Perfecting a racing game is ironically enough, like fine tuning a car. Discovering the ultimate balance for AI and handling are keys to success and after three outings you would figure developer BugBear would be right on track. Unfortunately their latest interpretation of “Redneck Burnout” continues to struggle in some of these areas, but thankfully there is more than enough fun here to overlook some of the game’s unsightly shortcomings.
I am sure more than a few of you are surprised that this is actually the third outing for the series. It still amazes me that somehow this quaint little title became a franchise. Personally I have always been a fan and when I first heard the series was headed to next-gen consoles I must admit, I was excited. Ultimate Carnage takes the groundwork laid down by the first two games, adds a nice layer of visual pizzazz, as well as finally bringing all the chaos and destruction of stunt mode online. First let’s talk about the visual upgrades.
One of the most appealing, and impressive features of the FlatOut series has been the sheer amount of destruction as the race progresses. Knocking over telephone poles, scattering car debris, and smashing through various obstacles leaves an amazing amount of wreckage behind. With Ultimate Carnage all of this occurs in real time and without even making a dent in the rock solid frame rate. Couple this with upgraded lighting, incredible smoke and damage effects, and some truly gorgeous water and you have one of the prettiest “dirty” racers ever created.
While the game may be pretty to look at, the questionable handling and aggressive AI are what really drag the game down early on. Learning how to handle your car and keep from spinning out will present a steep learning curve that some gamers may not be willing to invest the time to learn. Floaty physics make you feel like you are constantly driving on ice and AI that never seems to make a mistake will likely frustrate novice racing fans quickly. To avoid this I recommend jumping directly into the Carnage mode before attempting FlatOut mode simply because coming in first place in a race isn’t necessary here.
Learning curve aside there is a ton of new and returning modes within Ultimate Carnage that help make up for lackluster control. The traditional FlatOut mode, which pits you in a series of races against twelve other drivers returns but in addition to this conventional distraction is the entertaining Carnage mode. Carnage mode consists of over thirty different events that take advantage of the other modes in FlatOut such as stunt mode, where you launch your driver through the windshield in a series of hilarious and painful mini games. Beat the bomb, where each checkpoint adds a few more seconds to the fuse of your imminent explosion. Destruction Derby, which is exactly what the name implies and Carnage Races, where destruction is the name of the game and earning points means more than finishing first, round out the package and supply tons of replay value.
All of these modes are enjoyable solo, but the real fun kicks in when you take it online. Ultimate Carnage supports up to eight players online in just about any type of race imaginable. The pure randomness of playing against real players online is both highly enjoyable and much more entertaining than trying to deal with UC’s dodgy AI. Our online tests ran relatively smooth, but this is likely due to the fact that the game shipped in the UK months ago, which accounts for the British domination of the leaderboards.
FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage isn’t for everyone; in fact if you have never played the series this will likely feel like just another racing game to you. If you are a fan and passed up on FlatOut 2 then this title is a must own, however if you did take the plunge last time around there really isn’t a whole lot here to warrant shelling out another 50 bucks for mostly the same game. The inclusion of online play for every mode is a plus, and outside of Burnout there isn’t a better game to watch metal smash into bits at 100mph, but it still hard to recommend this game to anyone outside of its die-hard fanbase.