Back in 1995, the Liverpool-based development studio Psygnosis created one of the best futuristic racing experiences of all time with Wipeout. Since then, we’ve seen a plethora of competitive racers hit the scene that have also forgone the boundaries of modern technology, but aside from F-Zero, none have managed to capture the techo-fueled chaos of the Wipeout series. Flashout 2 is no different.
As far as futuristic racers go, this is as cut and dry as it gets. There’s two standard game modes to be played by a standard variety of purchasable and upgradeable ships, each with varying degrees of speed, handling, weapon damage, and energy. And while there’s a decent variety of tracks to pick from, they all end up feeling exactly the same; exacerbated by their own repetitive electronica tunes and dated visuals.
In my time spent with Flashout 2, nothing really stood out to me aside from its glaring flaws. Watching the initial launch trailer built a lot of excitement, especially as a huge fan of the Wipeout series and as someone impatiently waiting for Nintendo to release a new F-Zero. The trailer showed smooth framerates and crisp visuals, which are both unfortunately absent from the Ouya version.
“…I only ever managed to successfully join one race with one other player, who quit immediately.”
Framerate is a tricky thing to work around in a racing game, as the slightest hiccup can send you from first place to dead last. There was actually never a moment where the framerate seemed stable, or at least consistent, and would unpredictably sway from the game’s norm to borderline unplayable. Nothing seemed to kick it off either, as it would occur on random tracks at what seemed like random intervals, even while no other racers were visible on my screen. There’s no in-game option to tweak visual settings either, so what you see is exactly what you get.
Flashout 2 is broken down in to two modes: offline single player, and online multi-player. Those looking for a new online game to play on their Ouya will definitely want to look elsewhere (I highly recommend the vastly superior experience of Meltdown, by the way), as I only ever managed to successfully join one race with one other player, who then quit immediately. It does support cross-platform play, which I feel is worth mentioning, but even opening the door for other formats to join in never once filled the lobby with more than a single player.
The offline mode is where Flashout 2’s dim star shines brightest, offering a full-on career mode, a single race option, and the expected time trials, but again, nothing really stands out. Career is perhaps the star of the show, spanning 10 different cups and presenting plenty of opportunity to earn coins for buying and upgrading additional ships, but with forgettable track designs, racing against the A.I. was only fun for so long. Track design is so important for these types of games, and failing to distinguish them from one another was a pretty big missed opportunity. Sure, Paris has a 2D cut-out of the Eiffel Tower, but nothing about the track itself stuck with me even on my 10th or 20th race. If Mario Kart taught us anything, it’s that track design is a large part of what makes competitive arcade racers memorable.
Career mode sports a charmingly campy comic book-style storyboard, complete with awful voice overs and cliche rival showdowns with tattooed bikers and space-racing punkers who insult you with lame internet lingo. I raced against A.I. with names like Nerd and Queen Katana, vying for position in a fair variety of race modes. There’s your obvious standard race where pilots jockey for position by hitting booster strips and peppering each other with machine guns, rockets, and mines, but certain modes award destroying enemies or beating time trials instead. Should you make it to the final race, you’ll compete one on one against your rival, complete with another storyboard cut-scene and terrible voice acting. It’s pretty hokey, but it’s something to kill the monotony of completing race after race.
My first was rival was Gizmo, who suggested I tow my crappy vehicle across the finish line instead, but he was a bit of a pushover. My 2nd rival, however, is where the game really started to show off its ridiculous imbalance. As soon as light flashed green, Luna took off like a rocket and was nowhere to be seen for the entire race. I had spent all of my coins completely upgrading the default ship, but it never made a difference; I’d try again and get the same outcome. After my third or fourth loss, I assumed the game took pity on my hunk of junk, as it claimed I had just won the race. I would gladly take the unearned victory at that point.
“It definitely feels like a middle-of-the-road mobile game ported to the micro-console, with dated visuals, a confusing controller layout, and a horrendously unpredictable framerate problem…”
The further I dug in to career mode, the more prominent its balancing issues became. No matter how much time I spent grinding out coins to buy better ships, or upgrading the ones in my garage, there were always moments where the A.I. just seemed unbeatable. I’d hit every booster strip, avoid every wall, and still never come close to first place. Then on a subsequent attempt, it was as if I mysteriously activated some hidden easy mode where I’d nail first place time and time again. Aside from the first two cups, ship upgrades never really felt noticeable (and were pretty pricey), and I couldn’t tell the difference between piloting one in my garage versus a brand new purchase from the shop; so my incentive to buy anything was relatively low. Without the proverbial carrot dangling in my face, I just couldn’t stay interested in the game for very long.
If you’re itching for a new racer on your Ouya, Flashout 2 may temporarily bandage the wound, but there are far better options out there on other formats. It definitely feels like a middle-of-the-road mobile game ported to the micro-console, with dated visuals, a confusing controller layout, and a horrendously unpredictable framerate problem that can, at times, render the game completely unplayable. Even if the framerate issue was resolved, there just isn’t much to do in the game; especially with its barren multi-player lobbies. For me, I’ll just go back to playing Wipeout 3 instead.
Recommended for fans of: The Wipeout and F-Zero series, just don’t go in expecting something of equal quality.
*This review is based on the Ouya version of Flashout 2, which is also available on most mobile platforms. Unless we find significant differences between each version, consider this our definitive review.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s an aspiring video game journalist that one day hopes to make this writing thing a living, and will always miss living in his hometown of Baltimore. If he’s not writing, he’s usually glued to a game or watching low budget horror films with his three cats. Get in touch with him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.