It seems that these days the major focus for racing games is realism or the ability to customize cars, it was not always this way. Destruction Derby was one of the most popular racing titles around and managed to get three games out before seemingly dying off. It was a game which focused on destroying your opponents cars as much as possible and not necessarily reaching the finish line or even customizing the car. It was very basic gameplay but it worked extremely well and compared to most of today's racing games which want the utmost realism, is a refreshing change. Flatout works on the theory of bash 'n' crash and perhaps it just may be Destruction Derby for the new generation of consoles.
In Flatout you begin with a minimal amount of money and therefore car selection. Right from the outset however you have choices to make such as do you go for the ultimate lemon car but have the ability to put a few parts on it, or go for the most expensive car you can afford and add parts later. Once you reach that decision you have the choice of the career mode, quick race or time trial game modes. It may not seem like much but it should keep you going for a little while. Quick race allows you to race against a number of competitors on any track you have unlocked in the career mode, while time trial pits you against the clock again on any track which you have previously unlocked.
The main mode of the game is the career mode which consists of three main cups and some excellent mini games to unlock. Each cup has more tracks to complete and you must place in the top three on each track to advance, which is harder then it may sound. The tracks progressively get harder and if you don't continuously upgrade your car or even replace it then you will be left eating dust from the AI competitors.
One thing which is very impressive about this game is the physics engine. While the bumper camera will give the greatest feel of speed, you will miss out on how realistic the car turns and reacts to bumps that you see in action in the two rear views. The car, depending on how fast its going, will bend into corners and you can actually see the chassis move left and right. This is the kind of stuff you expect in Gran Turismo, not a bash and crash racing simulation. Another unique aspect of the game is how a driver reacts to the large impact. The cars feature no seat belts so hit something hard enough and the poor male or female driver is going to go right through the windscreen. The game even tells you how far they have traveled. It is a novelty but it doesn't seem to get old quickly. The mini games also revolve around this fact with the tasks being knocking down bowling pins or hitting a dart board with the driver.
Although the cars are not licensed you really won't care once you see how good the driving model is. To go with this however, the cars are entirely destructible. Almost every piece of metal can fall off; doors, bumpers, exhaust pipes, bonnets and the engine can even catch fire. Also as you add parts to the car they obviously become more powerful but you have to add things such as brakes, otherwise you will be hitting objects, flying through the windscreen in no time. The AI drivers will also try and knock you off the road and they are also impressive and can, and will make mistakes.
Races take place on four styles of track; urban, woodland, dirt and even snow. The snow tracks are the toughest to gain control on, especially with the most powerful vehicles. Some of the tracks are rather boring and it seems that these are the ones which are the longest however other tracks, mainly urban have lots of interactive objects which you can knock over. Objects such as house foundations, fences, tyres nearly everything can be knocked around if you're going fast enough. To help with this, the cars are equipped with nitrous and it appears that excellent driving gets you more nitrous to use throughout the race.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game is the graphics on display especially considering it's on the PS2. The draw distance is highly impressive and going with this, there is really no pop up to speak of. The cars are highly detailed (at least when they have all their parts, which isn't very long in most races) and even with lots of cars and crashes on the screen, the frame rate remains entirely smooth. Unfortunately unlike the Xbox version the game is not online and only split screen play is available.
Flatout is a great racing game and can definitely be called the next generation Destruction Derby. Bugbear Entertainment have put together some truly challenging tracks, a great amount of fictional cars and also added a bit humour to the mix with the lack of seat belts and great mini games.
Contest - Win a copy!
Want to win a copy of this game on PS2, Xbox and PC? Email email@example.com with the answer to the following question, your details (email, name) and which platform you would like before Friday 9th December 2004:
Q: Who developed Flatout? (Hint: It's in the last paragraph :))
Please note that the game on PS2 and Xbox is in the PAL format and does not run on NTSC machines. The PC version is of course, unregionalised.