Total failure; waste of time and money; plain bad; disgusting to play: these are some of the kinder words used to describe Flatout 3 when it came out back in 2011, and its subtitle – Chaos & Destruction - was an apt reflection of both its review scores and its overall sales.
Deciding to create a follow-up to this car-wreck of a game, then, required a lot of courage, if not a dash of madness. Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure on IP holder Strategy First, developer Kylotonn, publisher Big Ben and distributor PQube as they take on the challenge of rescuing a once-great franchise from the disaster of its last incarnation.
“To create Flatout 4, we entirely ignored Flatout 3,” Strategy First’s director Emmanuel Wall immediately clarifies, “and went back to what we loved about the originals and what made them so extraordinarily fun.”
Strategy First purchased the Flatout IP after the release of Flatout 3: Chaos & Destruction and took its time to find the right developer to bring the franchise back to life.
"Flatout 4: Total Insanity is a love letter to Flatout 2
with loads of crazy new gameplay."
Alexandre Assier, Kylotonn
“We evaluated many studios all over the world,” Wall continues. “There were meetings at Gamescom in Germany, GDC in the United States and Game Connection in France.
“We all wanted Flatout to return to its glory days and between us and Kylotonn, there’s been a shared vision of what made the franchise so great. We selected Kylotonn to develop the game and financed it ourselves. We also hired Tiny Rebel Games who have decades of experience in console game development, having worked on games like Grand Theft Auto, Midnight Club, BioShock, Borderlands, Gran Turismo and Smugglers Run. Tiny Rebel Games worked closely on the creative vision for the game including track design and humour, and oversaw the production schedule.“
Having developed the last two entries in the WRC franchise, Kylotonn is no stranger to racing games, so the French studio was more than happy to jump on the Flatout train:
“We never forgot how we felt the first time we played Flatout and Flatout 2,” Kylotonn producer Alexandre Assier (pictured, top right) enthuses.
“We at Kylotonn are huge racing enthusiasts. For us, it was a privilege to create a new entry in the franchise, something to return Flatout to its rightful spot as a highpoint of the destruction derby genre. Flatout 4: Total Insanity is a love letter to Flatout 2 with loads of crazy new gameplay, cars, tracks, stunts and the all-new Assault Mode.”
Flatout and Flatout 2, both developed by Finnish studio Bugbear, released respectively in 2004 and 2006 to good reviews praising how fun the games were. On the other hand, Flatout 3 was created by Dutch developer Team6 and had an alarming deficit of what made its predecessors so enjoyable.
With the series’ reputation in tatters, Kylotonn and Strategy First are now determined to restore the series to its former glory with Flatout 4: Total Insanity.
“There’s a real gap in the market right now for the formula that worked so well in the early Flatout games,” Wall says.
“Destruction derby done right, not taking itself too seriously, not treading too far into the realm of sims. This is just flat out fun. Literally. That’s all we wanted to accomplish here: a truly fun escape from the real world.”
Assier continues: “Flatout is a racing game franchise which sits slightly outside of your typical racing game genre. It combines the adrenaline rush of racing without confining it to the boring safety of a racing track. If your ideal racing fantasy involves smashing a rocket-powered ice cream van at high speed through a lumbermill while evading a magnetic bomb from a vintage hearse, then Flatout 4 is definitely for you.”
Smashing a rocket-powered ice cream van through a lumbermill evading a magnetic bomb does sound like a lot of fun, but with the fallout from Flatout 3 still lingering in some gamers’ minds, the team behind Flatout 4 needed to get the message out about its return. Enter PQube, whose UK product manager Anne-Lou Grosbois Favreau (pictured, top far right) has a substantial marketing campaign in place.
“We want to ensure a high degree of visibility for Flatout 4, so we’re working with the Gamer Network to place site takeovers on several major gaming sites,” she explains.
“Of course, social media is always a key element of our marketing, both for advertisement and for fan engagement. We favour promoting our games through competitions and giveaways post-launch, for instance. We’ll also be running TV spots for Flatout 4 on key extreme sports programming and advertising with partners that cater to similar audiences.”
Flatout 4: Total Insanity will release on March 17th on PS4, Xbox One and PC. But with the Nintendo Switch hitting shelves today, we couldn’t help but wonder if there were any plans to port the title to Nintendo’s brand-new console.
“While we have no confirmed plans, you never know, we would certainly love to bring Flatout to the Nintendo Switch,” Wall smiles.
For now, Strategy First, Kylotonn and PQube are very much focused on showing that the franchise is back for good – and the team is pretty confident about the game they’re about to deliver.
“Flatout 4 will definitely have a wide appeal, as you don’t have to be a hardcore racing fan to get the most out of this game,” Grosbois-Favreau says.
“It’s an arcade racing game with a focus on fun and furious action, with a blazing sense of speed, high speed crashes and destructible environments. It even features weapon power-ups for maximum carnage. You can also take a break from racing to launch your body through the windshield into giant beer cups, or compete in destruction derbies with weapon power-ups.
“With a wide variety of game modes in addition to the standard races and career modes, it’s sure to satisfy both traditional racing fans and people who enjoy action games, as well as those who enjoyed the original Flatout titles. Anyone looking for a fun online multiplayer experience or a party game, will find a lot to love in Flatout 4.“
Even though Flatout 4 aims to recapture what made the series fun, bringing the franchise back from the dead has always been serious business for both Kylotonn and Strategy First – and the duo promises that quality will be there.
“It was imperative to us that we develop a Flatout game which lives up to its past reputation, a truly worthy sequel,” says Assier.
Wall conclues: “Every decision was guided by the ones made in the original. We did the best we could do to recreate what was wonderful and, of course, add
new features and a next-gen engine. It’s been in development for two years and is certainly the biggest game that Strategy First’s made in recent history.”