A bit of a bummer - though you can watch your best replays, annoyingly you can't save them (at least I could not find an option that allowed you to do so) - a pity as being able to swap and exchange great races and replay clips via LIVE would've been a killer feature akin to Burnout's clips mode. Shame that but it's a minor niggle.

Twist

Multiplayer, FUC is simply just peerless fun. I would even go as far to say that it equals (if not surpasses) Forza 2. Your jaw and cheekbones will hurt from laughing and smiling so much and it gives you a solid chance of getting back at all those buggers who rear-ended you in Forza 2 races. Taking someone out by gently balletically side-swiping them into a solid tree or pillar feels so very good, as does absolutely mincing their shiny new schoolbus or pretend Batmobile (the bonus cars are ace) into smithereens. Singularly the best LIVE experience I've encountered in a very long time.

Single players needn't feel like they're being short-shifted though as there's a heck of a lot to do here and I've really only briefly dipped into each of FUC's game modes. There is Carnage mode - which as you'd expect is for those of us who just delight in the sheer amount of crap you can send flying around the track in the game (a lot, a heck of a lot - the game engine really is lovely). There are carnage races which will prove popular too - you score by smashing the crud out of your opponents or grabbing some air time on jumps and ramps so that not only your race placing makes a difference but just how dirty a bastard you are.

My personal favourite so far is the Deathmatch Derby which really took me flying back over ten years to the first time I played Destruction Derby 1 on the original Playstation. It's an all out deathmatch in a selection of 6 arenas. Many enter, but only one can remain the last person standing (or driving).

There is so much more here though. Stunt mode, Derby mode, Time Trials, Bonus tracks, the weird and wonderful ragdoll challenges (if you've played Flatout before, you'll remember the furore over the way drivers can be catapulted horrifically from your car and slammed into the nearest solid object quite sickeningly, bleech - and that's all still here too, yay!), Party modes, Beat the Bomb.

Deep Honey

So exactly what the hell is the score here? Why has there been practically nothing written about this game? Lots of video has been shown and lots of excited geeks the world over are dying to know if it's any good. The promised demo never materialised on Live or on the PC. And the game's being sold at a ridiculously low price virtually everywhere online so you'd have to be a complete nonscrot to pay the full RRP for it. So what is wrong with it?

Some may argue that it merely prettifies Flatout 2 and dishes up more of the same, which I guess is a fair comment but c'mon, how many "next gen" games have you played that don't do precisely that, with tearing and slowdown, and cost 15-20 quid more?

Some may also say that once you've got over the thrill of smashing the crud out of a few other racers, there's nowhere else to go. That's crazy talk because pound for pound there's more value in this game than a heck of a lot of others of a similar ilk, and you get the impression that there's nothing been kept back for milking over Marketplace later on either.

So what's wrong with it then baldy? Truth is, at this early stage in my experience with Flatout Ultimate Carnage I really would have to be the pickiest bugger on the planet to find fault. Admittedly I'm a bit miffed about the lack of a replay save facility, but the game's beautiful to look at, it plays well and is a hell of a lot of fun, it's going to be a nigh on essential game for LIVE multiplayer fans, and it's cheap. But perhaps the barrage of driving games over the past three weeks with this one arriving last has just proved a bit too much for this poor petrol head to take in. Perhaps once I've got over the wooh and the ahh factor, this lowly small-dev team's offering might not be as flashy and as satisfying as Forza 2 or DiRT but it is more deserving of your money than either of the other two because I really would dearly like quite a few driving game development teams to take a long hard look at what's been done here and BLOODY WELL LEARN A THING OR TWO FROM IT!



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