Review by BradHummr

Reviewed: 04/08/09

One of the most complete racing games the 360 has to offer.

On October 2nd of the year 2007, 360 gamers were treated with a next-gen version of the FlatOut series. FlatOut Ultimate Carnage is a game where street and offroad racing meld together into a perfect racing shake. I first got hooked on the FlatOut series with FlatOut Head On on the PSP system. After I bought my 360, I knew Ultimate Carnage was a must-buy.

Story :N/A

If you take one look at the box for this game, you can guess that there probably won't be a good story, if a story at all. You shouldn't judge a game by it's box art, but you'd be right. FlatOut Ultimate Carnage has no story mode to speak of. It fills the void of no story by adding names to the CPU racers. Consistant names too, so you can imagine one of them your rival and try to really mess them up in the next race. The goal of Ultimate Carnage is to make it to the end of the race first and in one piece. In the stunts, your goal varies, but it usually comes down to getting the highest score. I haven't bought a racing game for the story ever, but if you're looking for a racing game with a good story, stray away from this.

Gameplay: 9/10

From the start of the series, FlatOut has always been compared to Criterion's star racing series Burnout. However, it is unfair to compare them as they are both quite different in terms of gameplay and style. FlatOut is a game about massive amounts of dirty vehicle carnage.. Around every corner there are things to knock down and destroy, every track is littered with thousands of items to drive into and crash. Every vehicle in the game is fully destructible in real-time. If someone said the words 'down and dirty' near my earshot, FlatOut would come to mind first.

FlatOut is composed of lots of modes with lots of variety. First of all you've got your standard mode in a racing game. This mode is called FlatOut and yes, it's like a 'championship' or 'world tour' mode in most games. In this mode, you progress through a series of vehicle classes, unlock new cars and classes and earn money...used to purchase upgrades and vehicles. There are three car class types. Derby, Race and Street. Derby vehicles are the slowest, but the most durable, Race is all around good and Street vehicles are the fastest, but also the weakest. You progress through the races in the form of cups. You are given a number of tracks and laps to complete, you get points for coming in certain positions (1st = 10pts, 2 = 8pts ect.) and whoever has the most points at the end of the races wins the cup and you can progress to the next one.

Along with the races, FlatOut mode has sub-events. These do not need to be completed for access to the other vehicle classes, but you miss out on money and additional vehicles. Sub-events consist of Time Attack races (Try to beat a certain lap time) and Demolition Derbies (Try to cause the most damage and survive). Completing these sub-events shouldn't cause you too much trouble. They are well worth the racing credits they hold and you get an achievement for getting gold on all of them! You start on the Derby Class races, but as you beat cups you'll unlock the Race and then Street Class races. The FlatOut mode alone, if you're going for all gold, will easily take you 10 hours or more. The only bad thing about FlatOut mode? The credits you earn don't serve any purpose outside of FlatOut mode. You use it to upgrade and buy vehicles, but in the other modes all other vehicles are automatically unlocked. It's a shame you can't show off your efforts in other modes.

The next biggest contender for your time is the Carnage mode. In Carnage mode, you are given a large number of events. Be it a stunt, a demo derby, a race, a carnage race, beat the bomb or a time attack. As you complete events, you gain points for them. More points unlock more events throughout the Carnage mode. Carnage mode is perhaps the most challenging mode of the game. You get ranked from nothing to Bronze, Silver or Gold...depending on how well you do on the events. Thankfully you can beat Carnage mode with just all Bronze in everything, but it requires Gold to unlock the bonus vehicles to use in FlatOut and other modes. FlatOut mode lacks some of the better vehicles, so beating FlatOut and Carnage mode at the same time is a good strategy.

What makes Carnage mode so special from FlatOut mode? Carnage mode doesn't let you pick everything. Usually it will choose a track and vehicle for you.Sometimes it gives you a good one, but a few events later you find yourself faced with impossible odds. Some events require perfect scores on some of the stunts! Carnage mode will take a good while to complete, especially if you're going for all gold. However, if you like achievements, Carnage will not disappoint.

Aside from Carnage and FlatOut modes, you are also given a multiplayer mode (see below) and a Single Event mode. Single Event mode lets you choose any vehicle for use on any track or derby. Single Event mode also houses every stunt in the game, that you can play whenever you choose. There are stunts such as Basketball, High Jump, Ski Jump, Ring of Fire and Darts. To play stunts, you usually drive a short distance before launching your driver out the windshield! You can then control your driver in their fateful flight and try to get them through a basketball hoop, hit the center of a target or other goal. Stunt mode is great fun when you first start to do it, but after a while it loses it's charm and some required stunts in Carnage mode seem like a chore, especially because it seems some of the goals you need to meet are based on luck.

