There was once an era where arcade racing was all we had. Where smashing into your opponents and power sliding around corners could mean the difference between winning and losing a race. Flatout 4: Total Insanity is the return of a bygone era. It has one or two spots of rust, but if you want a fun arcade racer you’ll find it here.
Insane in the membrane
Flatout 4: Total Insanity honours its predecessors by being a bonkers racer where your main aim is to cross the finish line in first place by using any means to do so. As with most older arcade racers it comes down to two particular aspects – understanding the strength of your particular vehicle, and the right timing of using your nitros. The first area where you’ll get to explore these features will be in career mode.
Here you can enter Derby, Classic or Allstar tiers, though you’ll only have enough cash to buy a Derby car when you enter the fray. Your first race will leave you a little bewildered and you’ll find yourself in last place (12th) before you’ve had the chance to figure out what’s what. It’s part of the charm. Flatout 4: Total Insanity takes no prisoners. The AI rivals are ruthless, but persevere and get to learn the tracks, of which there really are not that many, and you’ll gain the upper-hand.
Bang bang, she shot me down
Each track comes with its own unique set of shortcuts. Some shortcuts are worth the effort, while others are too risky and could cause you to lose time instead. It’s all about trial and error and, unlike most of the “realistic racers” there is no rewind feature. Make a mistake and your car might fly off the track or end up on its roof after being smashed into the air by a rival. And just when you think you’ve got a handle of it all you’ll get to try out Assault mode (in career mode) where you have weapons at your disposal. Build up your nitro gauge by smashing into everything or catching air time and you get access to four weapon options: Bollards, Ball, Shockwave and Magnetic Bomb. The shockwave is perfect when you have a rival up your backside and need to get rid of the pesky fly. The ball will shoot out a fire ball ahead of your car and explode on impact, while Magnetic Bomb will drop a bomb on the road – first car to drive over it has a bomb stuck to it and, well, BANG! Bollards are great when you’re ahead and you need to stop your pursuers in their tracks when you drop it behind your car. It borrows from so many games.
[pullquote_right]Flatout 4: Total Insanity, as I’m sure you can see, is a combination of Motorstorm, Burnout, Mario Kart and… Destruction Derby.[/pullquote_right]Flatout 4: Total Insanity, as I’m sure you can see, is a combination of Motorstorm, Burnout, Mario Kart and… Destruction Derby. There’s an Arena mode that plays exactly like the Destruction Derby of old. Your aim is to smash into other cars and survive to tell the story. It’s more fun than I’d like to admit, and was a great mode to play to take a break from the frantic racing. However, to get a gold, silver or bronze cup for any race or arena event you need to upgrade your car.
Head to the garage and upgrade your chassis, exhaust, gearbox, engine, wheels & brakes and nitro. Once you’ve applied the upgrade you can’t tamper with anything. It basically adds it and you can feel the improvement in any race or arena right away. As this is a game that’s all about damage control – when your damage bar depletes it will wreck your vehicle and that’s game over – you’ll want to make sure that the chassis receives a good upgrade. The heavier your car, the more damage it can take and, more importantly, the more damage you can do to others. Perform your upgrades and learn your shortcuts and winning a race comes down to nothing but your own skills. There is more though.
[pullquote_left]There is not one single mode in Flatout 4: Total Insanity that seems in any sense realistic, and it’s all the better for it.[/pullquote_left]Flatout Mode returns and in it you’ll once again perform wacky stunts. In Stunt mode you’re tasked with speeding up, gaining momentum, and then pressing and holding the X button then releasing to have your driver smash through the windscreen so he can ultimately hit a bunch of well-placed TNT drums to build up a score of demolishing blocks. Or you can play Cup Pong where you have to have your driver fly through the air and land in specific coloured cups to gain points. Seeing the ragdoll doing its thing is a little addictive. Beat the Bomb requires you to race from one checkpoint to the next before your car blows up and carnage mode is all about causing the most havoc by purposefully destroying everything you can see. There is not one single mode in Flatout 4: Total Insanity that seems in any sense realistic, and it’s all the better for it.
Smash, bang, repeat
Graphically Flatout 4: Total Insanity is not going to win any awards, but when you are behind a group of cars on a dusty road or in a blizzard you won’t be able to see a thing, which requires split-second decisions. Seeing everything tear, break and explode into pieces is somewhat satisfying – and doing so builds your nitro meter, so it’s not like it’s just you being a complete rebel without a cause. It makes you feel like a rebel too because the soundtrack is made up of some cool rock tunes that will put you in the right mood to destroy everything. The biggest flaw, if it matters for you, is the fact that it can get repetitive.
It reminds me very much of Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit on the PS1 where there are few locations, but there are several variations and reverse tracks. You really only have six original tracks that ultimately splits into over 20 variations. Because of this it becomes very repetitive, though the silver lining comes in the form that you know these tracks backwards, quite literally. I experienced no frame rate issues, though it could be because I’m playing it on the PS4 Pro – there have been reports of frame rate issues on the standard PS4. I did, however, have trouble finding any games online, and when I did the person quit before the race even started, so don’t expect to take the carnage online unless you have friends in the real world who would like to join you online. There is no split-screen mode, but you can participate in party mode with up to eight players – probably with stunt mode in mind.
Flatout 4: Total Insanity is not perfect, but it is an incredible amount of fun. If you’re dying for a bit of oldschool arcade racing it’ll provide it in bucket loads, just know that you’ll see the same tracks over and over again and that the crazy AI will drive you to the brink of insanity.