What do you get when you mash up about every racing game convention then throw in one, er, politically incorrect mechanic to provide separation from the genre? In this case, you get FlatOut 2, a hybrid racer-vehicular destruction-human pinball game that offers a surprisingly lengthy experience and builds on its original incarnation's foundation. A general lack of seriousness about itself as well as a sense of destruction for destruction's sake (plus as a total disregard for the usage of seatbelts) means that most virtual drivers can have a good time without spending a lot of time in the garage or owner's manual.
In many ways, FlatOut 2's slick racing mode is just an excuse for the existence of the franchise. Everyone knows that the disturbingly fun throw-your-driver-through-the-windshield minigames are the real focal point of the title. Players can summon their inner sadomasochist as they purposely hurl human rag dolls through the air in games of high jump, bowling, basketball, baseball, cards, and more. It's something that each of us not currently traumatized by any sort of horrific automobile accident can get a lot of laughs out of - even more so if several likeminded friends are thrown into the mix.
That's not to say that the standard racing game isn't fleshed out or polished, because it is - quite so, in fact. Provided you can tear yourself away from the aforementioned flying human bloodsports, there are all kinds of modes and cars to choose from and races to jump into in the career mode. There's no story per se, other than a few by-the-numbers characters that you race and smash against the length of the game, but it's the only way to earn the currency necessary to upgrade your ride and eventually move up in class. Among the three car classes - Derby, Race, and Street - you'll be flying through beautifully active courses in races, demolition derbies, and figure 8 races.
The core racing may have you feeling like you're on ice with bald tires, and this may turn off the racing purists (although it's doubtful many of those would consider the title in the first place). It certainly takes some getting used to. Spin outs, flips, and assorted smash ups are almost unavoidable the cars tear through, around, and into the landscape.
This is one of the areas where FlatOut 2 shines - the tracks. They are beautifully rendered and wind up chock full of destructable goodness, with flying cones, crashing signs, smashable glass, falling facades, and all sorts of other dizzying objects careening across the screen. Throw in the tough-to-beat AI racers and there's a ton of stuff to maneuver through during the race. The opponents take no prisoners, and can dish out the punishment as good as (or better than) they take it.
Blasting into your enemies and the surrounding devastation earns nitro boosts, which provide much-needed afterburner power in the straightaways and are your only hope to finish at or near the top of the standings. The more damage you dish out to the competitors during the race, combined with your placement, earn credits that are used to upgrade your current wheels as well as buy new ones as you open up the other classes. You'll find that even if you bolt on all of the best add-ons to your current car, it won't help you finish first as easily as you'd hope (thanks to the uber-talented competition). Unless you're willing to spend an inordinate amount of time re-running the bulk of the challenges, finishing third or second will have to suffice as you choose whether to upgrade or save for a new vehicle.
If the races are tough, the demolition derbies are downright vicious. Taking place in more open environments, it's a satisfying chore to avoid getting sent up into a ball of flames while taking out the others who seem hell bent for suicide. There always seems to be at least one hardy soul whose only reason for existence is to stalk you - and you alone - so waiting out everyone else beating the hell out of each other isn't an option. It comes down to luck and a few well-times torpedo moves to survive and make it onto the podium.