FlatOut 3: Chaos & Destruction brings a new dimension to high speed destruction racing. Feel the adrenaline pulse through your veins as you barrel through insane race tracks against monster trucks, race cars, off road vehicles and much more. FlatOut 3: Chaos & Destruction is demolition racing at its extreme.
What We Think
OK, so I’ve rewritten this review, in its entirety, several times now. First, like most reviewers, I was upset that this game wasn’t anything like its predecessors, in content or quality. Then, I decided I was being overly critical and should review it on its own merits. Now, I’m thinking somewhere in between is the place I want to be because, let’s face it, if you want to go out and buy an intellectual property, you have to live up to it rather than riding its coattails.
When I was first asked to review Flatout 3 I thought “How is that an indie game?”, then my brain reminded me that I really like the Flatout franchise and that I should shut up and start downloading. So I did. When I could finally start playing I couldn’t manage to ignore my brain’s constant question over the cheap hard rock soundtrack…
“Are you sure you downloaded the right game?”
From the opening screens and menu selection I was pretty psyched. Everything had that gritty look and the cars had that slightly beat up appearance so characteristic of the series. Once I was on the track, however, everything changed.
Cars look very little like they did during selecting. Instead they’ve got a shiny plastic look to them with little to no texturing. Collision damage looks equally artificial; fenders hang off the back in awkward angles, the hood flips up and becomes visually distracting for long periods of time without tearing off. Doors hang fully open despite the fact you’re supposedly doing 275kph.
While the tracks fare much better visually than the cars, it’s hard to notice unless you stop, because any kind of speed causes everything to become a blurry mess. They also use a soft black vignette border during gameplay for some inexplicable reason.
Audio was equally disappointing: in-game music in the Flatout series has, up until now, been a hard rock soundtrack using licenced music from little-known and up-and-coming bands. Flatout 3, instead, goes with in-house music that mostly sounds like the opening riff from a good song repeated ad nauseum. It thankfully includes the ability to play songs from your own collection, but even this is so unsophisticated that it just randomly picks tunes from the whole library. And who wants to listen to the song you cry into your pillow to at night while barrelling down the raceway?
Sound effects are also subpar, involving average-sounding engine noises and cheap crashes. Where are the sounds of dirt and rocks hitting the undercarriage on dirt tracks, or the hum off the walls in a tunnel?
After four or five patches in its short lifetime, gameplay still suffers.
There are almost a dozen modes to Flatout 3, but most of them seem like tacked-on simulations of previous Team 6 games. Stunt is back, which always seemed like a distraction more than a real game mode and is even less interesting this time around.
There are two demolition derby modes, both of which are tedious because it takes forever to wreck a vehicle. There’s a monster truck mode where none of vehicles move or behave like a monster truck. There’s an F1 simulation with generally uninteresting tracks. Nightshift mode is the classic race mode, except at night with rain and bad fog effects that make an otherwise blurry game almost impossibly blurry.
Offroad mode, while it claims to be free form, is a race of some sort, which I won every time, but I’ll be damned if I ever knew where I was going or how I found the finish. Lastly, there’s challenge mode, which involves fifty pre-set elements from the other modes that you must go through one at a time.
The physics engine just isn’t up to the task of pulling off any of these modes, however – there’s no real sense of the cars connecting with the road, slipping and sliding and feeling like you’re hovering just above the surface. Collisions suffer from cars being somehow magnetically stuck together (less so since the last patch).
I’ve had a few occasions in the last day or so when my vehicle lightly slams into a rock and gets stuck, vibrating there, until it is wrecked. I can’t count the number of times I fell through the universe, left to float in the ether until I reset my car. There are junked cars on many tracks, as obstacles, but instead of slamming into them it seems like a heavy blast of air blows your car slightly into the air when you strike them. Other than the speedometer saying you’re going twice the rate of the previous games, Flatout 3 seems much slower than previous editions.
Let’s talk about the basic racing game a little more now.
Instead of the cup-racing series common to the franchise, here you take on individual races, of which there are only 13 tracks and their reverses. You must beat one track in order to unlock the next on the list.
Car selection is also limited. Oh, there are four styles of car and multiple cars for each style, but each car from a style is statistically and mechanically the same. Just a new model and skin.
All the great tuning and upgrade options from previous editions of the game are gone, replaced by a few pre-set tuning options that don’t seem to make a whole lot of difference. Flatout 3 also includes 20 different drivers to choose from, but they don’t have any effect on gameplay.
While none of that sounds good, it’s not exactly terrible either. And there’s something to be said about a CEO who’s willing to get on the Steam boards, engage with players, and take the results back to the team to tweak the game. It’s definitely a better game today than it was upon release.
If you’re looking for a new Flatout game, it’s safe to score this a 1. If you’re just looking for another racing game this is more like a 2, so that’s what I’m giving it. If you’re looking for smash ’em up racing game and haven’t played Flatout: Ultimate Carnage I would recommend it over 3. If you want one with better multiplayer and a good modding community, I’d recommend 2. Really, I could recommend a dozen older, cheaper, racing titles on Steam that are easily better than this.