Flatout 3: Chaos & Destruction Review
PCAlso available on PC
Gaming is a wonderful thing. For the past 30-odd years it has provided joy to many. Some play to let off steam and chill out. Others play for the brain workout or the cinematic narrative. Lots play for all of these reasons and more. Over time games have improved, evolved and innovated. Things have come and gone, all in order to make the experience that bit better, or at least to try to. Sometimes games fail but other times they gloriously succeed. These days the volume and variety on offer ensures there’s always a conveyor belt of quality titles and normally too many options meaning half the battle is what to play rather than the game itself. With Flatout 3: Chaos & Destruction everything was setup to deliver what people wanted. A well-liked series based around fun, destructive racing; updated. So it’s a shame really that the execution of Flatout 3: Chaos & Destruction is such that not at any singular point do you want to play it. There is no reason to play this game. Not one aspect can be looked at and described as good. Nothing in this title is done better than any other game. Let me go into details.
The first thing you’ll notice if you were to play this game is the lack of graphical polish. For a modern day PC game, and especially one which has you expecting sparkly presentation thanks to the pretty hefty download (second only to The Witcher 2 at 11 gigabytes in my Steam library), things immediately look dated. The initial reaction was one of surprise followed by an attempt to compare to other titles. What kept popping into my head was Carmageddon and Destruction Derby from the mid to late 90’s but that is clearly wrong - this doesn’t look that dated. The point remains though that the visual fidelity on display here does not come close to meeting the expectations of today, and nowhere near the stars of recent times like the aforementioned The Witcher 2. It’s not a good start. The whole game looks low resolution even though you can ramp it up to full HD. It’s as if basic art has been taken and upscaled poorly to give the final effect. Graphics, and presentation (the sound effects are amazingly poor and sound like they’ve been created by a 5 year old Foley artist), are not the pivot around which a game succeeds or fails. For sure there’s a base expectation when investing a new game. This fails to meet those expectations.
Starting your first race, or other event depending how you choose to play, leads to an ever worsening experience. There are nine events to choose from which on first glance is great, but after trying each of them any excitement will be totally exhausted. In race mode you’re asked to choose a track from the available and unlocked ones, pick a car and assess the character roster. It doesn’t really matter what, or who, you pick though. Whichever car you pick the feel of it will be the same whether it’s a muscle car or speedster or anything else in-between. Even monster trucks (not available in race mode at first) basically behave the same. It’s the physics engine. It seems the coding underpinning the driving - the actual point of the game - is designed to model the movement of a brick on wheels roaming around one type of surface. Go slow and the car moves around easily enough. Pick up speed - according to the speedometer you’re travelling at around 350km/h whilst it looks and feels to all intents and purposes that you’re moving no faster than if you were in a 30km/h zone - and the vehicle will not turn. It will not drift. It goes straight or not at all, until you slow down.
If you come up against an AI car and dare to touch it a variety of events can happen. You may continue to travel along as one beautiful metal being unable to detach yourself. You may destroy your competitor and continue unopposed. Or you might get taken down yourself. It seems to happen at the whim of the game and no matter how you try to manage the situation or avoid it in the first place, there is just no chance to control events. Damage given or taken is incredibly variable also. There’s no pattern to it, nothing that can be learnt so you can manage your car’s damage and nurse your way to victory at the last.
When you do get destroyed you just get a new car anyway and it respawns on the track. Well, you have to press a button to make it respawn. Why? Why if my car is down and out do I need to tell it to respawn? If the game decides I’m pointing the wrong way and can’t reorient myself why do I have to tell it to respawn? Let the player reverse and manoeuvre or automatically respawn. Don’t go for some archaic half-way house. Any time I felt enjoyment was seeping into my veins it went pretty soon after because I had to press R to respawn. So, racing is hampered by poor physics, lack of true variety, inconsistencies and implementation of awful ideas. There is nothing to make you want to try again. Nothing to make you enjoy the first race. In fact, half-way through the first turn you reach will be the point you want to stop.
The other events have no redeeming features either. Stunt mode asks you to press eject just before you crash and guide your avatar to the target (check out where it is using the non-existent, or impossible to find, maps) by way of aftertouch which doesn’t work. The rag doll physics look like real ragdolls too, rather than anything we’re used to. Destruction events in various arenas are boring - very few obstacles, awkward car control and 29 competitors. Formula One racing is slightly easier to control but equally tedious - perhaps more so than the race mode because there are fewer explosions caused by your hand, generally due to you blowing up if you even so much as glance another item or vehicle. Monster truck racing sounds great but when the aim of the game is to collect purple barrels you realise the fact you’re in a monster truck is utterly irrelevant.
It’s a great shame Flatout 3: Chaos & Destruction has turned out like this. It’s a well-liked series with an existing fan base who’ll be eager to see any new titles in the series. Or would have been. This will end any interest in the franchise and there won’t be a Flatout 4. This game feels like it’s been put together in a hurry and it’s inconceivable the developers will not have realised. They say the game will be updated and improved upon over time based on fan’s feedback. A valiant effort but when the starting point is so uninventive and backwards, full of poorly chosen mechanics, low quality presentation, awful physics and has no one reason why it should be played, it’s unlikely to ever get that feedback. Not constructive, anyway.