Around four months ago I had a part in covering the week-long Steam Racing Fest that introduced me to many racing game demos and the awesome developers behind such works. With the number of games I've previewed and discussed, there were at least twice as many games I had not the chance to give the same exposure to due to time constraints. One such game was Flashout 3, an arcade anti-gravity combat racing game. Despite the "3" in the title, I was unaware of the history of the Flashout series at first. In doing so, I've come to appreciate what would become the best game in the trilogy.
As most series go, Flashout had its fair share of humble beginnings, starting with the first game in the series. In the early 2010s, Flashout was initially released for mobile devices as a portable love letter to other AG racers, including Wipeout. I've mentioned another AG racer, Phaseshift, and how it aims to bring classic titles like the Extreme-G series to a modern audience.
The first two Flashout games were like this to Wipeout in almost every way, from its futuristic aesthetics to the models of the crafts themselves. As of now, the first game titled Flashout 3D is completely free on Steam and the sequel is on sale for a dollar, giving curious players a cheap way to look back at a historic racer. One day I'll cover both titles together, but for now, it's all about Flashout 3 as it is no doubt an outlier in the trilogy.
One of the first things that stand out is the emphasis on a "neon" aesthetic. Each craft features vivid wireframe designs that give off a neo-retro 80s appearance with various archetypes. You have the small fragile speedsters that can zip around corners, the big hefty freight carriers that pack a punch and can dish it out, and the space exotics meant to leave a trail of dust for the opponents. One of the final crafts a player can unlock is a ship that definitely does not look like a Podracer nor refers to one at all. It's a good thing in Flashout 3, there are more than Skies to be Walked.
Before the player begins their campaign, they have a choice between two characters, Bea and Silas. There aren't any major differences between the two aside from their origin stories and their special weapons, an attack drone and a saw respectively. Early on, I felt Bea's drone was a far better utility than the inconsistent Saw, even though the latter did more damage when it worked as intended. There are no racing dialogue or quips between the two drivers and the only way players can see them outside of win animations is in the cockpit.
I wasn't expecting Flashout 3 to have an amazing cockpit camera so considered myself surprised. Under the settings, players can adjust the cockpit to see the body, including the arms turning the steering wheel. While it didn't help my overall gameplay, it helped with the immersion. Taking in a first-person perspective as you drive 300km/h through Egyptian deserts, Tokyo highways, and several space stations were as thrilling as the third-person view.
There are ten tournaments for each character, weighing in a total of twenty tournaments in total. By the end of both campaigns, players will have driven every course and every game mode. There are enough variations to offer a challenge, but the AI plays relatively the same throughout each tournament. They are highly aggressive and will aim to take you out alongside everyone else, but with the right loadout, this can be rendered moot. In the beginning, the player has access to two machine guns and a rocket launcher. Depending on the vehicle's energy level, the player can have up to ten slots to fill their loadout.
Each piece of utility takes up a certain energy cost, making it important to go for a balanced loadout. Players can earn more utilities by playing through the game and reaching certain thresholds, the final one being two million exp for the best ship in the game. Experience is earned by winning races and topping podiums as well as causing as much chaos as possible. Enemy frags, destruction of property, and stunts are the key ways to earn experience.
Find yourself on the receiving end of enemy fire often? Consider using a shield, armor, or a health repair kit. Need a bit more punch to pack? Use stronger weapons that can put a dent in your enemies. Finding yourself becoming the hunted after taking first place? Grab some mines or flares to slow enemies down and mitigate damage. There's a kit dedicated to everyone and eventually, players will find what works for them. In my experience, I've come across this loadout as my main one once I started Silas and beat Bea's campaign.
The Cluster Rockets is easily the strongest weapon in the game as it will one-shot kill anything it's locked on to. Think of this weapon as the ultimate upgrade to the starting Rocket weapon. Second to this would arguably be the Grenade Launcher if only the player wasn't at risk of blowing themselves up. Second, the Recover utility instantly heals a ship by 25% of its max health. This means players can participate in longer dogfights and come up the victor while also healing any damage taken from stray bullets.
Lastly, I used the Flare to round things up as players will get attacked and hunted by the pack if they are in first. The Flares not only block rockets, but they also act like mines, damaging and slowing enemies that run over them. I've gotten several unintentional kills by placing these at chokepoints and it made even the challenging AI less of an issue. The gameplay is hardly boring as the sense of speed as well as the best part of the game I have yet to mention is what carries Flashout 3.
The music featured in this game is some of the best I've heard in a modern racing game, courtesy of Traymuss and Adam Skorupa, the latter of who worked on the soundtrack for The Witcher games. Each stage has a unique song attached to it and it sets the atmosphere for the races being held. The tight and windy Test Track features heavy dnb while the fast and technical Neon circuit features house music. There wasn't a song that I felt was either out of place or "overstayed" its welcome, which is a huge boon to Flashout 3. (Please put the soundtrack on Spotify or a streaming service!)
As much praise as I've given the game so far, there are some negatives. For starters, the game will glitch out depending on how you enter certain corners. This was a big deal on
Rainbow Road Outer Space where there are several boost pads next to the finish line that is out of place. Attempting to reach the boost pads and failing to return to the track won't count the lap as it considers you "out of bounds." Likewise, taking a certain corner near the end of the lap the wrong way will put you in reverse. Thankfully the game corrects you, but there were times on other courses where I glitched out and I wasn't sure if it was my fault or the game mocking me.
UPDATE: It looks like the devs were aware and fixed the bug before they signed off for the night. Kudo for being thorough!
Regardless, this was a game that took me by surprise. In the six or so hours I played the game, I've gotten almost all achievements save for the two that requests me to win 250 races. Even if you were to win every single race in both campaigns, you'd have just enough wins to get the "50 wins" achievement. While I can get the remaining achievements in my own time, I assume this was meant to play with others online and go for wins there. If you're someone who cares about getting "platinum", this is one of the easier ones to do so.
Overall, Flashout 3 is the best game in the trilogy by far once it took the risk to give an identity to itself rather than a Wipeout clone. While the future of Flashout is unknown, I look forward to an inevitable "Flashout 4" if this is the path that Jujubee continues. Thank you once again for giving me the opportunity to play your game!
Flashout 3 is now available on Steam here.