Summary: We got to go hands-on with a build of the upcoming arcade racing game during a brief GDC demo last week.
Last week at GDC, it was all about game physics. AGEIA finally announced that their PhysX hardware game physics chip was available to be purchased via gaming PC makers like Alienware, Falcon Northwest and Dell. Havok showed off their Havok FX software that works with graphics cards to increase physics. Even Sony during their pre-E3 press conference showed off some advanced physics during their PS3 game demos.
But what if you could get those kinds of interactions and effects on a regular PC or even on a PS2 and Xbox?
As we said, the original FlatOut was a surprise hit for BugBear along with its publishers Empire Interactive in Europe and VUGames in the US. According to what we were told during our demo, FlatOut has sold over 850,000 copies so far with well over half of those sold in the US. A sequel to the game was a no-brainer but rather than wait for next-gen hardware, BugBear decided to stick with the current generation stuff and instead optimize, optimize and optimize their graphics and physics engine programming. The result is a game that will look and act just as well as next-generation games in these areas.
The single player game has gotten a bit of a revamp for the sequel. The original simply had you driving through races against unnamed opponents, but for FlatOut 2 BugBear has actually created a number of different characters that will have their own driving styles. Having the single player game focus on trying to beat different characters, from tough babes to cowboy hat wearing guys certainly gives it a lot more variety. There will also be different types of cars to drive this time instead of a fleet of similar looking racers. Demolition derby cars along with street and racing cars will be a part of the mix this time for FlatOut 2 along with some secret rides that we won't mention here. Overall the game will have 34 vehicles compared to just 16 in the original.
Graphically FlatOut 2 is looking great, at least on this PC build with some near photo-realistic visuals for the car models and rural tracks (although the urban tracks don't have quite the same look at the moment). As with the first game, FlatOut 2 is an arcade racer first and foremost so realism takes a back seat to flat out (pardon the pun) fun. The damage models for the cars are extensive and the game's physics engine is once again impressive with tons of things to run into, topple and destroy in the tracks, from concrete makers and barrels in the urban tracks to fences, barns and other items in the rural locations. Of course the game will have multiplayer for all three versions with up to 8 players in PC and Xbox and up to 6 for the PS2. Unfortunately we were also told that the PC version of FlatOut 2 will not have any track editors or mod tools.
The most unique aspect of the original FlatOut were the fun mini-games that used the game's ability to throw out the driver through the windshield in rag doll physics fashion to participate in activities such as going through a giant dart boat or pushing the rag doll driver down a huge bowling lane. So it's no surprise that the sequel will have some new rag doll driver mini-games that could become an obsession for some players. While we didn't see these mini-games during our brief GDC demo we were told that some of the new games will include pushing your driver through giant catcher's mitts on a baseball field, putting your driver through a ring of fire and even guiding your driver on a curling field, which could be a first for any game.
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