FlatOut 2

I love racing games, but Iive never been fond of the type that use realistic cars. Every time I try out, say, a NASCAR game, I head out on the track, build up a head of steam ... and spin out in the first turn. Frustrated, I drive in the opposite direction and try to cause a massive pile-up.

Then I load up a game like FlatOut 2 and have a blast. Hereis a game that doesnit take physics seriously. It encourages you to not only wreck the scenery but also smash your opponents and do whatever you can to win the race. Itis addictive. And it also features beautiful graphics and a hard rockini soundtrack starring Nickelback, Audioslave, The Vines, Fall Out Boy, Megadeth, and several other bands.

Nail opponents from the side to do maximum damage

The game features three classes of cars -- street, derby, and race -- and over 40 tracks spread across urban and rural environments. You race your way through a series of cups in each class before competing in a grand finale that includes not only races but also some of the demolition derbies and mini-games. The derbies are what you expect -- keep smashing into other cars until only one is left standing -- while the mini-games are stunts that require you to catapult your driver through the windshield at just the right angle to complete a task, such as knocking down bowling pins or putting him through a basketball hoop.

Hereis a nice touch: That passenger side door will keep flopping around

Rag doll physics complete the stunts by showing you a realistic body spinning through the air, arms and legs flopping around before he hits something and falls to the ground with a sickening thud. You get the same effect when you hit an immovable object during a race, an incident that also earns you a lot of nitro, which you also scoop up as you smash into other drivers and the environment. Press the nitro button to give your car a boost of speed. You can hold it down and go even faster, but I donit recommend doing that often, since most of the tracks have very tricky turns.

The high jump stunt

During single-player races, you earn money from events and use it to spiff up your vehicles so they perform better. Rather than include faceless AI opponents, the developers at Bugbear Entertainment decided to give you characters with their own personalities. The end result is that youill find only a few of them are good enough to give you trouble during races, once you get the hang of the gameplay, but those opponents are tough enough to be challenging. The demolition derbies are pretty difficult in general, since itis easy to get smashed up so quickly that your car is totaled early, and the mini-games are not easy to master, because you have to not only drive fast enough but also catapult your driver through the windshield at just the right angle.

Thatis a full nitro meter in the bottom right corner

Thereis also a multi-player mode, and Iim happy to say that FlatOut 2 on the Mac includes GameSpy support, so you donit have to worry about being limited to only racing other Mac gamers via GameRanger. You can take on up to seven other drivers in any of the events. I checked it out a few times and had a fun time. Iive always found that no matter how good I am at the single-player component of any game -- racing, first-person shooter, or whatever -- live opponents always tend to kick my butt. I guess Iim better at writing about games than playing them, but I enjoy myself, and thatis what matters. And youill definitely have a good time too with FlatOut 2.

Demolition derby time

List Price: N/A

Mac OS X version 10.4.11
Intel processor
512MB of RAM
128MB video RAM (ATI X1600, Nvidia GeForce 7300, or Intel GMA X3100)
4GB hard disk space
Broadband Internet connection required for online play



An addictive, smashing good time
AI opponents are challenging
Lots of tracks and plenty to do when the racing is done, including demolition derbies and mini-games


Only a few AI opponents are tough; the rest are consistently bad
Finding online games can be hit-or-miss