Flatout: Ultimate Carnage Xbox 360 Review page 1
If there is one thing better than a good arcade racing game, it is a good arcade racing game with loads of crashes. When I was a youngin' with my PSX, I remember that despite all the awesome sports, action and fighting games, game sessions were never quite as fun as they were with the Destruction Derby series on hand. For some reason, despite the fact it is easily one of the most gaming friendly genres out there, crash happy arcade racers have really only recently made a come back in the gaming
world since those days, and a large part of that can be attributed to Empire Interactive's Flatout series. Finally, this hugely entertaining series has made its way onto the next gen scene with Flatout: Ultimate Carnage, which is an Xbox 360 exclusive, and while the game is not without its disappointments, it is still a must have for any fans of mindless yet ultra fun and enjoyable racing.
Like any good arcade racer, UC is all about pick up and play gameplay that is quick and easy to get into. As we've seen with the two previous Flatout titles, the main mode on offer in UC is the career based "Flatout Mode", where you buy cars and upgrades, and compete in preset track events under three categories - Derby, Race and Street. Even though this is the most in-depth mode in the game, it is still never more than a few moments away from action, so it is a very easy mode
to get into. However, it's not without its draw backs, of which two are quite evident - firstly, if you've ever played a previous Flatout, then you've already experienced the mechanics of this mode as it has barely changed in UC if at all, and secondly, repetition is a problem, particularly when it comes to the tracks, which are recycled ad nauseam, making it far more suited for short gaming sessions than long ones.
Luckily, "Flatout Mode" isn't the only major source of gameplay in UC, as there are a few other modes on offer as well. Naturally, this is an Xbox Live game
This mode is quite similar to the "Flatout Mode" in the sense placing on the podium in an event unlocks more events for you to do, but the differences are what make this mode probably the best in the game - first of all, there is much more variation from one event to the next, and secondly, you don't have to worry at all about currency for buying and upgrading your vehicles as each event has a preset car for you to use. This makes for very little hassle and maximum fun - basically, the ideal
mode to supplement UC's gameplay.
And what fun gameplay this is. If you've ever considered crash-n-bash arcade racers to be as enjoyable as I have, then you will absolutely love what Ultimate Carnage has to offer. This is really arcade racing as it was meant to be. Whether you're doing a traditional race, a destruction bowl, or any of the other events, you're going to be in for some extremely satisfying carnage as you smash your way through thousands of destructible objects laying about such as tyres, scaffolding and signs, and
obviously into other cars racing around as well. Even if you are trying to place first in a race, often it will be too hard to resist creating mayhem even if it means you have to restart from the beginning again, because the crashes and impacts are very often insanely awesome. The only event types which are pretty boring when it comes to the carnage are the solo time trial and "bombed" events, which requires you to reach check points in certain time frames otherwise you blow up (Speed: Flatout?).
Otherwise, this game really lives up to its name in every way.
Outside of races and destruction events with other cars, UC also features the much loved "stunt" events we all enjoyed in the previous two titles. For those not in the know, "stunt" events in Flatout are brilliantly crafted mini-games where you launch your driver into the air with full bone-crunching rag doll effects based on your car's forward momentum. This time around you can do a hell of a lot of great stunts, ranging from shooting your guy into basketball hoops
to carefully guiding him through rings of fire, with many more other sport and game inspired events in between. While some of these can be a lot easier than others, they are all based on timing and real physics, offering a fantastic way to burn some time by yourself or in a party environment. At the very least, they are always good for a few laughs and cringes as your poor driver wraps himself around every object in his path.
Flatout: Ultimate Carnage Xbox 360 Review page 2
However, UC is not perfect - there are a few disappointments. Being on the Xbox 360 console, naturally developers Bugbear Entertainment were able to enhance the gameplay in some technical ways, such as much more specific and detailed crash damage as well as a lot more in the way of destructible objects surrounding the tracks. This is great, but the game still feels incredibly like the original Flatout let alone the second version. Now, in all fairness you can't really fix what isn't broken, but
at the same time, UC is little more than Flatout 2 with better graphics, which are very nice by the way; it's just not enough to give this series that complete "next gen" boost in the arm.
For example, one aspect that I think Bugbear really missed out on with UC is the allowed amount of cars competing at any given time. 8 is the maximum in online races, which is acceptable when you consider you have network performance to fight with and too many cars would simply backfire. However, offline races are limited to a rather low 12 cars. It sounds like such a minute, insignificant part to the game, but it's really the crux of how the gameplay in Flatout works - the more cars
you have, the more potential for crashes and carnage you have, and generally, the better the gameplay. In quite a few events, even ones centered entirely around destruction, 12 cars is simply not enough and creates time pockets of limited or no noteworthy activity as you either pull ahead or fall behind most of the action. I would have loved to have seen at least 20 cars in offline races on the Xbox 360 console, which I'm sure is up to the task, and even if it isn't, dropping some physics detail to allow
for more cars is still better in my opinion - it is said the game allows for 40 unique deformable parts for each car and over 8000 destructible objects for each track. This sounds impressive, but if you half both those figures, the game would still play great and likely allow for more cars.
If it's any consolation, it seems the CPU driven cars in UC are at least as feisty and vicious as ever. While the first two Flatout's were pretty solid in this area themselves, the level of competition that AI cars offer in UC is great and does help to limit the ineffectiveness 12 cars can sometimes have on larger tracks. Prepared to be beaten up quite a lot in UC as CPU cars go out of their way to create mayhem of their own, and even try cheap tactics such as tail whips to take you out of
contention. While the game insists via character bio's on loading screens that each CPU car and driver have different characteristics, I didn't really notice this come through much, but nonetheless, driving against the CPU in Flatout has never been as competitive and challenging as it is in Ultimate Carnage.
As mentioned before, UC does have full Xbox Live capabilities as expected allowing you to take any of your favorite events online against other human racers, however perhaps the coolest part to UC's Live implementation is the automatic leaderboards that display after each event, including single player events in any of the main game modes. Here you can see how your latest effort compares to gamers around the world, which include both Silver and Gold members, so basically anyone who is connected online at all
will have their results automatically uploaded and displayed. Throughout the entire time I played this game for review (and afterwards for that matter), I also didn't notice one case of this feature slowing down the post game menu's loading time below an acceptable time, so it's a very nice addition all round.
When you look at the complete picture, Flatout: Ultimate Carnage really is the ultimate arcade racer. It may not have licensed cars and the tracks can be repetitive, not to mention the gameplay hasn't changed much at all since the series birth a few years back, but fun, addictive and easy to get into 'pick up and play' driving action is what this game is all about, and in those departments it delivers without a hitch. Some areas could have perhaps seen slightly more attention to really solidify
this game as a true next gen experience, but it is still the most fun I've had on the Xbox 360 and I think many will come to that same conclusion when they try it out. If you want unbridled, often insanely fun and addictive racing gameplay on your 360, you can't go wrong with Flatout: Ultimate Carnage.