Content Test 3

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Graphics: 7
Gameplay: 5.5
Sound: 1
Control: 4.5
Replay Value: 5.5
Rating: 4.9
Publisher: VU Games
Developer: Empire Interactive
Number Of Players: 1-8 (Online)
Early adopters of the PlayStation have fond memories of the Destruction Derby series Ė at least the first couple of games. But, it has been a long while since the last great ďcar crashingĒ game. The most recent Destruction Derby was disappointing, and nobody else has stepped up to take ďsmashing cars up for no reasonĒ genre to the next level. FlatOut, with its commercials featuring a driver flying through windshields got Destruction Derby fans excited; and while it has its moments; itís ultimately nothing more than an average racer with the crash gimmick thrown in as a distraction.

Most of FlatOutís gameplay is found in the career mode, which really has nothing to do with a career, itís just a bunch of races. You start by selecting a car from a small group of clunkers, and then you race to earn money to fix up your ride or buy new vehicles. There are over 30 races that take place in a variety of environments, like the woods, construction sites, and race tracks. Vehicles can be upgraded, but the upgrades only affect performance, and thereís no way to pimp out your vehicle.

You earn money by placing in the top three, and you can earn bonus cash by causing damage during the race. It seems like a good system, but itís got a major flaw. You get boost and extra money by driving recklessly, hitting cars, fences, and the like, but hitting bigger items slows you down, which makes it a dumb way of earning boost, whose sole purpose is to make you go faster. Since youíre encouraged to crash into things to earn extra money, itís incredibly annoying that so many things arenít designed to be hit. Certain walls canít be destroyed, and while you can hit the bottom of a water tower, causing it to tumble down, hitting it again on the next lap will wreck you. If you hit anything youíre not supposed to, youíll send your driver flying through the windshield, and cost yourself a good seven seconds in the process.

The controls are loose and unresponsive, but they do get a little better as your car improves. Thereís some pretty hefty rubber band A.I. in play, so youíre never really out of a race, but irregardless, itís frustrating for a game to encourage a certain type of playing style, but then penalize you for any slight deviation.

When the racing gets old, FlatOutís got online racing for eight, and a multiplayer mode that is a good change of pace. There are several mini-games that involve some sort of destruction derby, or require you to launch your driver in some sort of event. There are games to see how far you can throw your driver, how high, and even bowling and darts. Itís fun to drive down a ramp, through some scaffolding, up another ramp and then launch your driver 100 feet in the air; that canít be denied, but all of these events are easily mastered and get tiresome quickly.

FlatOut is a nice looking game, especially when you take into account how much carnage is taking place on screen. The car models look good, and all the vehicles can be smashed to pieces, and there are often bumpers, tires, and other body parts flying around when racing in tight quarters. It would be nice to have more cars to choose from, and the game screams for some sort of visual customization, but sadly, there is none. The framerate is generally pretty solid, but there are instances when it slows down if thereís a lot going on at once. The courses are nothing spectacular, but despite their lack of imagination, they get the job done. Once complaint is that some of the visuals are a little grainy, and discerning a ramp (a good thing to drive over) from a pile of logs (a horrible thing to drive over) is near impossible.

FlatOutís soundtrack is an assault on the ears. Itís simply terrible. There arenít many songs, so you get to hear the low-budget crappy rock/punk garbage over and over again. The car noises are generic and they often donít sound like they are coming from the vehicle youíre driving. Sometimes the engine is out of sync, and other times it sounds like itís in the wrong gear, or coming from a totally different kind of car. Youíll want to mute this one and crank some real music while playing.

FlatOut isnít all bad. My brother was consumed with the game for a few days, but I never was able to get past the gameís annoying flaws. The racing is fun for a while, and the appeal of launching your driver like a human dart canít be denied, but even those who love that aspect wish you could skip the drawn out animation after awhile. If youíre one of those people that just loves to cause carnage, FlatOut is worth a rental, but under no circumstances is the game worth $49.99. Just because the publisher wants $50 for a game, that doesnít mean itís not a budget title. This will be $20 in two months Ė wait until then.

8/31/2005   Aaron Thomas