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FlatOut 2
Score: 86%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Developer: BugBear Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Racing (Simulation)

Graphics & Sound:
When I first saw FlatOut 2, I instantly harkened back to my days playing Destruction Derby on the original PlayStation. That game combined some wicked crashes with NASCAR-esque simulation racing. Fast forward several years, and here we have a seemingly revamped version of one of my favorite racing titles, brought to us by relative newcomer BugBear Entertainment. Needless to say, I was stoked to review it.

Visually, FlatOut 2 is stunning. The sense of speed and momentum is quite astonishing; zipping around obstacles, flying through barriers, and careening wildly around the tracks - some great stuff. Frames hold steady throughout, and the graphical edge of the PS2 is pushed to its near limit. Even the shine from reflective surfaces like water and windshields is pretty dang good. The way the vehicles tear themselves apart is equally impressive, littering the field with all manner of hubcaps, hoods, taillights and more.

The environments and tracks are equally creative and well done. Some may take you through dusty trails, others in abandoned malls, gas stations, or even snow-covered hills. On some of the back roads, the sheer amount of debris is pretty amazing, from broken fences, cacti and more rocks than a gravel pit, you will enjoy ripping right through it all. Throw in a myriad of special event arenas, with their whacked out layouts, and there is a bevy of visual splendor to take in.

In the sound department, there is a pretty wide array of rock tunes from famous artists like Audioslave, Megadeth, Wolfmother and Nickleback, to name just a few. They provide a nice backdrop to the races; especially in the wicked intro video that highlights all the aspects of gameplay you are about to dive into. Some of these songs have been around for a few years as well, so singing along is always a possibility, as well as their quality having already been tested and respected in the music biz. It would be a shame to have a host of generic tracks, instead of some real head bangers presented within.

Beyond the soundtrack, the various squeals, crash effects and so forth are compiled with expert attention and really draw you into the action. Nothing sounds overly shallow or resampled, and all adds to the already stellar sensory package by BugBear Entertainment.

There are a plethora of game modes in FlatOut 2. For starters, the standard Career mode enables you to unlock a stable of hot cars along the way, as you pile up wins and broken bones alike. Speaking of broken bones, when you get into a major crash, you literally fly out your front window careening into all manner of objects, before finally coming to rest in glorious rag doll fashion. This comes in later during the impressive Mini-game mode (12 in all), where you will launch your driver through nets, flaming hoops, skip them off water and more. Truly some sadistic fun!

In most every race, whether it be the mayhem of Demolition Derby, or the regular racing events, colliding with the opposing drivers is always a good thing. In fact, the harder and faster you collide with someone, the more points you usually earn, and that can go into upgrades later on. Some of the derby arenas are pretty dang cool. Some are classic open arenas; others are filled with debris or whole buildings to crash through. The trick in these is to survive for the entirety without getting too banged up, but also stick a few cheap shots here and there to compile some worthy points. It’s a fine balance of reckless abandon, and cat and mouse driving. Let me note… being able to just plow into someone after a full nitro boost is something unmatched in today’s gaming world. Some of your computer opponents have a fleshed out background and style, rather than some vanilla collection of generic names and decals. You will instantly spot them in the pack, and will need to bring your A-game to beat them, as they seem even tougher than your standard racers. As the race wears on, many drivers will start becoming increasingly hostile, so keep one eye on the road ahead, and one watching your six - you never know when two-tons of steel is going to rip you a new one.

Many people compare the FlatOut series to the Burnout games, mainly based on their sheer destructive crashes. And while the aforementioned Burnout is a little different in game mechanics and features, the feeling is still the same -wild physics and effects coupled with solid racing action. There is also online play for up to 6 others, with matches and tournaments in any of the derby, stunt or race styles.

As I mentioned before, the enemy A.I. will keep you on your toes, by increasingly keeping pace, and also slamming into you when you least expect it. It does help to be able to scan behind and also switch between a plethora of view modes (3rd-person, front w/no car, front w/steering wheel, etc.) as you try and outpace your foes.

Gamers who are familiar with racing titles shouldn’t have too many problems here. Considering the arcade style presentation and the ability to make up lost time with a decisive hit or two, you won’t need to be a Mario Andretti to compete in most races.

Game Mechanics:
Initially, I felt the handling of the various vehicles (ranging from trucks, hatchbacks, worn-down derby cars, and fleet speedsters) was a tad floaty. As I played more, I started to get a better handle on the feel of each one, as some are better around turns, or faster on straightaways and so forth. Still, the overall control felt a tad difficult at times, often spilling you off the track on sharp curves at the worst possible time. I mean... this is an arcade racer, why should I have to brake? Pfft…. fishtailing for the loser folks.

Overall, FlatOut 2 is a solid hybrid of racer/destruction derby, with outstanding visuals and presentation, combined with a wide range of tracks and mini-games. The replay value is high, and the fun factor is even greater. This is a highly recommended title for you speed freaks out there.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

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