FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage Xbox 360 Review
Even before starting this review, the urge to blurt out the name Burnout is a very strong one. However, regardless of the glaring similarities, I will try my best to steer away from direct comparisons and, at least for the first few paragraphs, let the game sink or swim under its own weight.
For me, first impressions are everything, and even though playing FlatOut Ultimate Carnage feels like a journey back to early 2006, when every second game that appeared on the Xbox 360 was an upgraded port with “brand new exciting features“, the impression it makes upon first play, with its thirst for pure unbridled, wanton destruction, is quite a good one! In fact, I dare say anyone that plays the game would come away signing its praises after playing the first ten events. Regrettably, with the next ten, and then the ten after, that initial fun really does start to fade.
Upon first starting the game, aspiring ‘FallOuters’ are presented with four different racing options, FlatOut, Carnage, Xbox Live and Single events. As you would expect ‘FlatOut’ is the game career mode, a career that takes place over 30 different cups, and around 100 different races. Just like all racing careers, FlatOut’s starts with you buying your first car and then entering each event with the hope of becoming the champion. From the outset you are limited to buying only Derby class cars but soon thereafter Race or Street classes open up offering more variety as you advance. Wining races, or placing in the top three, then gets you more money to either buy new cars or upgraded your current car. It’s all hardly revolutionary, and if you are at all familiar with racing games you will have seen it umpteen times before, but you can’t criticize a perfectly functional system that has been around this long.
The other modes on show help add slightly to the game’s longevity. Clicking on ‘Single’ opens up a few more options. First is ‘Race’ which allows you to take part in a race with any car on any track. ‘Stunt’ is next which is a mode unique to the series and allows you to participate in a selection of mini-games, these are playable for up to 4 player offline, which will let you abuse the poor driver in certain ways. All the events revolve around the same theme of driving fast and then ejecting your driver from the car at the right time and hoping he; hits a target, goes far enough or high enough. This mode has many different events such as High Jump, Darts, Ski Jump, Stone-Skipping and Field Goal so your driver is in for lots of pain. Up next is ‘Derby’ which is the game’s take on a destruction derby. To try and keep things interesting in this mode, the game rewards you for smashing up the competition so the less hiding you do the better your overall score! Time Trials are also available here; you should know what those are! Other than that there are a few online options, letting you race with up to eight other players, so you can spread the carnage globally and also a selection of 45 achievements spread between both on and offline mode. Thankfully most of these achievements are within reason and just need some solid play time to get.
Graphically, the game puts up a good show and manages to look impressive no matter how much mayhem seems to be happening on screen. If you are familiar with the predecessors in the FlatOut series then it is noticeable that the game’s damage model is now much better thanks to extra oomph from the 360. The extra power also helps in other areas with the amount of cars on screen getting a boost from eight to twelve. The courses are also improved, they now not only look much nicer but now have many more deformable objects included on them which result in highly littered roads as the race progresses. In terms of audio things are less spectacular. Sound effect, such as engine sounds and collisions, are okay, but could be much better. The game’s soundtrack is a real love it or hate it affair with loads of rock blasting though your speakers at all times as you bash your way through the competition. There is always the custom soundtrack option if the tunes are not to your liking.
Ultimately, even though Ultimate Carnage is a very entertaining game to play it is a very hard one to recommend to most 360 owners. Why? Well there are two reasons. Number 1, when you compare it to something like Burnout Revenge, and the upcoming Paradise, it comes up short. Sure, the races themselves may be fun when played in short bursts, but it is the finite lifespan of the game which lets it down tremendously. There is no denying that parts of the game try to, and ultimately succeed in surpassing Burnout, but as a whole the game ends up feeling inferior to that series. The main problem has to be with the game’s difficulty level which, in all honesty, seems to have drifted a bit too far into the realms of being unfair to fit the game’s arcade racer billing. Now, while the game takes nowhere near the skill of Forza to control I feel a bit too much concentration is needed when hurtling round the track. When playing an arcade racing games you really just want to take that 90 degree turn without even touching the breaks, but in Ultimate Carnage you’re always slowing down in fear of spinning out and dropping far down the placing on the last lap.
There is no getting by the fact that Ultimate Carnage is a port of a last gen game. Yes, it may be a pretty port, and one that that the developers boast has been ‘reworked from the ground up’ but there is still no getting by the fact that parts of the game feel distinctly last-gen. Don’t get me wrong, Ultimate Carnage is still a good game, and probably the best version of the FlatOut series to date, but if you’re interested in the genre you should have already played something similar, and perhaps better before. Nevertheless, if Bugbear ever decided to make a true ‘next-gen’ version of FlatOut I will be very interested to see what they come up with.
In no way is it a bad game, but you’ll probably see everything the game has to offer if you just rent it.