Flatout 4: Total Insanity Review

Flatout 4: Total Insanity Review Darryl Linington
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How does one refresh a game made 10 years ago? How does one make it interesting enough to appeal to new audiences while appeasing fans of its predecessors? It’s a challenge, there’s no doubting that Kylotonn Games, developers of the fun but lacking WRC 6, have taken up the mantle and have decided to resurrect the Flatout series. Can they innovate enough to make Flatout 4: Total Insanity more than a passing attempt? Could Flatout 4: Total Insanity be the arcade racer to bring back the wanton destruction so many other titles have not? Let’s find out in this Flatout 4: Total Insanity review.

Flatout 4 is best described as a fast-paced racer with destructive tendencies. The damage extends beyond your competition into the environment itself. Blasting through solid barn doors, tearing off opponent doors and tearing through street lights are common occurrences. At least, that’s what happens in the various racing and party modes. The arena battles don’t have such luxuries – and you’re left in relentless pursuit of your opponents and damage points, but I’ll get more into that later.

Now, there are a few things that set Flatout 4 apart from other regular arcade racers. There’s the boost, which builds from damaging your opponents and the environment. Destroy more and you earn more boost; which is a great way to invigorate the stock standard catch the leader format. There are also a number of alternative routes to take – some hidden, some not. Kylotonn added significant depth to the track design – and it’s refreshing to see.

Most of your racing will take place in the career mode, It’s quite drawn out – and frustrating as a result. Instead of allowing branching out to other classes you’re forced to go with a single vehicle and use it until you can afford another. The rewards system is quite limiting too. You’ll earn more points racing in a pack and doing damage, but you are then subject to some of the most aggressive A.I. in a game. Get too close and you’re shunted into one of the many immovable objects on the screen. Try to overtake and you’re blocked by hard braking, costing you valuable positions. If you do choose to hotlap faster than your opposition the rewards are scant in comparison to the destructive pack racing. Either way progression is a tedious affair and one that hardly seems worth the time invested.

What seems to bother me more is that Kylotonn opted to lock the more fun modes of the game behind the career mode. Want to wreck some competition in the arena? What about Carnage in a faster and stronger car? Want to buy a new car?  You’re going to have to grind through several races in the single player mode before affording a new one. The upgrades are an extra cost and you’re going to have to race more to win those. It’s irksome how much of the game was walled off… when so much could’ve been enjoyed from the get-go. Working through Flatout 4’s stunted reward system was frustrating at best – which is a pity considering the wealth of different vehicles available.

Flatout 4’s physics could be described as challenging but also forgiving. I hoped for the predictable handling from Carmageddon and got a less pliable driving model, which is a real pity considering how responsive and sharp the game’s controls are. Cars will oversteer when you least expect them to and will understeer at the worst possible times. Try drifting and you’re going to smash straight into a tree. I hoped for a better driving model, but was left disappointed in the end.

Fortunately, for those wanting to try out every car and track in the game – the multiplayer allowed access to everything. The arena was open to me when I looked for lobbies to join – and I found myself enjoying some of the more powerful vehicles available only later in the career mode.

Since the split screen mode was never implemented, Kylotonn included a Party Mode – essentially a set of stunts involving throwing your driver out of your car to score into a set of unlikely obstacle courses. While a fun distraction, it was hardly worth the time spent on it since there were more interesting game modes already available.

Flatout 4 is a great looking game – but makes trade-offs in texture and animation quality. The price you pay for less pretty graphics is a higher frame rate. It ran quite well for the most part but frame rates nose-dived when the action became too intense. I appreciated the dynamic damage mode, doors hanging off hinges, bonnets flapping away and bits of bumpers flying off were great little details I appreciated.

Engine sounds were great and were raucous as they should’ve been to begin with. Each car sounded unique – from the smaller entry level vehicles to the roaring V8 engines in the reinforced pickups. Even the sounds of impacts were satisfying. Thuds and crunching metal added authenticity to the game’s solid presentation. My only real reservation about Flatout 4’s audio component was the repetitive and sometimes limited soundtrack. There are only so many power chords one can take before turning it all off.

To conclude, Flatout 4 suffers from small issues which lead to bigger annoyances. A miserly rewards system combined with inconsistent gameplay styles remained the biggest frustration of the game. While there was much more content available in multiplayer – much of the game remained tucked away behind the monotonous single player career mode. Still, solid presentation and audio work did do the game credit, and so did the great track design. The physics needed to be more predictable and less punishing. Overall Flatout 4 is a solid title but remains marred by small but important issues that prevent it from shining.

Flatout 4: Total Insanity was reviewed by Zubayr Bhyat

Editorial Contact: Darryl Linington
Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za
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Editor of Tech IT Out. Former radio host of Cliffcentral.com. Former Editor of IT News Africa and ITF Gaming. All round techie, gamer and entrepreneur. For Editorial Enquiries Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za or via +27788021400.