Road Rage

In FlatOut 2, life is a highway strewn with carnage.

FlatOut 2

Publisher: Vivendi Universal

Platform: PS2, Xbox, PC

Price: $29.99-$39.99

ESRB Rating: T (for Teen)

Score: 7.5 (out of 10)

Have you ever looked into onrushing traffic and imagined how much damage you would cause with a simple crank of the steering wheel?

If so, FlatOut 2 is the racing game for you. The latest entry in a genre best described as Evel Knievel meets NASCAR, FlatOut 2 lets you vent vehicular aggression without dying or getting sued.

As in the popular Burnout series, the object here is to cause as much destruction as possible. Push your rival into a drainage ditch during a sharp curve. Knock others for a death loop while flying off a jump. Or ram them until they crumple like tinfoil.

Although most of the cars are rough-hewn beaters, there is some variation in performance. The BlasterXL, which looks suspiciously like a barf-covered GMC Jimmy, is slow but indestructible. The tiny CTR is a speedy racer that wrecks easily.

The game's courses range from bucolic countryside to busy cityscape, with all the appropriate scenery: Hay bales and tractors give way to mailboxes and dump trucks. Even better, it's all delightfully destructible. That barn door in your way? Just drive right through it. Hate shopping malls? Now you can turn Cinnabon into scorched earth.

By the second lap on any course, you'll be driving through all the wreckage you created the first time around. The streets are littered with broken signs and shredded fences, mangled soda machines and upended park benches. Alas, no human roadkill.

All this bric-a-brac ricochets off your grill and clanks under your tires. The flying debris adds a sense of velocity and danger. Hit a stray I-beam while coming off a turn and you'll be launched into a spectacular, bone-rattling crash.

FlatOut 2 rewards carnage as much as finish order. To buy a new car or that sweet nitro upgrade for your scuzzy truck, you'll need to earn points. The best way to rack them up is to put the hurt on your competition.

You'll learn to hate all the rival drivers for different reasons, but you'll want to murder golden boy Jack Benton, the only one who can actually drive. No trip to the winner's circle is complete without sideswiping this bastard into a tree and hearing him gurgle a death rattle at 120 mph.

As with its prequel, a big part of the appeal of FlatOut 2 is watching drivers get ejected through windshields. Described as "sadistic" in the game manual, a dozen "rag-doll" mini-events let you fling rubbery bodies out of your car at giant dartboards, bowling pins, or basketball hoops.

While FlatOut 2 is a fun ride, it could have benefited from more tinkering. Cars tend to flip the wrong way. Lay some major damage on an enemy and you'll both be thrown off course, but he'll end up facing the finish line, while you'll have to muscle your car through a three-point turn. You'll also get mysteriously stuck on trees and walls, meaning you'll hit the restart button a lot.

And as with many racing games, the AI cheats to keep it competitive. You can be miles in the lead, headed for the checkered flag, when suddenly another car will catch up and go nose to nose with you for the finish.

But if this induces more road rage, that may be the goal. After all, FlatOut 2 is about the destruction, not the destination.

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