FlatOut Ultimate Carnage Review

We go FlatOut with this carnage filled PC racing game.

Review by Lewis Denby
Published 12th September 2008

FlatOut Ultimate Carnage

  • Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
  • Publisher: Empire Interactive
  • Release Date: 1st August 2008

It's just FlatOut 2 with better graphics, a couple of new game modes, and more stuff to smash up. It's from the usual breed of for-the-sake-of it semi-sequels that dogs this and so many other genres. It's a perfectly ordinary update for the franchise, with absolutely zero innovation, and demonstrating no real progression of the arcade racing format. The tracks are familiar, the high-octane madness is familiar and the sounds of metal colliding mercilessly with metal are familiar. It's all been done before.

For those unfamiliar with the FlatOut titles, it's a franchise from the Burnout school of gaming where speed replaces precision and big explosions replace the fine-tuning of vehicles. This isn't about a revolution; it's about as close to classic arcade racers as the next gen machines are ever going to get.
It includes a feature that enables you to fling your driver through the windscreen, through rings of fire, into football nets, and down oversized bowling alleys. Its crowning moment is a Destruction Derby-style mode that pits a bunch of cars in an arena with the sole objective of eradicating everyone else in the game. And its actual races, clearly the key feature, manage to remain as astonishingly brutal and ridiculous as any of the more novel modes on offer, sticking with the big bangs, the flying debris and the hilarious Ragdoll physics. It's astoundingly good fun.

Playing like one of the sillier features from Top Gear, FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is primarily about ploughing from point A to point B as quickly as possible, eradicating anything in your path by driving straight through it. Practically everything in the game is completely destructible, from other vehicles, to fences and walls, right up to entire buildings. This allows for some nice little gameplay nuances. On the final lap and still only in third place? No worries – instead of taking the next corner on the track, make a sharp right beforehand and smash through that barn to gain some valuable seconds. Notice a group of hot-headed ruffians in faster cars on your tail? Shimmy left into a stack of tires, sending them flying around the road and forcing all behind you to veer wildly every which way. The physics engine is lovely, with objects and structures carrying a real sense of shape and mass, meaning such manoeuvres are rarely unpredictable. The only slight problem is that, while 95 per cent of the scenery can be smashed to smithereens, the remaining stuff can't. This occasionally leads to incredible frustration as you destroy your car on a wooden hut almost identical to the one that crumbled in your presence half a mile earlier.

As well as the standard race and competition modes, and the aforementioned 'destroy everything in sight' game type, we're treated to a challenge mode that involves winning points for various different tasks around the course or arena. It's usually a simple combination of speed, damage and ludicrous stunts, but it works well, and it provides a sense of reward for unlocking new areas of the game. The stunt mode is by far the most hilarious. I don't think I've ever been as giddy as I was when I flung my driver through a string of four consecutive flaming hoops, to see him crash down headfirst onto a concrete slab. Still, it's all a little fickle, and it's the races themselves that most players will come flocking back to.

So has anything actually changed since FlatOut 2 other than the inclusion of a small gimmick? Well, not really, but everything's been scaled up a little, from the amount of concrete and metal flying around the arenas, to the overhauled engine powering the game. FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage doesn't sport the most amazing visuals known to man, but the flawless foliage and fabulously rendered water stand up well ahead of most competitors in the genre. It's particularly notable that, when I ran Ultimate Carnage on full resolution with everything maxed out on a rather modest machine, it played joyously, without any framerate stutters or glitches whatsoever. The only reasonably high requirement here is in terms of RAM, but if you meet the minimum specs you should get a fantastic experience here, particularly since the details are so scalable. Audio options, however, aren't – but there's little reason for them to be, and they deliver fantastic results on even a semi-decent sound card.

The only thing that pulls the score down a little for this PC version is that it's clearly designed with the X360 in mind, and hurriedly ported over to the PC for maximum sales potential. This is a game whose menu screens simply assume you have an X-Box controller plugged in. And you should, for maximum potential, but it's perfectly reasonable to use a keyboard here, and it gets somewhat tedious to be told to 'Press A' when it's actually 'enter' you need to be hitting.
No matter. Once you're into the game proper there's no reason to complain. It's nothing new, and it's not revolutionising the genre, but once again: you can fling your driver out of the windscreen at stuff.

It's just FlatOut 2 with better, graphics, a couple of new game modes, and more stuff to smash up. And that'll do quite nicely.

Review Score: 8.6/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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