STAFF REVIEW of Flatout 2 (Xbox)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006.
by Tony Ingrassia

Flatout 2 Box art Since the beginning of video games there have always been racing games. And in the modern day they continue to be one of the most popular genres in gaming, although the genre has sprouted some sub categories. Destruction Racers have become one of the most popular sub-genres, if you will, on the gaming horizon. One such franchise is Flatout from Bugbear Entertainment, this year Bugbear has released its sophomore installment to the series, Flatout 2. Is the game bigger and better than before? Well, yes and no?

I enjoy arcade racers very much. Mindless destruction is always a great criteria for my gaming pleasure. So when faced with Flatout 2 I was more than excited to give the game a run through and see what it had to offer. The first thing I noticed was that the game was much ?Bigger? than its original version, boasting 5 modes of play with a slew of options to keep you busy. The game is essentially split into 2 categories, racing and mini-games. Like many racers Flatout 2 offers plenty of tracks, vehicles and ?Obstacles? for your vehicle to engage, and while the visuals are more than above par, only suffering from some clipping at times, my only problem with the racing aspect is very simple, the vehicles suffer from ?Floating? controls. I understand this isn?t a SIM racer, but it?s enough to take away from this aspect of the game. The racing does an admirable job at bringing very diverse tracks, AI, and debris from the very impressive ?Damage? engine, but none the less that one small blemish looms large. That being said, Flatout 2?s ?Racing? is better than its predecessor, but nothing really new and exciting.

Now I know this sounds like a game that?s headed for the cellar, but here is where the fun lies in my opinion. Flatout 2 delivers the most entertaining mini-games in a good long time. To be honest the Rag-doll minis more than make up for the racing ?Blemish?. Once again, there are 2 types of mini games, the Rag-doll Stunts and the Demolition Derby. The ?Rag-Doll? games offer 12 stunts ranging from a High Jump to a human Stone Skipping competition over a pool. Toss in the human Dart Board and you will get a chuckle playing through these mini games. Each mini game has the same basic concept in control, speed, angle, and a human projectile. Its simple yet take s some calculations to reach lofty goals, your vehicle has a set distance to travel before launching its driver through the windshield, as you approach the end of your track you can control the angle of your driver as he explodes out of the vehicle, once in mid air you have ?acrobatic? control over him, basically minor shifts in direction with the analog stick, and one small elevation bonus by tapping the ?A? button. The rag-doll effects themselves aren?t bad, the humor is in how your driver lands, or slowly rolls down fencing as he snags his hand, leg, or head on the barrier of choice. Again, I know this sounds simplistic, but the rag-doll mini games are extremely entertaining. If you enjoyed them before, you?ll love them now.

The other surprise in the Flatout 2 package is the Destruction Derby mini game, some great ?arenas? and a ton of fun. 8 racers in one arena smashing each other to bits, earn boost as you cause damage and inflict even more damage as you zero in on your next target. Each rival has a specific style and you?ll find out quickly who needs a little ?Extra? attention. For those of you thinking of just avoiding the carnage until the odds are in your favor, save it, you need to hit something every 50 seconds or be disqualified. It also takes a little thought when it comes to picking your vehicle of choice; weight, traction and acceleration all come into play. Heavier vehicles sustain more damage, but have a harder time out running the AI. Faster cars need to watch those dirt tracks, its hell on the handling. In other words, as much as you can just take off and enjoy, there is some thought process involved in the mini games of Flatout 2.

Multiplayer modes round off the package, with up to 8 players in the racing mode, and the inclusion of the Rag-Doll mini games and Destruction Derby Arenas to online play is a sweet treat. Flatout 2 also has a great soundtrack consisting of some great rock tunes to fit the mood.

All in all Bugbear did an admirable job making Flatout 2 a better game than its original, more verity, more tracks, more cars, and more rag-doll games. If you enjoyed the original this is a no brainer, if you liked the mini games in the first game, again a no brainer. If you like party games I highly recommend giving Flatout 2 a go just on the merit of the mini games. So while they may have set out building a Destruction Racer with mini games, I see Flatout 2 being more popular do to its mini games rather than the racer?and there is nothing at all wrong with that.

If Bugbear could solidify the vehicle control in the racing mode, this game would be 100% solid in every aspect. Even so, a great sophomore effort.

Overall: 7.6 / 10
Gameplay: 7.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.6 / 10


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