Video games are one some of the greatest experiences that money can buy. Like films, games are able to make us feel, take us on an adventure or even move us deeply. Sometimes though it is simply enough to just want to go on a rampage of destruction, causing as much property damage and broken bones as humanly possible. To a large extent, FlatOut 4: Total Insanity is to able to scratch this itch, but sadly misses the mark more than once.
My only previous experience with this series of was FlatOut 2. The new iteration for the most part feels like more of the the same. Returning modes include standard races, arena deathmatches and my personal favorite: stunt mode.
Stunt mode is a signature aspect of the FlatOut series so new developers Kylotonn did well to include it. For what it’s worth, the mode is no worse than it was in FlatOut 2 but the progression since then is sadly quite limited. Beyond a graphical upgrade, little has actually been added to make it a better experience. Stunt mode consists of 12 ragdoll physics challenges including pool, long jump, skipping stones and baseball. These challenges are fun to complete regardless of their silliness, though some shine brighter than others. Playing pool and curling were my particular favorites; being able to send your driver flying through the air to pot a ball or slide into the center circle is satisfying to pull off. Other modes like long jump and high jump were quite forgettable, and the total destruction mode (where you have to do damage to a toy town with your driver’s face) felt quite unresponsive.
I always appreciate a game that includes couch co-op with pass and play, and this is where the most fun with stunt mode can be had. Passing the controller back and forth trying to get the best score makes for a fairly decent party game.
The inclusion of a career mode in FlatOut 4 is more of an attempt to justify a full price tag than anything else as it feels incredibly slapped on. As with most career modes, players will advance through progressively more difficult races, earning money to purchase better cars and upgrades. The first major problem with the mode is the reward for completing races is so terribly low at the early levels that you will be replaying races again and again in order to afford different vehicles to try out. This artificial difficulty is not only padding to make the game feel longer, but also it really only served to put me off of continuing through the career mode at all.
The best mode to play through is “FlatOut” mode, which incorporates all types of races, stunts and arena destruction games simultaneously. The constant switching up allows for a nice variety so that you can see what the game has to offer, without becoming bored or too familiar with any one mode in particular.
The graphics in FlatOut 4 are quite hit and miss. Whilst the car models look fairly decent, the tracks are filled to the brim with many poorly designed objects that look noticeably last generation. In addition, the maps suffer from texture pop in from time to time which to be fair is only a mild complaint, but could sometimes distract from the mayhem on the road.
FlatOut 4’s racing is fairly by-the-numbers for the most part. The maps are all very reminiscent of each other, with a few notable exceptions. The common mix of desert, industrial zones, snowy tracks and forest paths are on offer here, and although they serve the purpose, I would have preferred a little more variety to choose from. The real draw of a game like FlatOut 4 is the crazy levels of destruction, and without interesting locations to tear through the experience is dampened.
The driving itself is hit and miss for the most part. The cars often feel sluggish when trying to maneuver, which certainly helps create the chaotic gameplay that the game promises but also makes the races feel too randomized. Having cars slide across the tarmac, flipping over and smashing through debris makes its physics feel far too inconsistent. Running over a rock might mean nothing on the first lap, but on the second it might flip your car completely over and send you all the way back to last place. The amount of times that one crash would result in me restarting the entire race became incredibly frustrating after a while.
The chaos that ensues in a standard race is the highlight of FlatOut 4 in many ways. The experience of cars and debris flying across the track unpredictably makes for a really enjoyable time spent, simply reveling in the madness. Sadly, this often makes for a poor racing experience for one particular reason: the poorly designed A.I. For the most part it is serviceable, but seems to place destroying the environment and the other racers above anything else. This means that when participating in a race, often the A.I. will simply crash into each other and fly off the road, allowing you to easily sprint to first place and win. On other races however, enemies will single you out and flip your car, toss you about or send you flying off course with no thought to their own safety or winning the race themselves. It leaves you with a sometimes fun, a lot of the time frustrating experience that really made racing overly laborious for me.
The multitude of modes on offer in FlatOut 4 is its saving grace. Every type of racing gamer will find something to like here, but perhaps not enough to warrant a full price purchase. I had some fun with this title, but each instance was held back by the games broken A.I. and its sluggish controls. I hope that the series continues to improve and is able to make a more completed product in future installments, as I feel that the elements of a great game lie in FlatOut 4. Sadly however, as it stands FlatOut 4 is a mediocre game that needs a lot of love in order to put right.