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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Game Review - FlatOut:Head On

Nothing new, something worse.



The Good:
New soundtracks * Carnage mode from the Xbox 360 version is present

The Bad:
Same game as the 2006 original, FlatOut 2 * Inconsistent visuals * Poorer framerates * Unresponsive controls

The original FlatOut 2 came out in mid-2006 for the PC, PS2 and Xbox and I played the PC version. For a racer that encouraged carnage (ala Burnout), and whose mini-games involved smashing drivers through the windscreens of their cars, FlatOut 2 was certainly a refreshing experience. Bugbear Entertainment has since remade the game for Xbox 360 in the form of FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage. Not merely content with the aforementioned, it remade the game again for PSP in what could be said as the latest game in the FlatOut franchise: FlatOut: Head On.

Of course, some changes are to be expected. Right off the bat, you will notice that there is a new list of soundtracks, which do well to complement all the crashing and burning. Carnage mode which works much like an arcade mode, has also been brought over from the Xbox 360 version, ensuring that this game will still have some legs after FlatOut mode, which is your typical career mode, has been completed.

Otherwise, this game is still THE FlatOut 2 from 2006, which means that you will get the same number and selection of cars and tracks as the 2 year old original – even the entire FlatOut mode was copied over, so players looking for something new are advised give this game a skip. If you have played FlatOut 2 before, you have experienced FlatOut: Head On. Even if you have not played FlatOut 2 before and are looking to get a hands-on on your first FlatOut game, I would suggest that you head down to your nearest game store and pick up FlatOut 2 from the bargain bin instead simply because FlatOut: Head On isn’t what you’d expect from a remake: improvements to the original. In fact, this game is worse than FlatOut 2.

Needless to say, given the lesser nature of the PSP’s hardware as opposed to the power contained under the hood of the PC, PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360, something has to go when FlatOut comes to the PSP. One of the more noticeable downgrades is the visual. The car models look great, but the environments are relatively inconsistent – some look polished, while some are nothing more than hideous bunches of huge pixels. The framerate has also taken a dive, partly due to the large amounts of physic work going on when you are racing, but overall, it is still manageable.

Another trade-off for fitting FlatOut onto the PSP is the controls. For a racer that already has such loose steering, the controls only serve to exacerbate matters. For the uninitiated, the handling of the vehicles in FlatOut 2 is far from perfect. Let’s just put it this way: you’re driving on oil instead of tarmac. The loose handling mechanism already has you struggling with the controls to keep your car on the path in the original FlatOut 2 – and this doesn’t change here. However, the unresponsive controls in this game would only mean that more effort is required to preclude your car from skidding, creating an increased racing difficulty so unnecessary and unjustified.

Final Comments
FlatOut: Head On won’t introduce anything new to people who have played FlatOut 2 before – save for the Carnage mode, this is the same game as the 2006 original – only impoverished. As expected, the graphics aren’t as gorgeous as the console versions and the framerate, while stable, isn’t all that smooth. The loose steering from the original is already enough trouble, and the unresponsive controls here aren’t going to be of much help. As mentioned, this is the same game as FlatOut 2, so if you looking to try your first FlatOut game, you are better off getting the original instead of this PSP version. But if you, by one way or the other, manage to play this game, it would last you quite a while and the mini-games and local wireless multiplayer support for 4 players add the much-needed replayability.


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