Last week I decided to give the latest driver on the block, Flat Out 2 demo a go. The game is by Vivendi Games (makers of F.E.A.R, Scarface and the recent Eragon) and Bugbear Entertainment. It’s out for the Xbox, PS2 and PC.
In a four word summary of this review, I had a blast.
I tend to think that early impressions tend to stick with you as you go through a game. In that light, I put quite a lot of value on nice looking, logical menus, and complete appropriate customisation tools.
The menus were good, however my gripe here is that they are completely unable to be controlled by a controller (in my case my Xbox 360 Controller for Windows). I could have opened ControlMK and mapped the keys to the controls, but that would have been a nuisance. Especially since they handled controller support very well, and should have included control of the menus in the same way as Need for Speed: Carbon did.
The demo includes four levels and three vehicles. There are two straight out race levels, Water Canal 1 and Timberlands 3 and one map each for the two other modes, Darts and Demolition Derby.
My first impression upon loading into the game were the beautiful graphics. What it should have been was the load time. The reason it didn’t occur to me to think about the load time was that it was almost non-existent. This is simply spectacular for a game that looks as good as this does.
My next impression was how cool the destructible worlds are. It seems like almost everything can be crashed into and destroyed (within reason). Also, each object behaves in a different, realistic way. For instance if you hit the supports of a bridge, they’ll splinter and the bridge may come crashing down. Driving through a corner cafe will shatter glass windows and leave a trail of shattered chairs and tables in your wake.
Also interesting is the game physics. They’re not real, and not even close to real. However they’re insanely fun. For instance your vehicle will flip as easily as a coin in various situations (as do everyone else’s) and the jumps and other aspects are just downright fun.
I really liked the way the game handled nitro boosts. When you hit the nitro button, the borders of the screen (as pictured above) blur, leaving you feeling like the theory of relativity is being contorted. This probably isn’t dramatically different to how other driving games are handling this, but it just seems to work very nicely.
I felt it was generous of Vivendi and Bugbear to give us two different racing maps in the demo. I think it was done to show how the environments vary in the full game. The timberlands map (above) was very different to the Water Canal (top). With a number of different environments and quite a few different modes it sounds like there will be a lot of variety in the full game.
Sadly, it sounds like there’s no offline multiplayer mode on the PC which is sad, although the days of jamming two people on a keyboard are probably over, so fair enough.
I thought the “Darts” mini-game was interesting, but I doubt it would hold my attention for long. I can imagine playing this in offline multiplayer, but as mentioned, since that’s not available on the PC, I can’t really imagine playing this.
As you would expect from a game based on the demolition derby premise, the demolition derby mode was great fun. I can imagine this would be super fun with real people through the online multiplayer as I found myself building grudges against even the AI players. “That darn Sally Taylor. I’m going to get her good next time!”
In conclusion this is a genuinely fun demo. My only question mark is whether it would stand the test of time. After playing it for hours, am I still going to want to play it? I have a feeling that long after the races have lost their shine and the mini-games are gathering dust on the hard drive, the online multiplayer demolition derby’s will keep FlatOut 2 within arms reach.