FlatOut 2 Review
On the surface, it's a keen looking title, though. The graphics are exceedingly well-crafted for an old-gen game. Minus the HD, it looks nearly as good as early Xbox 360 offerings such as Full Auto, and features a physics model just as impressive. Unfortunately, that's where this double-edged sword shows the dull end of its blade as while it's fun smashing through barricades and store fronts watching turbo-charging debris fly everywhere, you'll find yourself becoming frustrated when clipping a traffic cone sends your jalopy spinning sideways. Nice damage models and cluttered raceways are nice when they don't fundamentally ruin the experience. It's a case of design saturation - when you combine overzealous amounts of road detritus with a lot of speed, the collision detection and physics are going to falter somewhere.
In and of itself, this isn't a huge problem (and it's to be expected), but FlatOut 2's controls make accident recovery a chore. I don't know how the developers did it, but they managed to make the steering both too floaty and too rigid at the same time. Forget turning correctly around a sharp corner unless you use the handbrake, which is mapped to the circle button (when most people will have their thumbs oriented towards the X and square, it would've made more sense to map it to the unused R2 on the shoulder). And unless by some miracle your post-crash vehicle lands facing straight ahead again, be prepared to wrestle with the controller. A bump in the road (and there are many, especially on the rustic tracks) could send you spiraling towards your doom and any attempt to correct yourself causes you to oversteer. You end up winding around like a drunken rattlesnake before you crash into a tree or give up and hit triangle to reset yourself on the road. By that point, you're probably in last place (besides the first two cups, I consistently found myself dropping into places 6-8 just because of some unforeseen mishap near the end of each race).
If you can overcome that - or you just happen to be a better racer than I am - FlatOut 2 offers a fair amount of content. There are three racing classes, each with an increasing number of cups and events to participate in. The randomly-spiking, design-induced difficulty doesn't really jive with what should be the logical progression of the game and since most of the vehicles control the same regardless of class or stats, it doesn't matter that much in the end. The events are overall more entertaining than the races, but you have to finish the latter before unlocking the former. Events consist mainly of things like destruction derbies or driver-launching mini-games. They're fun as long as the gimmick lasts for you, really, which can change depending on the number of inebriated people you're playing with. By yourself, you probably won't want to revisit them, which is why it's nice that online play is included. You can play with up to 8 people in all of the events if you so choose. Local multiplayer is logically limited to two on a split-screen.
If there's one more thorn in FlatOut 2's side, it's the soundtrack, which consists of a mix of songs that, paradoxically, doesn't really work together, yet all seem to sound the same. Certain songs, when isolated, are pretty good, though, like the ones by The Vines or Megadeth. The overall selection is better than EA Trax, but I eventually just turned off the volume so I could race in (relative) peace.
Like so many other things in FlatOut 2, your enjoyment is going to correlate directly to your personal level of tolerance for its faults. There is a potentially interesting game here, but more often than not, its gimmicks lose their appeal and then you're just left with a sub-standard and less enjoyable Burnout. Amazingly, even the gimmicks don't seem to work so well - despite all my crashing about, the driver only flew through the windshield a handful of times (and then I was hammering on triangle to get back in the race as I could've cared less about how silly she looked flailing through the air) and attempting to take out opponents in each race isn't worth the effort. Whereas one well-place hit could destroy a rival in Burnout, cars are given too much health in FlatOut 2. It's also harder to score good hits when you're having so much trouble handling your own vehicle.
Ultimately, it seems the concept hit its pinnacle with the first game and there was really no need to produce a sequel, but if you've got an ironclad fortitude, the few things that work in FlatOut 2 could keep you chugging straight through to the end.
8/11/2006 Cavin Smith