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FlatOut 2 (PC)

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FlatOut 2 logo
Game: FlatOut 2
Platform: Windows
Genre: Racing
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Publisher: Empire Interactive/Vivendi Universal Games
Also available on: XBox and PS2

FlatOut 2 is the latest racing game from developer Bugbear Entertainment and as the title suggests, it’s the sequel to FlatOut. Allthough FlatOut did get quite some negative commentaries in various reviews and on the official forums as well, I always found it to be a very fun racing game that looked really good, but it did have it’s share in flaws. Most of these flaws are history with FlatOut 2 which does nearly everything right that the first game did wrong.

The good: great graphics; relatively low system requirements; improved car handling; great car designs; good sounds; pretty nice soundtrack; awsome minigames; online multiplayer; unlike the first FlatOut, cars can get destroyed during races
The bad: no chat feature in the multiplayer lobby; some annoying bugs in the multiplayer component; catch-up style cheat ai

It’s awsome

Let’s start with the most important aspect first: FlatOut 2 is a great game and I’d like to recommend it to anyone who likes racing games and don’t see realism as an important part of that. FlatOut 2 is not realistic when it comes to the racing itself, but it is fairly realistic when it comes to crashing really hard and damaging the environment as well as the cars. Like in the first FlatOut game, the driver can be ejected from the car in a crash, but unlike it’s what happened in it’s predecessor, in FlatOut 2 a crash must be really outragous for this to happen, taking away a great part of the frustration involved with the overzealous driver ejection in the first game. The racing itself is more or less the same as it was in the first game. You drive as fast as you can, try to avoid big obstacles and simply slam away anything else that gets in the way, this includes opponents. When you try to do such a thing in a game like Need For Speed Underground you’ll suffer more from the slam than your target does, in both FlatOut and FlatOut 2 slamming into your opponent can be very effective. But there is one little difference in between the racing in FlatOut and the racing in FlatOut 2. In FlatOut 2 you can earn various bonusses during the race as well as after the race is over. During the race you can get bonusses for slamming into opponent cars, these bonusses are called Slam, Powerhit, Blastout, Super flip, Crash out and Wrecked of which Slam is the weakest and obviously Wrecked is the best. You’ll get the slam bonus if you slam into another car with only a little force, almost gentle. A Powerhit on the other hand requires quite a lot more force and will earn you more bonus credits. The Blastout bonus is the strongest of the 3 slam-into-a-car bonusses. The other 3 are different. For both Super Flip, Crash out and Wrecked you don’t neccesarily need to hit your opponent with a lot of force. To get the Super Flip bonus, you must hit your opponent and cause him to flip over on his roof, subsequent flips aren’t awarded. The Crash out bonus is awarded whenever you hit an opponent and then is caused to eject his driver from his car. Sometimes this’ll happen because of a violent frontal impact, but most of the time you will simply bump an opponent into a part of the scenery that can’t be destroyed like a big tree, a house or a concrete bridge support pillar. The Wrecked bonus has it’s own story as well. When you’re lucky you will hit an opponent that is allready very badly damaged and that last little bump will cause the other car to explode. This will earn you the Wrecked bonus. In other words, if you are the one that gives an opponent the final blow, you’ll get the Wrecked bonus causing the car to explode and the driver to eject out of the burning wreckage.

The tracks

The track design of FlatOut is nice. The tracks might not be the most original you’ve ever seen, but they look good and are fun to race on. Especially because of all the destructable objects that are scattered all over the track. Things like barrels, tire piles, advertisement displays, fences, garagedoors, shop windows and even small trees can be destroyed by ramming into them and it’s great fun to do it. This really adds to the game’s playing experience and it is actually what makes the FlatOut series rather unique when compared to the competition. In most recent racing games there are some things that can be rammed away, but it’s never more than maybe a trashcan or fencegate that you can crush to create a shortcut. In FlatOut 2 it’s nearly everything that is placed near the track. Like in the first game there are some different environments an each environment offers a few tracks which are variations of eachother, but unlike the first game the feeling that you’re driving in the same area is a lot less strong which helps the to prevent the game from becoming overly repetitive. I only missed the snow tracks of FlatOut in FlatOut 2. I always really enjoyed those, but they’re not here and I miss them.

