Reviews

FlatOut 2

A smashing successor to the original Bugbear destruct-a-thon

There are a few jobs in this world that really plumb the depths of humanity: being David Hasselhoff's stylist, overseeing the live coverage from the Big Brother house and being a crash test dummy. The last is normally only carried out by humanoid dummies packed full of highly advanced technology and bits of pigs' guts, but FlatOut 2 mixes things up a bit by putting you into the role instead. Featuring a selection of impossibly beautiful opposition drivers for you to test your skills against, the creators have tried their best to improve upon an already successful formula by upping the ante with more tracks, more cars and plenty more roadside decoration to demolish.

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CRASH AND BURN
Set off round the track and you instantly notice that the skittish, rally-style handling
of the original is still very much in effect, encouraging you to slide around corners and occasionally causing wild spin-offs and a frantic scrabble at the controls to get your car back under control.

This time though, you're not just restricted to muscle cars, with trucks, compacts and sports cars also providing welcome additions to your garage.

Nitro is gained during races from jumping, shunting your opponents and smashing your way through any destructible scenery that litters the track. In addition, the physics on show are impressive (although they verge more on humour than realism) - fences fly, bridges tumble, walls collapse and barrels and debris are thrown across the screen. However, as the quantity of destructible debris decreases, you have to rely more on physical contact to get those last essential bits of boost. Here, you need to strike a balance between not sending your car to the scrapyard, gaining more nitro and staying as close to the front as possible in order to get that first place and the cash.

Shunting the other cars around mid-race is also hugely satisfying, although sometimes you find yourself having nudged a rival, only to get them stuck sideways on your front bumper, killing your own speed and making it extremely hard to shake them off.

Thankfully, this time round your driver is a lot harder to eject through your own windscreen than before, with this only really happening at high-speed impacts with solid
walls - quite understandable really.

To start off with, the levels are pretty varied and will see you racing your way through urban streets, along dry canals, over farmland and through desert, all complete with plenty of short-cuts and alternative routes. However, you soon notice that the tracks on offer are just variations along several themes, and once you've completed the derby level, you may start to find the level design repetitive, although you do get rewarded with extra levels depending on which tier you're driving in. By far the most fun of these are the derby events, in which the aim is to keep your vehicle in one piece while taking out rivals with the vehicular equivalent of wrestling moves, with the later introduction of special stages and oval racing feeling rather staid and boring in comparison.

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TWIST AND SHOUT
Besides the racing, FlatOut displays the same sick humour as the original in its mini-games. This time around, the twisted minds at Bugbear have come up with an impressive total of 12 mini-games, in which you compete by making your driver exit the car through the windscreen. The games on offer vary from high jump through curling to baseball, and although everyone's bound to have their own favourites, stone skipping's a particularly ingenious example of just what fun can be had when you combine a body and some ragdoll physics.

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