The first two FlatOut games were developed by Bugbear Entertainment, taking the racing genre by storm over a decade ago with destruction derby-esque racing and stunt mini-games best remembered for flinging the driver through the windshield at designated targets. After releasing a remake of FlatOut 2 under a new name, Bugbear moved on from the franchise, but regrettably, a third game was released. The game was so poorly received, many believed it put the nail in the coffin for the series, but FlatOut 4: Total Insanity hopes to return the franchise to its former glory, even remastering some of the fan-favorite events and mini-games.
Developed by Kylotonn, best known for their work on the WRC racing series, FlatOut 4: Total Insanity is a competent arcade racer but fails to innovate. The game does include an adequate career mode, as you earn cash by placing high enough in races with the goal of winning the current cup event. While your rundown looking starting car isn’t the fastest or the strongest, you’ll use your prize money on upgradable parts to boost your car’s ability to accelerate faster, take sharper turns, and dish out extreme punishment. There are two main philosophies in FlatOut4, racing to win and racing to destroy your opponents. Crashing through wooden crates, giant signs, pieces of structures, other cars, and anything else you find within the race tracks fills your boost meter. On the other hand, you slow down as you collide with objects, giving an opening for other cars to pass you.
FlatOut 4: Total Insanity truly shines during the first few moments of each race, as cars approach the first turn or the first few branching areas. Cars trade paint, sparks fly, and fenders become increasingly mangled as cars bump into each other. At it’s best, you’ll see cars flip through the air, barn doors shatter as cars speed through them launching pieces of wood in the air, orange cones bounce in every direction and dirt filling the air as you fight for position. Halfway through the first lap and most of the enjoyment muddles, especially once you pull out ahead, as you try and avoid hitting anything in order to keep the lead. While it is true that you could benefit from refilling your nitro booster, which really gives you a great sensation of speed, it's much more advantageous to keep the lead by racing clean.
Regardless of the car selected, you’ll need to adapt to the way the turning mechanics in the game functions. Rounding a corner with other cars around can be dangerous, as the slightest tap will send you spinning out of control. Different cars and tracks are unlocked by playing through the career, Unless you play through the single-player options, you’ll be limited to what is available to you in quick play, which is disappointing. However, the different stunt-based mini-games found in FlatOut mode can be played in quick play without having to unlock them ahead of time. The FlatOut mode is arguably the most entertaining mode in the game, featuring over 40 different events for you to compete on the online leaderboards. The most enjoyable activities are locked, requiring you to net a set amount of combined score amongst the available events to unlock the next one. The stadium events, such as playing a round of golf by launching the driver through the windshield at giant holes, or by flinging the corpse through rings of fire are entertaining, but also difficult to control. They feel more akin to drunken mini-games that would be entertaining at parties, but I found the most enjoyment in the destruction derby arenas and the carnage mode. Arena pits you against other drivers in various enclosed environments populated with ramps, cones, tires, and other destructible objects.
Local multiplayer is limited to taking turns in the stadium mini-games, but supports up to 8 players. There is a sore lack of split-screen support for racing and arena battles. Online, however, allows you to form lobbies, but play through all of the game’s content, without having to unlock it in the single-player modes first. While during the launch window, I never had a full lobby, I did play a few different game modes and didn’t have any connection issues. Carnage tasks players with focussing on increasing your scoring by hitting checkpoints and crashing objects and other players. It’s a bit more chaotic than standard races, but even online, I found the various destruction derby modes to be the most fun.
FlatOut 4: Total Insanity marks the first time the series has been released on current generation platforms, and not to mention the first shot at the series by developer Kylotonn. It’s a shame that so much content needs to be unlocked to play in quick play and that the game lacks split-screen options. Online is enjoyable if you can find others to play against in any of the game’s modes.Note: FlatOut 4: Total Insanity was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A physical copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.