I'll start with a disclaimer. I didn't like Flatout at all; I hated it in fact, so perhaps I wasn't the best person to review the game. I did approach the sequel with a little bit of disdain and perhaps I wasn't looking forwards to being surprised by what I found when I got into playing it.
Flatout 2 could be described as the poorer sibling of Burnout in many ways. This isn't a bad thing however because the game delivers a solid arcade driving experience with a nice level of automotive destruction to top it off. It's not as dynamic damage-wise as other games of its type but it does the job well enough.
Nothing here, there's no fancy CGI intro screens to the various racers or any real reason to tell you why you're racing and crashing into other cars.
Gameplay - Singleplayer
You can choose from a male or female character and then you take them into several kinds of races, it's that simple. Racing with style earns you cash, this can be applied to upgrades on your car and these actually offer a significant advantage in terms of performance and stat boosts. You can also buy new cars as you unlock them from singleplayer mode.
Flatout 2 offers the Derby races, the normal Races and Street races. Each race type is split into Cups and you can also unlock special events (such as the Destruction Derby) in the various race modes.
The 3 classes of car are bought from the auto shop and upgraded at your garage, you earn money by racing and there are a number of ways you can get bonus funds. By racing aggressively you can earn various accolades, wreck your opponents and cause destruction to track-side objects. This earns you boost as well and this can be the deciding factor between winning a race and losing one.
Flatout 2 features an aggressive style of gameplay that allows you to perform some vicious driving, pit-manoeuvres (such as those employed by the police) can be used to spin your opponent out and leave you roaring into first place. This is one of the strengths of the game I feel; the aggressive driving has that Burnout vibe to it and your opponents are not above using the same dirty tactics on you.
You can take on a single race or a special event, as well as playing Destruction Derby style without having to go through the career mode. This is a good way to hone your skills.
There are new Mini-games in Flatout 2 and some old favourites are back, these provide a welcome distraction to the career and single game modes and are good for a party-style game. The fare on offer is an eclectic mad mix of such events as the High Jump, Darts (a personal favourite) and Stone skipping, alongside events as Soccer and Royal Flush, Baseball and more.
For those of you new to the game, the Mini-events are usually played over a course of rounds or tries, these tries allow you to get a better score or a combination of points to win against the other drivers. They require you to set an angle with A and then launch the driver out of the window (in the case of say, Darts) towards the target. You can control the driver's motion a little with the left stick and give him an upwards push with A just the once.
Darts sees you trying to aim for the indicated segments of the board and scoring the number. When your driver hits the segment and usually most of the board topples around him in a satisfyingly painful manner.
Stone skipping requires you time the A button presses as the driver nears the water, you score for timing it correctly and getting more skips.
They are definitely the icing on the cake of the game and I can see them being superb for party-style play where you have some beers, nibbles and a gang of friends over.
Considering it's not a next-gen title Flatout 2 is actually a really nice looking game in the graphics department, the cars are well modelled and the backgrounds/tracks are well put together, there's a bloom effect on the lighting and it looks very nice indeed compared to the first game. There are no real complaints from me regarding this to be honest.
I found the tracks in the first game to be a bit lack-lustre, there wasn't much in the way of interest to them and they certainly didn't fill me full of the glee that the tracks do in the sequel. There are some very imaginative designs and it's nice to see that you can catch some big air on those tracks.
The styles vary between tracks in terms of not only design but aesthetics as well. There are some short cuts and every track features a lot of destroyable scenery similar in many ways to the recent Xbox 360 game Full Auto. You can tear through the front of a shop and smash everything in your path, before you tear out the other window and back into the race.
The tracks also feature certain elements that can be used to hinder your opponents, rockslides that can be caused if you drive into the right place and of course if that fails you can ram them into poles, walls and other parts of the track. If you can cause damage to an opponent mid air especially flipping them, you are rewarded with bonus points.
There are forest and dirt tracks, an excellent track that will be familiar to anyone that's seen Grease or Terminator 2 where you race down a viaduct/canal type structure and a city street style track.
The physics from the first game have been tuned and toned up, there's far more to driving now than just pointing the stick and praying things work out. You can take advantage of the destructive scenery to slow your opponents down, pit them to make them spin out or ram them to cause damage and control loss. There are several places on some of the tracks where you can cause an explosion and wreck your opponent's car (especially in Destruction Derby mode) to the point that it looks more like a Go-cart than a racer.
The level of destruction on the vehicles seems to be uniform, that's to say, it's not like Burnout Revenge where your car deforms based on how it's hit. It seems to have parts that break away, but the end result is a body wreck that looks the same all the time, if a little more time and effort were placed into the damage system on the vehicles it would be a top contender for even more fun.
Add to this ragdoll physics for the drivers that are ejected when the cars crash however and you can make for some amusing replays, especially in the Min-games.
Each driver is named and each one has a personality, this is reflected in the AI where they are pretty much likely to follow that persona. They have likes, dislikes and some of them are just straight out brawlers that will wreck you rather than try and race you, they also tend to hold a grudge on a race if you cause them trouble.
Apart from that the AI seems solid enough, it provides a good enough challenge and isn't as ropey as the first game.
The game has a soundtrack that could be described as rockin', there are lots of great tunes on the list and they are designed to get your blood pumping as you race and smash to the end. Having a list that includes:
Fall Out Boy
The screech of tyres, the growl of the engine and the grinding sound of metal upon metal when you impact another car is all here in Flatout 2. It has a nice mix of audio effects that don't disappoint at all. There's no voice acting apart from the grunts, screams and groans as drivers are sometimes thrown out of the car windows on a heavy impact.
Playing locally or over LIVE is possible and the game is definitely fast, furious and fun. It has a certain appeal that's definitely concreted by the upgraded physics and the well designed tracks. Demolition Derby is certainly interesting and getting a win here depends not only on skill but also on the car you've taken into the race, pick a nippy one and the bigger vehicles will probably leave you wrecked in their wake.
I wanted to dislike the game and I came out of playing it with a smile on my face, the game delivers a solid and fun experience that's probably one of the best arcade current gen racers next to the Burnout series. I had to give the developers extra credit here for assembling a kick-ass selection of tunes and putting in at least 12 Mini-games which are varied and just as fun as racing, if not more.