Having never played a Flat Out title, I was mostly unfamiliar with what it had to offer prior to playing the fourth in the series. My only knowledge stemmed from a few years ago, when my buddy and avid fan of rag-doll physics , Hugo, brought the original to my attention. With that and the latest entries trailer in mind, I was excited to get the chance to play Flat Out 4: Total Insanity. After trading paint with and feeding dust to other racers for 10 hours or so, I can say that Flat Out 4 is a fun but flawed racer that offers lots to do on the surface, but sadly still manages to feel dull with that in mind. Let’s take a look under the hood and see what really makes Flat Out tick.
As I said, I have never played a prior game in the series, so I really cannot speak to the history of the series nor its past successes. I can only speak to the successes and shortcomings of their successor, aptly titled Total Insanity. The series is known for its destructible settings and cars, and especially known for ejecting the cars drivers out of the vehicle with some funny rag-doll like physics. From races to derbies and much, much more, there is a lot of variety to be had. With that variety comes some fun. The races are decent enough, allowing you and 11 computers to duke it out in a dash for the finish line. Most of the races I partook in where fairly competitive and kept me engaged for the most part. The controls are very basic, and while they do not bring any innovation to the table, they get the job done. There are standard races, battle races, time trials and more. The battle races add some weaponry to the mix, but it is a bit subpar, not really managing to outshine other modes, especially considering the game does very little to inform you about the various weapons and how to earn their respective uses. I like the time trials, as they were a great way to flesh out particular tracks without having to worry about the competition interrupting you.
Aside from the sort of standard affair, there are also destruction derbies and many mini-game styled events to partake in. The deathmatch-like derbies see drivers smash and bash each other until only one remains. These are a lot of fun, though sadly I never got to play with other real players, which I will touch on shortly. This mode is just what the game is all about, destructive nonsense fun. Keeping that same spirit is the FlatOut mode, which I can only assume has made appearances in the series before. This mode is packed with plenty of different oddities like Golf, Pool, Beer Pong and much more. Most of these are participated in by ejecting your driver out of the car, and thus attempting to land in giant cups and holes, or smashing into giant building block castles. It takes some adjusting, but once you get the hang of it, there is a lot of fun to be had if you are into that sort of nonsensical fun like I am. Only issue is it is rather hard to unlock some of the modes, which I unfortunately did not do for several game types.
While you can do FlatOut mode in local pass-and-play multiplayer, sadly the rest of the game is only single player or multiplayer online. I would have loved for the other base modes to be available in a split screen mode, which is sadly missing in a lot of racers I've gotten to play. Even with the online offerings, I still managed to only play solo. I tried multiple times to find a match but found no success. While I would like to give some feedback on the online multiplayer structure, I unfortunately can't do to the apparent lack of an online presence. At least while you play solo you will have some good sights to look at.
From dusty backroads to icy mountains and even industrial plants, players will smash and race their way across a variety of scenes with a variety of cars. It’s mostly your standard sort of themes, but the level design is one of the shining aspects of the game. Each level is really well built, with multiple paths to take and great inclusion of destructible set pieces. The levels come off quite detailed, and you can see the quality work behind them when partaking in events. The car selection is a bit more lackluster, with your usual set of knock-off brands being available. Like the driving itself, it gets the job done, but nothing here really would stand out in a crowd.
As far as racers go, Flat Out 4 is a solid title that has lots to offer on the surface, but all of that content does not definitively guarantee polish. It's an average racer that has some better than average alternative modes. It’s got some ugly bugs too, like one that sees you clip a small section of road and effectively flips your car, and the online portion seems to be a ghost town. But with its killer level design and inclusion of a fun soundtrack, you won't always be worrying about its downfalls. Flat Out 4 is not insanely good or bad, but rather a decent title that will offer fun when found in that right crowds.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6.5/10
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