This particular SPOnG reviewer is soon to take his driving test. You’d think that I’d have been jumping into a vehicle at the tender age of 17 and racing it up my local seafront like someone with too much time on their hands (underlighting, baby!). But everything I needed was pretty much in my local vicinity, hence I just didn’t bother driving until now.
Some people’s need for driving comes for the wish to become more independent. Others, it’s just easier to travel from place to place, particularly if you’re commuting. For the guys in FlatOut 2, it’s all about the thrill of speed, and smashing up any competitors in your way. Welcome to ‘Takedown’ country! And ‘Takedown’ is the word, as this game borrows a lot from accomplished, fellow rock-n-roll-car-crash-em-up, Burnout
- from the music, to the objectives, to the style of the game itself.
Of course, inevitable comparisons will be drawn with Burnout for any game that dares take a racer and turn it into some sort of destruction game. The main difference between Burnout and FlatOut 2 is the presentation. Graphically, this game looks pretty cool. Not to say that Burnout doesn’t, far from it – but FlatOut 2 doesn’t look too shabby either. However, the level of destruction that is on offer is vast, and the level of detail to each inanimate object as you crash through it is striking.
What Burnout didn’t have was objects, besides the rival vehicles, to crash through, and FlatOut 2 takes you through barns, dirt tracks, destruction derbies and run down urban locations, with a lot of breakables to hit along the way. In a sense, this is very much a grittier and less ‘scene’ version of Criterion’s hit series. And that’s pretty damn cool. Until you see the CPU character profiles, that is. We actually get agitated with their faces as they breach the loading screen – one’s of some tarted up model who really looks like she’d rather perm her hair and phone a guy called Josh then mash it up in a truck. Another looks like Paul Walker. Another just looks stupid.
The sound is what you would expect from a car crash-fest. Loud sound effects, loud music - just plain loud. Getting involved in a pile up is hilarious, as smash after smash is made with scary attention to detail, with your little driver groaning Darth Vader style each time he is flung through the windscreen – one of the main selling points of the original FlatOut. The developers have gotten a good variety of audio tracks licensed for the game, but they are few in number. The generic sounds of Yellowcard and Fall Out Boy bore the lugholes to ear-tears, while doses of Audioslave, Rob Zombie and Megadeth help balance the soundtrack out of mediocrity. We can understand slapping Emo tracks in a racing game with a fetish for destruction though – it’s about the most entertaining way to ‘end it all’ after your parents ‘don’t understand you’ and that one girl eyeing up the jock of the class ‘will always think you’re a loser’.
But there’s a lot of modes on offer in FlatOut 2, all of which ensure that losing is not on the agenda. You can play standard races against the computer on pretty much any track, compete in a Career mode that slowly unlocks more cups to win, charge at each other in a destruction derby mode and fling your driver like a rag doll in many humorous Stunt scenarios. The modes are fun for a while, but they all smack of ‘arcade play’ rather than lasting home console play. The Career mode is the only one really worth sticking with as it’s just about the only mode with things to unlock and complete in it. You can earn more tracks and cars, but most of the stages you have not played right from the off will be available in the other modes anyway, and the extra cars usually fare no better than the regular set.