The sequel to 2006s FlatOut 2, Warner Brothers Interactive and Bugbear Entertainment bring us FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage. The ante in this offering has been significantly raised, however; with 12 cars on track from 8 in FlatOut 2. Ultimate Carnage (UC) is loaded for replayability featuring several new player and online modes, in addition to challenging up to 8 friends at once on Xbox Live! The 12 stunt mini-games are also truly hilarious, as you catapult a rag doll physics ridden vehicle occupant through the windshield to all manner of sadistic fates ranging from rings of fire, basketball nets, bowling and more.
This game is NOT a racing sim by any means, but more an arcade racer with particular appeal to anybody with a subversive desire to obliterate pretty much everything in a near totally destructible environment. UC features two primary game modes: FlatOut mode and Carnage mode. The former is made up of the career element, with Derby, Race and Street classes. The goals in FlatOut mode include accumulating enough points to acquire new vehicles and pimp your ride in the upgrade area. Everything from engines, injection and exhaust systems, tires and brakes can all be tricked out. Despite my having maxxed out all available upgrades for the first Derby car during this review, I regrettably noticed little difference in the vehicle performance before vs after; however, it may become more pronounced at higher game levels with the more expensive cars.
While there is plenty of edge-of-your seat racing action here to appeal to nearly any racing fan, the highest scores are seldom achieved by scoring first place! The name of the game really is Ultimate Carnage, and thats precisely how a gamer will attain top scores. Every contact with other racers, whether a light bump from behind or to the sides of their car, adds bonus nitro to the gauge that rounds your speedometer. Huge nitro is added with those collisions based on the amount of damage and/or destruction levied.
The fastest way to the elusive bronze, silver or gold cup ratings for any given track is by sufficiently damaging opponents cars until they are totaled. In-game achievements are awarded for such things as First Blood, Slammaster, and Persistent Gamer. The use of nitro is directly proportional to the length of air time youll grab, and consequently score higher! On the urban tracks youll race in water canals, city streets and open highways destroying fences, garbage cans, billboards, street lights and corner shops. Many of those shops conceal shortcuts to the ever-present checkpoints required to extend time to finish the race; provided you arent pasted to a tree or knocked upside down by an opponent. The rural tracks and courses have a wide variety of objects to obliterate: boathouses, campgrounds, lawn chairs and bales of hay 'o' plenty.
The game controls are really straightforward with the trigger buttons handling acceleration and handbraking; while A applies go-go juice (nitro) and B cycles through the various driving perspectives. Force feedback steering wheel support is included, and the controller vibration lends itself well to feeling more immersed in the action. The stunt minigames are really hilarious, and are great for providing some levity from the intense racing action. The developers made provision for some aerobatic control over the rag doll jettisoned character to be slam-dunked, skipped over water, or collide with massive playing cards for the best five card poker hand you can muster!!
The graphic look of UC is significantly improved over its predecessor, as it was built from the ground up for exclusive release to Xbox 360. A fourfold increase in polygons from FlatOut 2, multiple layer parallax mapping for the 3-D skid effects, HDR lighting and the sheer number of destructible objects nearly doubled from approximately 5,000 objects to over 8,000! Furthermore, the decision to increase the number of cars on track from 8 to 12 really adds that Holy crap, is the field ever congested feel . The ever deteriorating condition of your vehicle is certainly warranted and looks pretty realistic, given the abuse the cars sustain during races. Interestingly enough, despite the eventual (and quite likely) shell of a car youre left with near the end of most races, the vehicle doesnt really appear to suffer much ill effect to speed or handling.
The game AI is really very good. The opponents race quite well, and taking first place will require a good deal of practice. The Xbox Live experience is extremely well done, allowing for full customization of everything the game offers. If you want nothing but a field of school buses on a winding dirt trackalrighty then! The party potential with UC is staggering with this caliber of online gameplay alone.
A gritty mix of game music from bands like No Connection, Point Defiance, Hypnogaja, Opshop, A Static Lullaby and Manafest, to name a few, really helps keep the adrenaline up. The audio line up in UC reminded me very much of one of my all time favorite games (on all platforms)-MX Unleashed, which also won critical acclaim for its amazing soundtrack. UC has the same addicting feeling to it. The in-game sound effects are well done, and aid the immersive aspects of the game effectively.
Overall, FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is a really good 'had a crappy day at the office and need to blow off some steam' game. There is enough solid racing action and wanton destruction to appeal to fans of all ages and just about any genre.