FlatOut Ultimate Carnage has a large amount of vehicles for you to drive. From well-worn cars and trucks from the derby class, to the durable and fast vehicles in the race class all the way up to the sleek and shiny machines of the street class. They don't stop there though, no sir. After those classes (Which each contain over ten vehicles) you have the bonus vehicles! These include the trademark FlatMobile, a semi truck cab, a school bus and a gangster car. Aside from those, you even get a brand new set of stunt cars to use during all your stunts!

Each race gives you eleven opponents to race against, smash against walls and use as roadblocks. Every derby has you against another eleven contenders as well. This is a step up from the series normal amount of eight racers (Including you) for every race and derby. The AI is good, but predictable. Every race or derby has the same character names, but depending on the class, they drive different vehicles. While they do stick to the track and avoid you for the most part, they can be frustratingly perfect sometimes. You could be driving great the whole race, only to get messed up by a safety cone at the end. As you frantically reset your vehicle to the track, you find out that even though you were driving perfectly, the AI was on your tail and they speed on past you and go through the finish line.

If you know your vehicles well, you can easily tell who will be the biggest threat just by identifying their vehicle. Usually they will have a vehicle you don't have unlocked yet and of course it's also usually the best of the class. This means you need to work even harder, as at the start of every race they already have the advantage. Once you get into the good vehicles though, you can leave them in the dust. Lap them, crash them, put on the brakes and let them catch up so you can have a little fun...whatever. The good news? No rubberband system! You know that annoying gameplay trait in a lot of racing games? You get far ahead, your opponents get infinite nitros, or suddenly they get a major speed upgrade. Not in Ultimate Carnage. You can leave them in the dust without worrying about such things.

The tracks are like a box of chocolates. Some of them are great, some are good, but regardless, they're all covered in chocolate! In Ultimate Carnage, the tracks vary from water canals, to the desert, to the forest, they make their way into town and then they stop and have some fun on crash-oriented bonus tracks. The city tracks as usually fast, but there aren't quite as many crashes. The off-road tracks present lots of crash opportunities as well as more dangerous driving conditions. Every track is well built, some even with shortcuts that can be hard to find and even harder to master. There are lots of different tracks and then there are more tracks built out of interlocking tracks. There aren't many tracks that you will want to remember the name of, to race on them later, but you'll certainly find a track you really enjoy!

The gameplay in FlatOut Ultimate Carnage is superb. It's unique, it's fun and it has a well-rounded challenge level. Whenever you beat an event of race, you feel like it was worth it. The cars have lots of variety and are, for the most part, fun to drive. Every race is unpredictable and even the underdog poses a sort of threat. These are all things I feel make an important racing game and BugBear Entertainment sure hit the target in the dead-center on this one.

Controls: 7/10

If you have read previous reviews about this game, you should somewhat know that a lot of people have trouble with the controls. I'm not going to lie, they take a while to get used to and even hours to get the hang of. The vehicles feel slippery, a lot of them can fishtail way too easily and others couldn't make a turn to save their life. You want the good news? These problems aren't permanent! If you spend some time with this game, maybe pick a favorite car, choose to race on a familiar track. You can master the controls. The game gives you your normal brake and then, a soon-to-be-standard racing game extra, the e-brake. The normal brake slows your car down and then starts into reverse, the e-brake, however, locks up your rear tires so you can send your vehicle sliding around corners.

If you learn how to effectively use both brakes, you can eat up the tracks and the competitors who dare to race against you. Had the game had tighter controls, faster responding cars and a better feeling of weight, the controls would easily go from a 7 to a 9. They take time to master, but they aren't impossible to use.

Sound: 8/10

Music: The music in Ultimate Carnage is mostly punk-rock. Personally, I hadn't heard of any of the songs in the game and only about two of the bands. For the most part I left the songs on, they fit with the action really well and some of them were actually quite catchy! However, there was the occasional song that made me turn the music volume all the way down. There is no option to switch songs, or turn off the ones you don't like. This is a shame, but at least the Xbox 360 gives me the option to play my own music in-game.

