No place for racing etiquette

by Kenny Lindsay

Bugbear Entertainment’s new rough-and-tumble racing game barrels into victory lane with its hot new title FlatOut 2, giving gamers and racing fans another hit to add to their collections. The game offers enough versatility and interest to not only intrigue expert racers, but to give hours of entertainment to anyone who is just looking to play an all-around good game.

Like most racers, FlatOut 2 is compiled from a number of different driving scenarios: the cup series (career mode), single race, crash-up derby, multi-player and the signature event, the rag-doll competition. Unlike most racers, the whole premise is geared towards destruction and, at times, complete and all-out disaster. In fact, players are rewarded for driving like an inebriated, enraged bull. That being said, those of us who suck at driving games will still be able to get some enjoyment out of this second installment of the FlatOut series.

The main attraction, the cup series, is compiled of three classes, derby, race and street, each of which has about 11 sub-races along with complimenting special events that can be unlocked per win of each race. The goal is primarily to win, but it’s not a necessity in order to enjoy the game. Practical racing etiquette has no room here. Bonus credits are given to a player who causes the most damage to the environment and other drivers. In turn, the credits amount to dollars that are used in the upgrade shop to improve the performance of your vehicle or to buy a new hot rod.

If being on a racetrack bores you, then the smash-up and rag-doll competitions will provide hours of family fun. Just ask my nieces (ages 5 and 7). The rag-doll events are absolutely hilarious. The idea takes ordinary Olympic and traditional style sports and replaces the ball or objective with an actual person and vehicle. A good example is the high jump. The goal is to rocket a souped-up wagon down a ramp, reach an astronomical speed and launch the driver through the windshield and see how high he goes by sticking him to a fence at the receiving end. It’s a lot like throwing an overcooked piece of spaghetti at a wall. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what’s more amusing, the game itself or the reaction of two little girls rolling around on the floor in hysterics.

There are 51 different vehicles to choose from and the upgrades will vary depending on the make, model and year. The details offered are impressive. Instead of just selecting “upgrade engine,” you actually have to choose what parts will go into it, such as performance chips for newer cars or a port and cylinder polish for older makes. Brakes, suspension, chassis and higher exhaust profiles are also offered.

With the reality of fatalities set aside, the actual physics of driving are very realistic. Careening off a paved road at over 100 miles per hour onto a dirt path has an effect similar to hitting a patch of ice. Also, choosing a vehicle that has front-wheel, rear-wheel or four-wheel drive will make a substantial difference on the type of track on which the race is held.

One of the few flaws I found throughout the game is the lack of visibility. On occasion, it’s very difficult to tell when a sharp turn is sneaking up or which way to even go when racing through the more urban tracks, but it does add to the challenge. The game’s soundtrack consists of various well-known artists ranging from Nickelback to Megadeth and although the music is good, it can be a bit redundant.

Overall, FlatOut 2 is a game that can be enjoyed by everyone and the lack of normality compared to other racers broadens itself to a more general audience, yet also maintains its allure to the pros. With that said and the checkered flag waving, this title pulls in first place in my book.