Originally developed by Bugbear Interactive, the FlatOut series was once a spiritual successor to the Destruction Derby games of the late 1990’s, which combined frantic, fast paced carnage with somewhat believable driving physics and a giant leap in visual fidelity. The three main releases enjoyed modest commercial success, with FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage landing on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, establishing itself as a viable alternative to high profile arcade racers of the time – an impressive feat for a studio whose only other notable projects were an obscure historical rally simulator, and a Ridge Racer reboot that fans of the original weren’t fond of.
Unfortunately, the gravy train FlatOut had provided Bugbear with quickly reached the end of the line. Bugbear ended up losing the rights to their own franchise, with FlatOut 3: Chaos and Destruction awarded to a shovelware developer by the name of Team6 Game Studios. The title was created with a fraction of the budget as the originals, shipping in a horrid state which was poorly received by critics and fans alike; netting an average score of 20% from hundreds of disappointed Steam users.
Following the obvious setback, Bugbear attempted to restore some of their former glory by crafting a remake of the game that launched them into the limelight and releasing it on Steam’s early access platform. Operating under the name of Next Car Game, January of 2014 saw a much more mature and technically competent destruction derby inspired racer hit the market – though there was a pretty substantial catch: Next Car Game, or Wreckfest as it later came to be known, was little more than a tech demo. Sure, the unfinished proof of concept amassed almost a million dollars in sales, but what people got for their discounted purchase could be played to exhaustion in just under an hour.
And three years later, it still remains that way. Bugbear has not yet finished Wreckfest, nor do they have any plans to; basically hoping enough people have forgotten about it to prevent any sort of meaningful outrage from occurring, while also shipping an equally unfinished product on current generation consoles.
So with Bugbear royally embarrassing themselves via their eternal science project Wreckfest, and the FlatOut franchise now tarnished by a game described as “a decided waste of time and space” by GameSpy, you’d think there would be no conceivable reason for any developer to continue with their efforts to prolong the legacy of what was really just two interesting arcade racers released by an independent Finnish game studio in the mid-2000’s.
These guys spawned one of the worst racing games ever with 2015’s WRC 5, and their most recent release, WRC 6, received what appeared to be lukewarm reception until it was revealed that Team VVV – a site who praised the game as the best licensed WRC offering in years – were given a fancy tour of the studio and exclusive pre-release access to WRC 6. Kylotonn’s back catalog consists of three yoga games and a platter of hastily built budget products, if their work with the WRC license wasn’t enough of a red flag.
There are some among us who will be cautiously optimistic about FlatOut 4, as a new-ish studio attempting to tackle one of the most hardcore forms of motorsport may have been a bit of a daunting task better suited to a veteran developer, but there’s a good reason to laugh at those fools: Kylotonn’s post release support for WRC 6 has been nothing short of brutal, with no word on the completely fabricated AI results that allow you to win an event even if the opponent in the other lane has beaten you to the finish line, and the complete unwillingness to cater to the PC crowd by failing to include support for multiple devices – basically every PC sim racer’s setup.
Upon release, FlatOut 4 will merely exist, occupying shelf space and luring in susceptible grandparents looking for a cost-effective Christmas gift while offering no real incentive for any kind of informed customer to give the game a genuine shot. I’m not going to question how the FlatOut series was awarded to Kylotonn, because it’s obvious it was seen as nothing more than a business transaction – a commodity, if you will – but I am going to question those who are considering letting their excitement build. Here’s a short answer: Don’t.