Sound Effects: When you play your first race, you can tell the developers put a lot of effort into the sounds. In addition to the usual engine and tire squealing sounds, there have been lots of small details added to make it a truly unique experience! The derby cars have parts that are shaking around, those make noise. As your car gets damaged, if pieces are dragging, you hear that too. When driving over dirt you can even hear all the dirt and the occasional rock hitting the underside of your car! Items against of items is really well done too. What do I mean by that? I mean like metal on metal, metal on cement and metal on wood. I've been playing the game for easily over 30 hours and I'm still discovering new sound effects.

The car engines are also very, very close to being perfect. Some cars start out with a powerful engine sound, some barely keeping the motor running and others with quiet motors that really get whirring as you pick up speed. As you get damaged, the make different sounds too! Especially the derby cars. I remember getting so damaged one time, that when I finished the race, my engine was making such a worn-out noise I was amazed. Some vehicles borrow sounds from others (Especially those close in specifications) but most of them are unique.

There is a flaw with the sound effects, however. This has happened in both the FlatOut games I have had the pleasure to play. Because of all the sound effects from all the debris, the tracks and all the vehicles colliding with this, there is usually nonstop sound of stuff hitting other stuff. Sometimes, like when there is a really loud noise and a large amount of other sounds, the sound effects will cut themselves short for the rest of the race. You can hear them start, but soon after they begin, they end abruptly. This only happened to me like once every thirty or forty races, but I feel it was worth mentioning. The music and sound effects add a lot to the game, without them, the total destruction feel wouldn't quite be there.

Graphics: 9/10
This is easily the best looking driving game I have ever played, as well as one of the best looking 360 games I've ever played. The car models are fantastic! Every vehicle is very detailed down to the tailpipes and rust stains. Even as your vehicle become damaged, it still looks great! The motor becomes visible (not to mention the fan of the motor also...you can see that spinning around in there), the inside, the underside, everything on the cars looks great, on or off. With the impressive amount of vehicles, you get quite the anatomy lesson on them all.

The tracks go hand-in-hand with the cars. Everything is done in a realistic style, which only adds to the atmosphere. The tracks themselves are stunning. They have some really detailed textures on them, especially the off-road tracks. You can see every speck of dirt and mud flying into the air, as well as trails of dust coming from the other vehicles. If you're behind the pack, sometimes it can be impossible to see because of all the dirt and dust in the air!

The items that you can crash around also look really good...from a distance. Upon closer inspection you can see how blurry a lot of their textures are. It is understandable though. With thousands of items on every track, I'll take a sacrifice that minor. Who is really going to notice the textures on some items flying through the air while you blow through at a hundred and twenty MPH anyway? The graphics in this game are, simply put, very impressive. The best part? No slowdown! I have raced hundreds of races and only once in a blue moon will there be enough dust and explosions on the screen to slow down the framerate, even then it's only for a second. Bravo BugBear!

Multiplayer: 7/10
This game supports online multiplayer and offline 'party' mode. Party mode has you passing the controller to up to seven others as you compete for high scores in stunt mode. I was really hoping for a splitscreen mode, but that is not to be found.

I have played quite a bit of the Xbox LIVE online multiplayer and it is a blast! There can only be eight people at once in this mode, but you can choose from any track, stunt or derby to compete in. The matches can be created and found quite easily. I have only run into one person who lagged and it was only the first part of a race before the person was back to normal. After you master the controls, the AI racers won't pose much of a threat, so racing against other players is the way to go.

The bad? There are player matches and ranked matches. Ranked matches are the only way to get online achievements and I have not found a single person who was in a ranked match or willing to do a ranked match. I'm sure the game was more popular when it was first released, but it's still a shame.

Replay Value: 9/10
I know I have raced every track at least thirty times and I keep coming back for more. The sheer amount of available vehicles and tracks will keep you occupied for hour upon hour. Aside from the time-consuming single player modes, you have the party mode to play with your family and the online multiplayer if you want a real challenge! I have been addicted to racing games before, but after playing FlatOut Ultimate Carnage for so long, it makes my other 'addictions' look like I went over to a friends house to try the other racing games out.

Rent, Buy or Avoid?
If you couldn't tell by reading the review that is above this, buy, buy, buy! I bought this game for just over $20. The game is well worth it. FlatOut Ultimate Carnage is the most enjoyable racing game I have ever played on a home console.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage (US, 10/02/07)

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