- Kylotonn Games
- Bigben Interactive
- Apex Interactive
- Single Player, Multiplayer
- 1 (8 online)
- Playstation 4
- PC, Xbox One
Expectations are evil things. When an IP like Flatout makes a return, and since Kylotonn Games made it – I had reason to think there’d be some kind of potential for it since WRC 6 turned out to be quite fun. I was optimistic going in that Flatout 4 would be a pastiche of Carmageddon’s intuitive handling and gratuitous destruction, welded with Burnout’s eye-watering speed. I also hoped it would be the engaging and fun arcade title I’ve been craving since the first Need For Speed: Most Wanted.
Flatout 4’s confidence is unequivocal. It knows what it is: A ridiculous arcade racer with a double major in destruction and chaos. It positions itself clearly as a car brawler. Forgiving handling-check. A variety of excessively destructible environments- tick.A healthy range of power-ups to spice up the action (that’s a given). And finally, a myriad of hastily rebuilt death machines bent on taking you off the road by the bakkie load. Flatout 4 is and isn’t these things. A contradiction of fun and frustration, marred by A.I. issues, unpredictable handling physics and a miserly in-game economy.
On paper, Kylotonn has the formula for a great destruction-fueled racer. It’s clear in practice that many of last—gen’s issues, the crop up. As with most racing titles, you’re offered an introductory vehicular gift – and build from there. The ideal economy in a game would give you enough to let you progress but not let you power your way through it. Flatout 4 falls on the miserly side of the economic coin, however. I’ll expand more on this later.
Kylotonn have made a great looking game. With debris flying everywhere and bits of metal falling off vehicles after every impact, races look lively and exciting. Blasting through shrubberies and suspiciously weak barn doors resemble something out of a John Woo movie. Scratched paint and shattered headlights are sharp reminders that you’re here to wreak havoc, not vacillate. The framerate also stayed quite smooth, despite dropping considerably when many vehicles were on screen. This wasn’t a major issue, though. Flatout 4 ran quite well on the PS4 version I tested out.
The sound design was more than serviceable and I appreciated the revs of the engines picking up and dropping off. Metal scraping against metal sound satisfying. Suspensions grinding against the ground on impact made me grit my teeth at times, and the sound of impacts into hard objects made Flatout 4 all contributed to a richer experience. Despite being catchy at times, I craved some variety away from the sounds of crashing guitar riffs and raucous vocals.
The controls were responsive and sharp, even if the game’s physics oscillated between forgiving and harsh. I often found myself respawning after losing control in a straight line despite using barely any steering angle at all. Drifting felt unintuitive, and I kept wanting to use my car’s lateral movement through the twisty courses and found myself smashed into a solid object for no apparent reason. Pulling off a simple handbrake turn also proved to be harder than it needed to be considering that Flatout 4 was meant to be an arcade racer at heart. I felt that the cars in the game were too light, (this extended to the heavier vehicles like the overpowered trucks and pick-ups).
A pre-requisite of a destruction-driven racer is aggressive but fair A.I.. It should be harsh enough to challenge, but lenient enough to allow a smooth racing experience. To say that the A.I. is forceful feels like a gross understatement. I felt like winning a race in a pack was more of a matter of luck than skill. There was always an immovable object I could be shunted into. That forced me to run faster laps, and earn less as a result.
After a respawn, recovering my position was an easy affair – cut a corner here, blast through a bush there and I was back on the podium. I also have to mention that when chasing other racers, having them brake hard and hold you back is very frustrating. I found that the computer opponent behaviour felt erratic and that my opponents shifted around too much. That led me to avoid them, rather than chase them. Also, while there was no rubber-banding behaviour, the tendency of the computer opponents giving up once I took the lead, felt disappointing.
When grinding through a single player campaign, and trying to maximise earnings, being forced into producing faster laps just to survive can be extremely frustrating. This statement felt truer when one considers that one can earn more being a jerk on the road. Yet, when the requirement to proceed further into the career mode was to earn a podium position – the uncertainty of which play style to focus on was frustrating.
To further complicate this, Flatout 4’s career mode is class-based. This means that I had to work my way up to faster and stronger cars which were much pricier than the combined cost of my base car’s upgrades. To be fair, all vehicles were available in multiplayer – and no upgrades were allowed. Stepping away from the career mode into online play was a great way to experience the game.
The next frustration I found was that not all gameplay modes were available. Instead, grinding through the frustrating career mode unlocked the more exciting areas of the game. For example, the Arena mode – easily the best part of Flatout 4 – remained locked until much later. Being walled off from the most enjoyable portions of Flatout 4 felt like a bad choice on the developer’s part. All modes, cars and maps were available in multiplayer, however, so that’s worth noting.
Since there was no local split screen multiplayer, Kylotonn implemented a party mode. It’s essentially a bunch of challenges involving throwing your driver into or through a variety of obstacles such as rings of fire or through putt-putt courses. While a novel feature, remained a distraction rather than a main feature, like the destruction derby or the damage-based points modes.
To conclude – Flatout 4 could’ve been a great, if not for the various missteps I outlined above. Stifling the player is never a good idea, nor is confusing them when choosing a style of play. Still, the controls were great and visuals thoroughly enjoyable. Engine notes were raw and fiery – and made Flatout 4’s presentation a wonderful thing indeed. The breakneck pace that Flatout 4 ran at felt refreshing. The arena and damage scoring modes harked back to classics like Carmageddon and the older Flatout titles – and they worked great in single-player and even better in multiplayer. Here’s hoping that future patches address the inconsistency in the in-game economy and opens up more of the game at the onset.
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