The cars

The cars of Flatout 2 offer a lot more variaty than the cars of it’s predecessor. There are now 3 different classes:

  1. Derby
  2. Race
  3. Street

The derby cars are the ones that look like they were put together from nothing but junk. They’re junkcars meant to be smashed up in any possible way and they look good doing just that and they’re very fun to drive too. The race cars resemble the most to the style of the cars in the original. They don’t look all polished up and are very well suited for mass destruction racing. The street cars are different. These are your typical street tuner cars. Some people think that cars like that kill the raw and dirty feel of the game, but I tend to disagree. I think it’s great fun to smash up a car that looks really good and I always found it a shame that in games like the Need for Speed series you didn’t get any visual damage on the cars. It’s just plain fun to drive a nicely made tuner car towards it’s inevitable destruction and because of these are the fastest cars in the game the smashes are the most brutal in the game and in the end you can barely see that what you are driving is a mocked up tuner car anyway.

And besides the 3 classes of cars there are also a few rediculous bonus cars which can be used in multiplayer. These cars include a mobster car, a old style sportswagon, a schoolbus, a big truck, the flatmobile, which is kind of a driving aircraft and the rocket, which is a stunt car powered by a jet engine.

And last but not least, there is the stunt class. This isn’t really a class and you can’t play any races with them, but these are the cars that you can choose from to perform the stunts with. Unlike FlatOut, FlatOut 2 has seperate cars for this particular gamemode. These cars are all really over the top muscle cars with jet engines mounted on them and all of them handle exceptionally well. With one exception, the Rocket, none of these cars can be used for race or wrecking derby. And the Rocket can only be used on these gamemodes in a multiplayer game.

Gamemodes

The single player component of FlatOut 2 has basicly 2 major gamemodes:

  1. Careermode
  2. Single Race

In Careermode you’ll first get the choice to buy your first car, which is a Derby car, because you won’t be able to pay for a race or street car unless you’re a cheater. You’ll get more credits by winning races and by earning the bonusses that were mentioned earlier. You’ll earn credits by finishing first, second or third and you’ll get bonus credits for slamming into opponents, wrecking opponents flipping over opponents and ejecting opponent drivers from their cars. All these bonusses are awarded to you after the race in the migthy form of bonus credits which you can use to upgrade your car or to eventually buy a new car.
Also, at the end of a race there are 4 titles to be won for the best wrecker, blastmaster, fastest lap and bulldozer which will earn you some extra credits if you win them.
Credits are needed in the Careermode to upgrade your car or to eventually buy a new one. Things you can upgrade include your engine, drivetrain, transmission, suspension, tires and your cars rollage to make it stronger. However, you can’t upgrade the looks of your car, but doing this wouldn’t really make sense anyway as your car will get smashed up anyway, so upgrading the looks of your car would be a total waste of credits anyway.
Not every car can be fully upgraded though forcing you to buy a new car every so often. Each racing class (Derby, Race and Street) is divided into 3 levels in the careermode. and by finishing a level you unlock new cars which can be upgraded further than the cars from the previous level and without upgrading the opponents will simply outrun you so you are more or less forced to buy a new car when entering the next level. After finishing the last level of a racing class you’ll unlock the last car of that class as well as the finals of that class. When you have won the races of all classes and have also won the finals of the classes the grand finals are unlocked and after that it’s all over, then you have won everything and you can start all over again if you like or you can just enjoy yourself with the single races.
Aside from the races you need to complete to finish a level, there are also special events like demolition derbies, arena races and stunts being unlocked by winning the seperate racing cups. Each level is a built up from a sequence of cups you must win to unlock the next one and each cup is a series of races. You don’t need to place first on every race though, second or third is enough too to unlock the next cup and the next special event. By playing and winning these special events you’ll get even more extra credits and every cup and special event can be played as many times as you like without having to start the game over. More on these special events later.

