With Burnout Paradise not scheduled to ship until 2008, gamers may be wondering how they’ll scratch their itch for high-octane, car-based crashes. DiRT, Forza 2 and PGR4 are great for pure racing, but sometimes gamers just want to blow stuff up. When those destructive urges arise, they’re not easy to ignore. Fortunately, the latest build of FlatOut Ultimate Carnage isn’t easy to ignore either, and its mix of racing and over-the-top destruction is shaping up to fill the void left by Burnout Paradise’s move to 2008.
FlatOut Ultimate Carnage is the third game in the FlatOut series, so the developers have had plenty of time to hone the craft of throwing the driver through the windshield. Fortunately, Ultimate Carnage adds a bit more meat that slapstick formula, as it’s scheduled to ship with five different modes: FlatOut Mode, Carnage Mode, Xbox Live, Single Event and Party Mode.
FlatOut Mode is the game’s circuit racing mode, complete with upgradeable automobiles via the in-game garage, three different car classes (Derby, Racing and Street) and a host of point-based tournaments that let players work their way up the in-game (and Xbox Live Leaderboard) rankings. The AI in FlatOut Mode is surprisingly solid for a game of this type, with one wrong turn or missed shortcut often meaning the difference between first and tenth place. It’s not all sim, though, as smashing into various objects builds players’ nitro meter, which pushes the car to breakneck speeds when activated.
Carnage Mode takes this smashing element one step further, with players obligated to do as much damage as possible on and around the track while racing through checkpoints. Players add time to their race with each checkpoint passed (a la OutRun), but the most intense destruction often takes place off the beaten path, so there’s a fine balance involved to determine when to race and when to crash. The more damage players do, the more likely they are to win a silver or gold trophy and nab first place on the leaderboards.
Xbox Live mode takes these modes into the online realm, and the Single Event mode lets players choose their mode and race for fun. But the Party Mode is easily the most novel concept FlatOut Ultimate Carnage has to offer, and it’s definitely going to be the most popular with kids (and drunken frat brothers).
Party Mode is available for two to eight players, all of whom take turns completing the challenge in six pre-determined minigames. Out of the box, FlatOut Ultimate Carnage comes with three pre-set minigame tournaments, but players can create their own tournaments by determining which minigame they want to play in each round. These minigames are anything but standard. In fact, the only thing about these minigames that resembles a traditional racer is the fact that each one starts with players driving a car. After that, things take a decidedly violent yet creative turn.
In the basketball minigame, for instance, players drive down a ramp and, before smashing into a guardrail, press the A button to send their driver through the windshield and flying through the air. The goal, of course, is to have the right angle and trajectory to send the driver through hoops of varying values. The player with the highest overall point total after three rounds of this wins.
Likewise, the soccer minigame has players propelling their driver past a series of defenders (and even a goalie) to score points, while the bowling minigame tasks players with tossing their driver down an alley toward the pins. Curling plays much the same way, and in fact feels like a game of masochistic darts, while the flaming rings of death bring about plenty of laughs as the ragdoll physics lead the driver to some awkward positions on a flaming circle.
Yet as crazy as the minigames and Party Mode sound, FlatOut Ultimate Carnage is trying valiantly to balance its outlandish nature with serious racing. Hardcore racing fans may initially scoff at the game’s ragdoll-driven hilarities, but the AI and diverse tracks in its FlatOut Mode should be sufficient to draw their attention and a bit more respect. With a bit more tuning and some optimization to get rid of the game’s horribly long load times, FlatOut Ultimate Carnage could really surprise some people when it ships later this fall.
— Jonas Allen