In what is surely the best year in history for Xbox 360 motorheads it's fair to say that FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage is coming in on the blindside when compared to its other higher-profile, more established rivals. And with its street price rocking in at a tenner less than our usual (over-priced) 360 titles you'd be forgiven for assuming Bugbear's third racer wouldn't be competing with the big boys. You'd be right. But that's not to say that F: UC (oKay, that's awesome!) isn't a good little game.
Ultimate Carnage operates on a simple formula. Buy and upgrade a selection of cars, blast 'em through rough and ready tracks, and smash and crash your way towards to the number one spot. But what FlatOut does to separate it from the crowd is the evolution of a physics engine that powers 8000-odd individual pieces of, er, crap that will break-up and fly around you as you race. Bugbear have created the sort of normal arcade circuits with the odd shortcut you'd expect and then littered it with jumps and a whole lot of destructible scenery. Everything from stacks of tires to glass-fronted shops can be driven through, meaning that every track will play differently each time.
The persistent debris also hinders those driving in your wake and as an extra incentive to smash the place up you'll earn extra nitrous for being the first to trash a section of scenery. Added to a nitrous bonus for making mad jumps, Flatout takes on a level of strategy that belies its arcade-y looks. Sure the traditional racing line is important, but you'll have to mix it up with catching ramps, finding shortcuts and driving through scenery to earn crucial zoom.
It's also competitive. Sure, get your nose out in front and stay there and FlatOut, to be honest, loses much of its charm. But this is a racer that comes alive when you're battling against other drivers, navigating your way through traffic and a ton of rubble. With a clear road ahead of you, it can become a bit of a procession. But for the most part it's a challenge for even veteran racers. Your rivals might not have been programmed by robotic experts from academia like Forza, but they're bloody quick and happy to give you a firm, but fair, slamming.