FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage for PC Review

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The original FlatOut is a physics-based racing game and it’s pretty fun. I think it could have placed a bigger emphasis on the physics aspect but it’s still fun. Developed by BugBear Entertainment and published by Empire Interactive, FlatOut 2 was released for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 in August 2006. The enhanced version, FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage was released for Xbox 360 in July, 2007 and PC in August, 2008. For this review, I played the PC version of Ultimate Carnage and, unfortunately, it does use Games for Windows Live but I was able to disable it by using a replacement XLive.dll. I also installed ThirteenAG’s widescreen fix which does require disabling Games for Windows Live. I’ve often heard FlatOut 2 is the best in the series and after doing some research, I chose Ultimate Carnage since it’s an enhanced version with new gameplay modes, vehicles, better visuals, and more.
FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is a physics-based racing game where you race around tracks, participate in demolition derby matches, and perform stunts that involve you ejecting your driver out of the windshield. Vehicles will take damage somewhat realistically and crashes can result in your driver going flying. Vehicles can be destroyed if they take enough damage. Ultimate Carnage feels more like an arcade racer than the first game did and the developers placed a bigger focus on the physics which is really where the fun stems from in this series. You can accelerate, brake, reverse, powerslide, and activate nitro for more speed. You build up nitro from smashing, crashing, and driving off jumps. There’s multiple game modes to play through like FlatOut Mode, Carnage Mode, and Single Events where you can just jump into any of the events for a quick game. There’s also a multiplayer component which I didn’t get the chance to try.

The FlatOut Mode is basically the single player career. You start buy purchasing a vehicle and off you go. There’s multiple classes of vehicles and each class has its own set of levels and cups per level. There’s multiple races per cup and your finishing position in a race determines how many points you earn. Whoever has the most points at the end of the cup wins. You’ll earn money for winning races or finishing in the top three positions and you can earn more by destroying objects on the tracks, causing opponents to crash, and other various things. The money can be spent on new vehicles and vehicle upgrades. New vehicles are unlocked for purchase as you progress through the mode and new events become available like special races, derbys, and time trials. Any purchased vehicles are stored in your garage and can even be sold off if you need the money.

Honestly, the FlatOut Mode can become boring after a while unless you’re really into racing. If you’re into the game for the destruction and to see the physics engine really shine, you’ll want to play through the Carnage mode. The Carnage Mode consists of numerous events like Carnage Races where you earn points by wrecking opponents, destroying scenery, driving off jumps, and driving through checkpoints. Then there’s the stunt events which have you launching your driver and watching him or her ragdoll at specific targets for points. You can somewhat control your driver in the air and even make him or her thrust for extra air or distance. The stunt events are not only comical but also somewhat addictive. Whether I was launching my driver through rings of fire, into basketball hoops, or into bowling pins, I would find myself constantly trying for a better score. Deathmatch Derby is another enjoyable mode. Set in arenas, the objective is to destroy the other opponents for points. Power-ups will spawn in the arenas to give vehicle’s an advantage. It’s easily one of the most action-packed modes in the game. Then there’s Beat the Bomb where you race against the clock. When you drive through checkpoints, you’ll earn extra time and when the timer reaches zero, your vehicle explodes.

There’s a lot of vehicles to choose from among the different classes, each with different stats in top speed, acceleration, handling, strength, weight, and nitro. And they do come in different colors. In the FlatOut mode, you can purchase upgrades which affect your vehicle’s performance and you have to own a vehicle from a specific class to participate in the events for that class. The AI can be aggressive and gain a significant lead, sometimes right at the start of a race no matter what upgrades you have installed which can be a bit frustrating at times. If you’re in the lead, they’re usually not far behind you but if you drive well, you can usually maintain your position. Staying with the pack can make for exciting races. Vehicles will be bumping into each other, you can ram opponents off the track or into something, and when all the vehicles are clustered together, it’s not unusual for multiple cars to crash and flip which is always cool to see.

Ultimate Carnage includes a decent amount of tracks split up among different location categories. You’ll race through forests, canals, desert areas, and on city streets. There’s also numerous arenas for the derby events. Despite the better environmental diversity compared to the first game, the FlatOut Mode can become stale after a while because there’s not enough tracks to match the amount of the races and events. The FlatOut Mode is quite long and I think more tracks and scenery would have been welcome. The tracks are well designed and contain plenty of things to break and destroy. There’s numerous ramps, buildings to crash through, objects to scatter, and shortcuts to find.

Ultimate Carnage is an enhanced version of FlatOut 2 complete with better textures and more detailed environments. When vehicles crash and ram into each other, sparks and parts will go flying through the air, and vehicles will dent and show visible deformities. On dirt roads, dirt and debris will fill the air, especially when multiple vehicles are close together, reducing visibility for vehicles behind the pack. The ragdoll animations are just as awesome and silly as they were in the original FlatOut. I still say gore effects and dismemberment would be welcome additions. The gameplay is accompanied by music. I’m not a huge fan of the soundtrack and eventually lowered the music volume to zero. It’s worth noting that the music from FlatOut 2 is not present here. It’s an entirely different soundtrack. This means no Megadeth which sucks. Personally, I’m not very impressed with the song selection in either game but prefer the soundtrack in FlatOut 2 only because I enjoy some of the songs. With the music volume lowered to zero, I was able to hear all of the sound effects and they are pretty good. Vehicles roar and the bangs, clangs, and crashes all sound satisfying. But the best sounds in the game come from the drivers. Listening to them scream as they fly out of their windshield never gets old and the sound they make when they thrust in the air during stunts is hilarious.¬†On the technical side, I didn’t notice any major issues and the frame rate was stable throughout the my entire experience.

I had a great time with FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage. The impressive physics and the level of destruction is what makes it so enjoyable. And the ragdoll feature is just the cherry on top. Those things together make Ultimate Carnage a unique and humorous experience. It never reaches the highs of a game like Burnout 3, but it’s still a fun, intense, and action-packed racing game. FlatOut 2 and this enhanced version take what was great about the first game and just amplify it and the result is a better and more enjoyable experience. While the original felt slightly more grounded in reality, I think the series works better when it leans more towards the arcade side and Ultimate Carnage is a perfect example of that.

I would absolutely recommend FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage to fans of arcade racing games. There’s plenty of content on offer to keep you playing for a while. If you’re looking for something like the Burnout series, this really isn’t on the same level. Ultimate Carnage is far less chaotic and intense but it is an excellent arcade racer with an impressive physics engine, resulting in action-packed races and exciting demolition derby’s. Definitely check it out.

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