What’s more, Ultimate Carnage has an awful lot to keep you occupied long-term. The main single-player mode is itself split in three, with dirt-track Derbys (trashed-up bangers and backwoods tracks) giving way to the Race class (cool muscle cars and custom 4x4s) and Street Racing (high-speed sports cars in wild, urban settings). To proceed, you’ll need cash to buy vehicles appropriate to each class, and to get that you’ll need to win a series of tournaments and unlockable time trials and destruction derby events. On top of this, Ultimate Carnage introduces Carnage mode, which organises the old rag-doll stunt events and a number of special, destruction-heavy race events into a grid of unlockable activities. Once unlocked, races and events can also be played one-by-one. Meanwhile, multiplayer options include races, stunt events and destruction derby deathmatches on Xbox Live, and a cool party option where one to four players can compete in stunt events for the amusement and edification of all concerned. Really, what’s not to like?
Sadly, something rather big. The heart of the game – the actual racing – is seriously flawed. Amazingly, the fault doesn’t lie where I thought it might: the handling. Perhaps I’ve just got used to it, but FlatOut’s old, horrid, floaty handling model seems to have been reined in, and there’s a much greater sense of traction between car and road this time around. Cars and 4x4s behave pretty much as you might expect them to according to speed, acceleration and mass, and with a bit of practice you get a feel for the game and for the tracks.
Nope, the flaw isn’t the minute by minute feel, but the way each race progresses. FlatOut demands aggressive play, and features AI drivers who play mean. There’s nothing wrong with that as such; the competition can and does make mistakes and it should be capable of giving you a rough ride. However, the pack moves fast and bunches and – I suspect – there’s a little old-school rubber-banding going on. In any case, make a mistake and slam into something immovable and you can drop from second place to seventh place in a heartbeat. If this happens at the end of the third and final lap, it’s heartbreaking.