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Forget realism. Forget seriousness. Forget playing games and wondering just why you're working your arse off for so little reward. Get FlatOut and prepare for the most fun you've had since that day you laughed so much you splurted milk through your nose. It's one of those driving games that tickles all your fun buttons at once, leaving you with a massive grin.

FlatOut's endless joy stems from the fact that you can play it however you want to. If it's a straight racing game you're after, FlatOut is man enough to challenge the most hardened drivers out there. And if destructive mayhem floats your boat, prepare to sail on the high seas of demolition heaven. The handling's incredibly basic but not without subtleties that you'll discover after time.


Destruction Derby
Almost everything in FlatOut can be smashed, flattened and obliterated, and there's absolutely nothing to stop you wandering miles off course in search of things to plough into. With no invisible barriers bouncing you back on track as soon as you leave the circuit, you're free to investigate just what destructible delights the makers have left lying around the locale. It's got nothing to do with the actual racing game and yet the developer has obviously spent ages dotting marquees, stalls, scaffolding and so on way off the racing circuit purely for you to steam into and giggle like a girl as a whole building comes crashing down. Devoting so much time to bits of the game that only a fraction of the players will bother to search out is a sign of the attention to detail that's gone into making FlatOut such a joy to play.

The best thing about this insane level of devastation is that it's woven into the game in the form of a very handy nitro bonus. The more damage you cause while racing the more your nitro meter will fill. Learning when to use your nitro is a whole strategy in itself. With so much power comes great responsibility, or just the opportunity to drive like a loony and cause your driver all sorts of pain. We recommend using it sparingly, with only gentle stabs of the boost button - or you'll find yourself wrapped around a tree before you've had a chance to buckle up.

When you do stack your motor into an immovable object, your unfortunate bloke will be ejected through the windscreen and you'll get to follow his painful plight in slow-mo as he bounces from bone-snapping tree to limb-mangling grandstand, before being run over by a fellow racer. It sounds sadistic but in practice it's more cartoon-like than gratuitous with your driver's rag-doll body bouncing, scraping and rolling down the road in amusing fashion. 'Ban this sick filth' tabloid headlines do not apply here.


Mini-Game Madness
Realising the genius of this hilarious concept, the developer has incorporated your driver's windscreen-smashing lunacy into a fantastic selection of mini-games that has you battling to throw him furthest, highest and even take part in human ten-pin bowling. Again it's merely a sideshow to the whole Championship racing, vehicle upgrading, handling-tweaking main game and yet it proves to be more entertaining, challenging and wickedly addictive than many other complete driving games are.

It might not look quite as sexy as Burnout 3 or be able to match its blistering speed but in every other department FlatOut is like its long-lost, straw-chewing country cousin. Off-road racing has never been so accessible or so much fun. It's about time we had a game that successfully combines racing and destruction into a deliciously rewarding whole. This, folks, is precisely that game.

The verdict

Racing and extreme destruction combine with hilarious mini-games to create a joyous riot of pure, unadulterated fun.

PlayStation 2
Bugbear Entertainment
Empire Interactive
Racing / Driving