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PSP Fanboy review: FlatOut: Head On

It might look like Burnout, and even play like Burnout. But, Burnout it ain't. Head On lacks the refinement, speed and fun of Criterion's critically acclaimed franchise. Instead of solidifying its core gameplay, Head On relies on gimmicky mini-games that offer a thin veil to distract the game's ultimate shortcomings.

At first, we were impressed by the trailers released for the title. However, we're sad to admit that Head On falls short of the visual fidelity found in its initial videos. Textures and environments are muddy, but even worse: the framerate suffers quite a bit through the experience. For a racing game, this is rather unacceptable. The questionable physics and grip of the cars does little but detract from a game that touts its destructible environments.

Gallery: FlatOut: Head On

Going through the campaign entails a number of trials, each with their own objectives. Simple "get to the finish first" races are few and far -- and that's a good thing. There's always something new and interesting to do. Races may involving having to create as much destruction as possible, for example. While the objectives are novel, the fundamental controls don't make any of these objectives fun. Too often do the poor controls cause your vehicle to spin around, uselessly. Thankfully, there's a helpful reset button that will get your car back on the track, but it shouldn't be so frequently needed.

If players are looking for a director competitor to Burnout, they're going to be seriously disappointed. Never does the game reach the frenetic speeds of Criterion's franchise. The controls simply don't feel well adapted for the PSP.

But what about the various mini-games of FlatOut? While amusing at first, they all seem rather immature and hackneyed. Launching a person at bowling pins is only fun for so long: about a minute or two. The various launching activities aren't very fun due to the loose controls of the vehicles. The PS3 downloadable PAIN manages to do similar challenges with much more finesse, and with much more humor and class as well.

There's a vehicular battle mode, but it fails to recreate the wondrous fun found in a game like Mario Kart. FlatOut's vehicles and power-ups simply aren't interesting enough to make this mode any fun.

Head On misses the mark on so many levels: not only are the graphics subpar, the gameplay itself is rather mediocre. However, more grating than any single other aspect of the title has to be the soundtrack: Fans of terrible music will find a home here, but others will wish they could import their own tunes.

On a system that has so many strong racing offerings, FlatOut can easily be bypassed. Stick to Burnout and Wipeout instead.

PSP Fanboy score: 5.5

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