Have You Played… FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

FlatOut [Steam page] is one of my favourite games about cars wot go fast. It’s like the twisted metal wreckage of a collision between Carmageddon, Burnout and Destruction Derby, and manages to succeed as a vehicular combat physics playground and a competitive racing game. Ultimate Carnage is the best version of this brilliant crash ’em up.

It might be ageing now, and due to be completely outdone by Wreckfest, the new game from developers Bugbear, but the way that cars deform as they crunch around the various tracks, and the number of movable and destructible objects that litter those tracks, is still mighty impressive.

What I love most about FlatOut is the handling though. In career mode, you’re essentially plucking a car from a scrapheap and trying to keep it on piece race after race. And the cars feel heavy and sluggish and dangerous, but I always feel that I can get them to do what I want if I try hard enough. There’s a sense of struggling with a hunk of machinery that really doesn’t want to respond as it should and needs to be wrestled into submission.

Combine that with collisions that range from driver-ejecting write-offs to grinding, tactical nudges and shunts, and you have something very special indeed. There’s none of Burnout’s flashy cutscene-like crashes here – FlatOut’s collisions are messier and less slick, and they don’t interrupt the race; they’re a fundamental part of the race.

There are all manner of silly events to take part in but the career mode alone has taken up days of my life. A classic.


  1. LionsPhil says:

    I’d say FlatOut 1 is probably best for the handling; cars in that really don’t want to stay on the track, in the right direction, and it’s a constant knife-edge battle to balance traction and speed, especially on the snow/ice tracks (which didn’t make an appearance in the sequel). Great stuff.

    (FO2 was more general-purpose fun though. Loved the upgraded Lentus. Apparently they changed its handling dramatically in UC, so, boo.)

    • Syrion says:

      Is FlatOut 1 still worth playing? I always thought it felt a bit bland and slow, but I never spent much time with it. I still got it lying around on a magazine cover disc.

      • Neurotic says:

        Totally, yes. If you can crack the first couple of races, get used to the perilous handling, it’s completely rewarding. One of those racers where you’re sticking your tongue out the entire time, sweat pouring off you, your eyeballs counting pixels between you and the next victory-snatching bastard of a rock, barrier or rival. A real murderous, torturous bastard of a game. But when you win, man, it’s sooo satisfying.

      • andregurov says:

        Flatout 1 is definitely worth playing; I just re-played it last week (courtesy of Porting Kit making it Mac-accessible!) and had an absolute blast with it. The AI is diabolical enough in trying to wreck you so you need to steer clear of the pack as soon as possible, but the real struggle is in keeping your car on the track! You can complete everything in a few hours, but it is loads of fun from beginning to end. You can also, IMO, see some of the genesis of Wreckfest in it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        What they said! It’s tense, but a great tense.

        Nitro is a great mechanic, because it gives you some rubberbanding ability. Have a huge crash? You probably at least smashed up enough stuff (including yourelf) to get a boost to get you going again.

  2. Aldehyde says:

    I always mix up FlatOut with this older racing game that is sort of similar. Haven’t been able to find it for years now.

    Your car gets really messed up with every bump and crash and you have to spend money in between races to either repair or buy new, or both.

    The track I remember most is one where you drive through a movie set in Hollywood and a T-rex walks by.

    • EgoMaster says:

      That would be Speedbusters: American Highways.

      • Aldehyde says:

        Thank you so much! It’s been driving me slightly crazy whenever I’ve thought about it, which has been surprisingly often.

    • Syrion says:

      No idea if it fits, but I dearly loved playing N.I.C.E 2 for its amazing deformable cars. It was such great fun! Seeing videos now it looks rather… terrible. I wonder if it’s still fun.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It isn’t the one you’re thinking of, but shout out to 1NSANE for its deformation, and for being the Unreal Tournament of driving games with all its myriad modes, variety of vehicles, and even dynamic map generation.

      Plus you can fall off a cliff and then try to trade off driving a banana (that handles like a banana), or spend precious seconds waiting to fix it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Oh, also the best force feedback response I’ve ever had in an arcade racer. You could read the road surface through it and compensate better than by just reacting to the visual stimulus of your vehicle moving: it made a real difference.

  3. Ultraman1966 says:

    Wow, was this game released in 2008? I feel so old… anyway, I just remember that it uses GFWL…so no re-install for me!

  4. klops says:

    Yes I have! Now and then I concider playing it over again. Then I think about the games that I’ve never installed and go back to do something completely else. Great game!

  5. Syrion says:

    I still remember (recall?) playing FlatOut 2 with a racing wheel as some of the absolute most fun I’ve had playing a video game, ever. Though, playing it again with a controller some years ago, it just didn’t compare to that experience. I’ll rather keep the memory, I guess.

    UC looked good to me, but I didn’t get over the feeling of it being a rather uninteresting rehash, especially with Games for Windows Live. I’ve never played it. Also, without Papa Roach and Fallout Boy I’d probably miss something.

  6. mcGreen says:

    I wonder if you guys know about the game called Crashday? It was pretty good but Ive never seen it being mentioned on the internet. Its cars, with guns.

    • Syrion says:

      I was extremely hyped for Crashday back then! I even had a lot of fun with it, it’s a very special game. But, at some point I just had to acknowledge that really, it’s not that great.
      From what I recall it hardly got any press outside of Germany, and even there it wasn’t very well received. So, I don’t think many people know about it.

  7. iRaphi says:

    I played FlatOut 2 (Ultimate Carnage for PS2) with my brother just this weekend and decided to finally try Wreckfest on PC.
    Also played BurnOut Revenge and Ratchet&Clank Gladiator on PS2, it was all an awful pixel-mess on my 52″ tv :)