Destruction Derby and its sequels are one of the most popular bash em and crash games around. Rather than just racing to the chequered flag, often they tasked you with dishing out as much damage to other cars around you as possible and generally surviving a race without having your engine explode or some other vital part of the car fall off. Flatout is somewhat like this but rather than featuring stock racing style cars, its all about dirt racing and going offroad to crunch up some poor sucker's car. With the game only a few weeks from release we went hands on with the game and came away knowing why seatbelts are so important in today's cars.
The general premise of Flatout is very similar to that of Destruction Derby. Take some old bomb out for one last bash and hopefully reach the end with as little damage as possible, while inflicting some serious pain on the other competitors. The final game will feature a career mode, quick racing, multiplayer and some bonus levels which we got to check out. The career mode will task you with becoming the champion of not the world, but the remote dirt tracks and circuits where the racing takes place. You begin with a car on its last legs and work your way through different models through to more advanced cars, who are still ready for one last bash. Don't expect to find luxury cars in this game and none of the cars are licensed.
The game reminds us of Dirt Track Racing by Ratbag but rather than being a simulation as Ratbag's game tried to be, its more an arcade game with a few realistic features. The cars feature different handling and power depending on their size and of course the crashes in the higher powered cars are going to be more serious and create more damage at higher speed. The tracks are also designed around bashing and crashing your car to bits. You will find jumps, and humps which at high speed can send your car hurtling through the air or into a multiple roll. Almost everything you can see is destructible as well and the game sure features a lot of things for you to drive straight through without incurring damage.
One of the more unique features of the title is the way the driver reacts to a crash, its enough to give car manufacturers heart attacks. Hit something hard enough, and our hapless driver will fly right through the windscreen and roll along with ragdoll physics. That by itself is not very impressive but it is the way the developers have used this 'technology' to create some truly unique bonus games. The bonus area is setup in one giant stadium and features many famous games such as Ten Pin Bowling and Darts. The aim in these two games is to drive as fast as you can before slamming on the break (R1) and aiming the driver either towards bowling pins or the dart board to gain the highest score. Available in both multiplayer and single player, this is sure to become the most popular area of the game and it really sticks out in comparison to the rest of the game.
The game features sixteen cars all with different attributes in terms of power and weight. These cars are purely designed for dirt racing so you will find not only rusted old lemons but cars with some serious suspension. The cars feature a somewhat realistic damage model and the damage affects their speed and drive ability. Three views are available, bumper, behind the car and a more panoramic style view and of course this affects the sense of speed the game gives off, but overall that remains quite impressive throughout.
The game will ship with forty five different tracks to race on, and from what we saw there will be a great variety offering different challenges to the player. Racing on dirt roads is complimented by ice racing and even in urban environments. As mentioned before the tracks feature a variety of destructible objects. In fact it is said that the game features over three thousand items on each track to smash. We found objects such as a house foundation, fences, barrels and tyres were all movable or destructible. You will also find other hazards throughout each track such as rivers and immovable objects like construction vehicles. Pushing other cars into these objects will create some serious carnage. The tracks are somewhat also open to shortcuts such as taking a risk by jumping over a river.
One of the most impressive aspects of the game so far however is the visuals. The levels look great and feature a decent draw distance with no popup to be seen. The variety of the levels is looking good as well as is the level design which seems to compliment the physics of the cars featured well. The destructible environments also collapse in a realistic manner. Each of the cars appears to feature a unique sound effect for its engine and the sound of objects collapsing sounds fairly good as well.
Flatout may not be up there in terms of hype as games such as Gran Turismo 4 but for those who like a bit of off road racing then this is a game that is sure to please. While on paper it may not look like a title which will offer innovation, thats not what this game is trying to do. It's a fun, pick up and play look at dirt track racing with some realistic elements.