Review: Flatout

October 15, 2006

Think Burnout, but Grimier, and Crappy.
Bugbear / PS2 PC Xbox / Teen

With Flatout, unknown developer Bugbear attempts to capture the magic of Burnout while adding a layer of grime that will appeal to dirt racing fans. The result is a good idea with fairly poor execution and, at times, out-and-out bad supporting material.

In Flatout you play a generic guy or girl whose sole purpose is to be flung out of a windshield in various unpleasant situations. This is the central gimmick of the game. At various times, if you hit an object hard enough your unrestrained driver will go hurling through the windshield of your car and land, depending on how hard and solidly you hit something, a good ways away. Adding to the fun of this concept are highly destructible environments. you can hurl your little rag doll through advertisements, tires, and other environmental effects to satisfying results. All this is just a small part of what is supposed to be the main draw here, the racing. Races are fairly basic affairs with the expected rankings and arcade physics, however there are several odd and unnecessary additions to this racing in the form of random obstacles that are scattered throughout each track. While these obstacles are intended to liven up the otherwise bland racing experience, they end up being more annoying than interesting. The other unfortunate feature of the racing is the unforgiving A.I. Even on the easiest level; if you screw up in the race you will have little opportunity to come back.

All the downsides of the racing combine to draw attention towards what ultimately steals the show, the mini-games. These mini-games consist of three different demolition derbies, three different wacky track races, and six different so-called stadium events which use the driver ejection feature in several unique and fun ways. Whether you launch your driver for the high/long jumps, various target games, or human bowling, these mini games are surefire fun, for a few hours.

The sad truth is that whether you’re playing for the racing or the mini-games the game simply peters out after a little while and ceases to be fun. Even the car buying and customization parts of the career mode will fail to hold even the most devoted gear head’s attention for very long.

Flatout simply could have been better. The premise and quality execution of the ejection gimmick warrants another try(indeed Flatout 2 has already been announced). I wanted to love this game, I still love the concept, but the first try will fill hardly a weekend worth of a gamers time. If this premise intrigues you, rent it, if not give Bugbear time to try again.

By Zack Rovinsky



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