The single race mode is actually divided into several seperate racemodes. It’s actually wrong to say that there are only 2 gamemodes as the other single race modes are on the menu as seperate modes. These modes are:

  • Single Race
  • Single Event
  • Single Stunt
  • Single Derby

The single race is just what it claims to be, it’s a single race. You choose a car and a track and you race. Nothing more, nothing less. You will also still receive the various bonusses, but they don’t earn you credits in this mode, they just look cool.
The single event is more or less the same as the single race as the events you can play are also races, but they are quite different from the normal races.
These races are the arena races which include 2 different figure 8 tracks, the crash alley from the original FlatOut which is like 2 roundabouts and a straight in between where the racers will drive back and forth on the same piece of track. The Speedbowl which is comparible to the figure 8 tracks, but longer and with massively banked curves and a few more tracks.
The single stunt mode is really interesting. These are the little minigames where you drive a very funky stuntcar down a short track and launch your driver towards his target. These were also present in the first FlatOut game, but the new ones are nothing else than a major improvement over the old ones. There are 12 stunts total where you either have to cover a distance, height, avoid obstacles, hit targets by launching your driver out of the car. The stunts present are high jump, ski jump, stone skipping, darts, curling, soccer, field goal, ring of fire, royal flush, bowling, basketball and baseball.
These minigames are all great fun to play, especially when you get the hang of it. They might seem tough and frustrating at the first, but after a while, when you get the hang of it, they’re a great deal of fun.
The single derby mode should also be very obvious. You choose a car, a derby arena and start smashing up your opponents before they smash you up.

Multiplayer

FlatOut did offer a multiplayer component, but only for LAN or hotseat play. FlatOut 2 introduces internetplay to the series and I am very happy with that. Ofcourse there is still the hotseat stunt mode where you can choose one of the stunts and a car to perform the stunt with and compete against your friends on a single computer. The LAN play is also still there. In both LAN and internet play all gamemodes are available. You can play stunts online, race online, play wrecking derbies online, simply all the stuff you have in the single player mode except the career are available for LAN and internet play. Added to that are a few cars that aren’t available in the single player game. I already mentioned a few of these cars earlier and I think it’s a good thing that they aren’t available in the career mode, however, it would have been nice if you could unlock them for use in a single race and such. If it is possible to unlock those I must have missed that. I finished the game for the full 100%, at least, that’s what the game tells me and I don’t see those cars anywhere except online. But they wouldn’t be as fun to use in single player anyway.

The drivers

One thing that I think is really cool about FlatOut 2 is the fact that the opponents are no longer just cars with a nametag. Every opponent in the game has a portrait and a background story included which makes them resemble a bit more to real drivers than just driving bots. This way you will also know who you smash into during a race and which opponent is currently close to you and what that opponent looks like.

Some drawbacks

In single player racing there is only one thing that is really bugging me, but it’s not exclusive to FlatOut 2 and that’s the AI. The first time I encountered a real cheating AI was in Need for Speed Underground (NFSU) which used a catch-up mechanic to prevent opponents from dramatically falling behind so they always stay on your tail no matter how much faster your car is supposed to be. This also means that they never really run out on you either, but sometimes they manage to stay infront of you exactly the same distance during an entire race without using they’re nitros while your car is actually faster and you are using your nitros.
In FlatOut 2 there is also such an AI present, allthough not as bad as the AI from NFSU, but still pretty annoying at times. When driving in a derby car you’ll always, no matter what, be overtaken by Sofia Martinez who’s driving a Chilli. The Chilli is by far the slowest and most fragile car of the game, but it’s very manouverable as well. Even when you’re driving at top speed using nitros with the Venom car (the fastest car in the derby class) she’ll overtake you like your driving a tractor.
Allthough this kind of makes sure there is always a challenge, I think it’s wrong. Let AI cars drive to the abilities of the car instead of using a cheaty catch-up system which is just plain annoying.

Another annoyance factor is that there are some significant bugs left in the multiplayer component. But fortunatly they will be fixed in the upcoming patch.
One of the bugs is a bandwidth problem that especially hits people who don’t have a very fast connection. Another one is that sometimes the host gets kicked from the game and there is also the occasional lockup.

And the last thing I complain about is the fact that there is no chat feature in the multiplayer component. According to a moderator on the official FlatOut 2 forum there is a voicechat feature, just talk into the mic and it works, but I haven’t noticed that. I tried talking to the people in the online lobby, but got no response and didn’t hear it myself either. When I tried it out with a friend he didn’t hear anything either.

Conclusion

Despite the few little bad things in this game, it is really good. And with that I really mean that it’s really good. Except for the AI all the before named bugs will be fixed in the patch which will probably be released soon and the good things in this game simply overshadow the minor annoyances.
For anyone who liked FlatOut this is absolutely a must-have and for anyone who was complaining about certain parts of FlatOut like the driver ejecting too quickly, you’ll find FlatOut 2 to be a great relief.
Simply put; it’s awsome.

9/10

…End of line.

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