Sony

Flatout 4 (PS4)

It’s not a question if there’s Americana in Flatout 4. It’s how much Americana Flatout 4 depressingly realizes. Branding on the cars and trucks rusted away. Silos show signs of disrepair. Former factories sit idle, waiting for blue collar operators who will never come. Roads crack under the race, if roads exist at all. Mud is the primary surface.

Every frame of Flatout 4 is rusty, oily, and dirty, a lower middle class crash spectacle spewing sparks more often than a 4th of July spectacular. It loves steel – American steel – as drivers barrel through tracks in western-set canyons that may or may not be Grand. There’s an irate, destructive spree in the undercurrent where white Americans waiting for coal jobs to return vent themselves, clumsily smashing into things (or each other).

The beauty of Flatout 4 lies in the sloppiness. No one here is a professional. Cars aren’t even prepared for racing or a destruction derby. Racers grab a junker and an engine; whatever the pairing, it’s good enough.

Remnants of the early 2000s fascination with ATV and motorbike simulators (ATV Offroad Fury and MX vs ATV among them) lies inside Flatout 4. No wonder: That’s the series’ home decade. So much of the game feels like a stack of remnants, appropriate as the journey through empty factories and vacant timber yards progresses. A sagging economy is where Flatout 4 succeeds. Escapism, yes, but not entirely. Surrounding the courses, usually makeshift and muddy, are those figments of an America that won’t come back. Why not smash up a Japanese junker and let the car rest by the industries it killed?

4/5

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