FlatOut is a 'banger racing' series, originally developed by Bugbear. For FlatOut 3, Bugbear pass the development onto Team 6... who haven't done a great job with the series.
The overall aesthetics of the game remain the same, although the graphics look several years behind. For comparison, 2011 was the year that Dirt 3 came out, which is way more advanced than this game. You do get the impression that it's the kind of game that went through development hell and ended up a bit of a mess.
The main racing mechanic remains the same too. On your way to the finish line, you want to ram into other cars and destructible scenery which rewards you with boosts. The previous games had much more serious handling though, so it was easy to lose traction and spin out if you weren't driving in a 4x4. Driving on different surfaces also had an affect on your grip and speed. In FlatOut 3, it doesn't seem to matter what the surface is, your speed and grip remains the same. This gives it a further arcade feel than before, and puts a larger emphasis on leaving the track to cut corners.
Smashing into things can be a great deal of fun, but the aggressive and competitive nature of your opponents can lead to frustration as you get smashed about. Your car can take a certain amount of damage before becoming completely wrecked and ending the race. Up until that point, you will reset if you take big hits, or can manually reset to put you on the track and facing the right way. The problem with the destruction aspect is that it can be a bit inconsistent. You can plough through certain large objects, but not others, meaning you may drive into something and do large damage to your car. The application of damage can be inconsistent which is easily observable in the Destruction Derby style races. Sometimes a large smash will say you did 1% damage, but then a small scrape can do 20%. When you use the boost, you recover health, with extra bonuses awarded for long continuous boosts.
Instead of having a career mode, it's now just a set of single races where you can choose your car and driver, then aim to win to unlock the next course. It's not clear if the choice of drivers make any difference, but there's plenty to choose from. The track descriptions tell you which car is suitable, so it's important to choose a slower car on the tracks which contain many obstacles and tight turns. It took me many attempts to win the first race, and in hindsight, a fast course which puts the emphasis on cutting corners probably isn't the best course to start the mode with.
There's plenty of other game modes, although most of them aren't much fun. New cars are unlocked as you make progress in the various modes which can be used across the other game modes.
In Stunt Man, you drive for a few seconds and press a button to launch your driver towards a target. The over-the-top floaty physics and rag-doll behaviour of your driver is where the fun is. I never appreciated this mode in the previous installments, and I didn't care about this event this time either.
Big Battle and Battle Arena are Destruction Derbies. Although modes like that sound potentially fun, Destruction Derbies are just a mess of crashes where the winner seems to be based on luck.
In the Monster Trucks mode, there's various missions where you have to compete for certain targets such as destroying the most barrels. I found that if you destroyed your vehicle in this mode, the event ends with everyone on zero points. The leader-board would always show me as 3rd place and unlock the next track.
Off-road sees you driving over an open map, earning points for ramming, jumps and drifts as you race through flared check-points. The Monster Truck vehicles you drive have extremely bouncy tyres which feels ridiculous. This mode tends to be easy because there's a large amount of points for destroying scenery, but the AI tend to want to stick to racing.
Speed is Formula 1 style racing over flat roads and a lack of hand-brake. Since it is less hectic, it feels like a slower pace . It also seemed far easier to win compared to the normal race mode.
In Night Race, not only is the sky dark, but also gives you a torrential downpour to deal with. The rain is so bad that you can barely see anything. Not sure how this mode can possibly be fun.
In SplatOut, you drive round a track, mowing down zombies. The target score you are given is so low, you often beat the scores within 15 seconds. This means it feels rather boring unless you want to replay to beat your previous scores.
Initially, the speed of the game seems ridiculously fast and your grip is pretty inconsistent, so you will be constantly fighting to keep your car straight. After a lot of practice and managing to win the first event of the Race mode, the game did become enjoyable. By reading other people's comments about the game, it seems a lot of people didn't have the patience to get as far as that.
The poor graphics can occasionally make it really hard to tell what's going on. You are bound to encounter glitches such as falling through the floor, drops in frame-rate, wonky physics etc. The lighting model is pretty broken, so some of the races at night are just a mess; surfaces are really reflective so it can seem very fluorescent and blinding.
The pause menu strangely omits a 'continue' option. If you press the pause button again, it will unpause it, but pressing A selects 'Restart' which doesn't have a confirmation. This meant there was a few occasions I restarted the race by accident.
FlatOut 3 mainly captures the spirit of the FlatOut series, but it doesn't expand on the series to bring it up to modern standards. Instead it feels dated and broken. It's not as bad as other reviews make out, but it's definitely crap. I feel with a bit of tweaking and extra polish, the game could have been improved drastically, but it probably still wouldn't have met the standards that the fans demand.