Flatout: Ultimate Carnage Review (Xbox 360)

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There’s definitely no shortage of arcade racing games available these days, and with everyone still reeling from E3 information overload, and a refreshed appetite for a number of hugely anticipated blockbusters, we’d forgive you for not having noticed Flatout: Ultimate Carnage - the official underdog of the Xbox 360’s 2007 line-up.

It’s an unfortunately timed release - the European release hit stores just a week after the much-anticipated Forza Motorsport 2, and the upcoming North American release on October 2 puts the title in competition with Halo 3 and GTA IV among others. Australia gets their taste a little earlier on August 1, but they’ll almost certainly be too busy trading Pokemon to notice, or care.

We’ve had our hands on a final build for a few weeks now, and can safely say if you’re looking for an arcade racer that doesn’t feel as fake as Ridge Racer and Colin McRae: DiRT, Flatout: Ultimate Carnage could be your thing. Full review after the jump.

The single-player game is split into two sections. First up is Career Mode, the bulk of which is straight up racing - with the odd time-trial or demolition derby thrown in for good measure. You start off in Derby class, spending small on an old rust-bucket, earning cash and progressing your way through the races to reach the Street, and eventually, Race modes, each with their own set of unique vehicles - 48 in all.

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While there’s only a handful of environments, 39 different tracks have been carved out of them - and the furious racing doesn’t leave a great deal of time to spend appreciating the scenery anyway. At first glance, some of the tracks seem a little simple, but provided you’re willing to experiment, you’ll quickly find a myriad shortcuts by smashing through buildings, or taking the aerial approach with one of the several conveniently placed ramps.

The physics aren’t aiming for the ultra-realistic simulation feel, but there’s definitely an element of real driving here - you’ll actually need to keep a proper racing line, and use the brakes to stay on the track. Different kinds of vehicles behave roughly like you’d expect - you’ll struggle to the keep the rear-end of a hulking RWD V8 in check through a muddy corner.

While the physics engine might be primitive stuff compared to Forza 2, this means a lot more horsepower can be thrown at the graphics - and Bugbear have really made the most of this one. With insane detail and some truly jaw-dropping effects, including one of the best flame effects we’ve ever seen, Flatout: Ultimate Carnage is probably the best looking racer out there. One of the biggest complaints about Forza 2 was the prominent jagged edges on just about everything on the screen - and there’s none of that to be seen here.

If you’re sick to death of racing games with no damage modelling, Flatout will be a breath of fresh air. Each vehicle is built from over 40 deformable parts, and with the rough racing on offer here, you’re guaranteed to be missing at least 20 of them by the time you cross the finish line.

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