Banger racing

User Rating: 6 | FlatOut PC

FlatOut is a Banger Racing game, using old scrap cars. This game has total 16 cars in 3 class categories and the races take place in 5 different themed tracks; construction site, racing track, muddy forest, snow and rural town. In terms of game modes, there's career mode, quick race, time trial, and multiplayer.

Career mode is the usual affair. Select a basic car, then complete events to progress and earn cash. The career mode is comprised of 36 races spread across 3 trophies. You have to finish third place or above in each of the races in the set to progress to the next trophy. Placing higher will reward you with more cash which can be used to purchase better cars or upgrade your current one. The upgrades improve speed, horsepower, traction, braking etc. However, outside of this, there are no other customisation options.

The amount of destruction within the game is quite impressive. The parts of the car deform and break apart as you experience collisions. Similarly, there's plenty on the track that is destructible such as large wooden signs, stacks of tyres, barriers and other constructs. On subsequent laps, the debris will remain which can cause problems. Your car is fairly bouncy, so hitting even a small item at speed can cause your car to bounce or even flip; so you need to approach debris with caution.

FlatOut's racing model awards you boost for causing destruction. The thing is, knocking over small items like cones gives you a negligible amount. Ploughing into larger objects may give you a nice supply of boost, but will often really hinder you. First of all, crashing slows you down, secondly, you may end up being nudged into an unfavourable direction and have to slow down/turn around. Worst of all, your car may get lodged on the items and have to trigger the respawn. Crashing into opponent's inconsistently awards you. You may nudge them into a wall or other cars and not be rewarded for it. Therefore it's best just to focus on racing. When you crash into something solid like a building or tree, the driver is launched out of the windscreen. In addition to being a brutal visualisation, this delays you a few extra seconds, therefore giving a harsher penalty for harsher collisions.

There's also optional 'bonus' races which are effectively mini-games. There's destruction derbies and many variants on challenges involving launching your driver out of the window; high-jump, long jump, dart board, bowling etc. These mini-games didn't take my interest, but others will find them entertaining to see their driver flail about using the games' rag-doll physics.

I found the difficulty quite inconsistent throughout the game. Some races you will pull into 1st and remain there without much challenge. Conversely, in other races, an opponent will pull into 1st and remain there; seemingly uncatchable. Yet, other races you seem to be able to crash a few times, and within 20 seconds catch up to the leader.

It is pleasing to see opponents make mistakes or attempt to ram each other which can go nicely in your favour. Other games seem to rely on rubber-banding to keep things even, but it seems FlatOut has a more random approach. However, the unpredictability is often frustrating since some races are far too easy, but others seem impossible; despite you taking the same approach to them.

Overall, I found the best approach was to take it slow. On the road tracks, you can often hit corners at speed, but the tracks are mainly off-road where your car tends to have low grip. You need to make good use of the brake, and don't accelerate harshly if you know there's another corner coming straight up.

When you do drive off track, the game prompts you to reset your car. If you do take an improvised short-cut, this message prompt will appear and stay there for an entire lap. I wasn't sure if that was a design feature or a bug, but it means if you carry on then make a mistake, resetting your car will take you back to where you took the short-cut!

I did find it strange that there seems to be hints that destruction is the main part of the game, but there wasn't adequate rewards for doing so.

I loved the theme of using old run-down cars and I always enjoy off-road style racing, so FlatOut really appealed to me. The major flaw with the game is the inconsistent difficulty, so it would be very hard to 100% complete the game, but placing 3rd and above is achievable.