FlatOut 3 Review
Dreadful visuals, poor racing mechanics and dull tracks
When Empire Interactive closed in 2009 it ended over two decades of game publishing. After they declared bankruptcy, Empire’s game franchises were sold. Among them was the well received FlatOut series. FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage, released in 2008 on PC, was the last game in the series developed by BugBear Entertainment. It was a great blend of high speed racing, professional visuals and satisfying destruction. Strategy First now holds the franchise and Team 6 Game Studios have developed the latest entry, FlatOut 3: Chaos & Destruction. Unfortunately the game is terrible and should be avoided at all costs.
Needs more blur I think
FlatOut 3: Chaos and Destruction tries to imitate the previous games in the series. This emulation begins with the menu and continues with game modes and functionality. It seems like an honest attempt to be faithful to the franchise with preservation of car classes, nitro boost, destructible objects and stunts. There are no music tracks licensed for FlatOut 3 but it still retains the very same music volume option during races. This small issue is just a drop in the ocean compared to the problems that plague the game as you delve deeper. Appalling graphics is the first thing you will notice.
FlatOut 3 has some truly ugly visuals and is probably the worst looking PC game released in the last 10 years. Horrendous blur effects, 2D buildings, low-res textures and roads covered with Vaseline are just the obvious shortcomings. Overexposed lighting and low polygon objects populate the bland race tracks. World geometry might be at odds with reality or objects may float in mid air. Blur and bloom can be switched off but the game still lacks definition. FlatOut 2, released back in 2006, looks much better than this game. Visuals wouldn’t matter as much if the driving was at least enjoyable.
Follow the yellow brick road?
The racing is merely passable in that you car turns when you steer with a keyboard or controller. Floaty physics, bad collision detection, poor traction and stupid AI take a lot from the experience. If you get close to walls it’s likely that your wheels will start ascending vertically and tip the vehicle over. There are multiple car types but the fast and weak are useless. If you touch anything with a light vehicle, you’ll careen into a building and be wrecked during the first lap. AI cars do an excellent job at crashing into the easiest of corners. If they deserve any compliment at all, it’s that they are unpredictable.
The big issue with racing is that the collision and damage system is broken. If you smash a nearby vehicle with considerable force you will be lucky to see 1% or 2% damage dealt. Ram them into a rock wall at full speed and you just get an update on how your own car health has plummeted. This has one big side effect; you want to avoid opposing vehicles. Sure the standard nudge to the rear end is useful but there is absolutely no reason to target cars during races.
Fear my 1% damage attack
When driving in destruction derbies you will see decent damage numbers. This is because vehicles tend to hit head on at insane speeds. You might even do a chunk of damage to a vehicle after it rams you into a wall. Derbies feel more like a war of attrition because of this system but it does retain some elements of satisfaction. The previous FlatOut games constantly raised the question of attacking cars or passing them during races. They also provided a sense of satisfaction when you hit cars with force. These two areas are seriously lacking in the sequel.
Boost is still powered by destruction, be it vehicles or objects. Unfortunately you get very little boost by destroying things. Most of your boost comes from moving through checkpoints. An additional bar represents a new idea called Supermove. This is earned by doing jumps and can only be used when the meter is full. Supermove gives your vehicle incredible weight for a few seconds. Cars are subsequently destroyed if they ram you from behind and others will explode if you nudge them. Supermove is a decent idea that can be fun to use if you time it correctly.
The speed mode is awful too
The tracks are not interesting even if Team 6 has looked at previous FlatOut games. Some are located in lumber mills, suburbs and even an aqueduct. All familiar locations bring back memories of the better games in the series. There are some displays of environmental destruction, perhaps influenced by games like Motorstorm: Apocalypse. Landslides, meteors, tornados and even helicopters will appear on tracks. One outrageously hilly track has a moving train that causes a reset if you so much as graze it. These are mostly presentation features and they fail due to the amateur visuals. Most of the tracks are boring and the same could be said for the stunts.
The stunts are simplistic and ineffective additions to the franchise. No bowling, no darts, no football, no pond skipping and no curling. Generally you just drive fast, eject your ragdoll and hit a target. You will need to steer and nudge your ragdoll like before, but it seems more about luck than skill. Occasionally if you eject when crashing, the ragdoll flies backwards for laughs. Stunts involve jumping a small crest, moving through a rotating windmill and playing some mini golf. Some are absurdly easy, taking just one try to get the highest score. However I could not complete second last stunt after dozens of attempts in different vehicles.
Stuck under the track, 302m jump!
Multiplayer works for the third game but the lack of players and poor controls prevents enjoyment. To actually turn your vehicle you send messages to the host of the game. Then you wait a short time, maybe one second, before your vehicle actually turns in front of you. Although this results in accurate collisions it makes the racing controls horrific. You are just not able to make small corrections in real time. Instead you have to make all your turns seconds before the corners arrive. This goes along with the problems that carry over from the single player.
The best part of FlatOut 3 is that it’s occasionally so bad it’s funny. Seeing groups of cars crammed together around the base of a stairway lap after lap will raise a chuckle. Being stuck in the ground during a multiplayer game will have you in fits of laughter. Spawning on top of another vehicle during a stunt will probably freak you out before they both explode. You might even fly through a wall like it wasn’t there. Some multiplayer races even tell you that you are driving the wrong direction when you are clearly not. If you do finish an online race there is a chance the scoreboard will say that you crashed out anyway.
Nobody playing FlatOut 3 wins anything, remember that
If games could be reviewed on intent then FlatOut 3 would receive a passing grade. It does try to pay homage to the previous games but only succeeds in rare cases. Games are reviewed on execution, this means FlatOut 3 a failure to the franchise and genre as a whole. Bugbear and ex-Empire Interactive employees would be disappointed to see such a fine series crash out. This is not a game you want to buy at $30. It’s not even worth your time if you get it for free. There are dozens of free games and mods that are more enjoyable and more polished than this abomination.