I’m a sucker when it comes to racing games. Not so much the simulation type, but more so the arcade-y racers with weapons. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, PocketCars, and GRIP are just a few examples. It’s thrilling action that’s almost akin to fighting games.
The Wipeout series is another example. It was certainly an excellent IP at its' core. Anit-gravity racing machines loaded with turrets, mines, EMPs, the whole nine yards, set in a futuristic era. Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll ever see a new game in the series (albeit for a mobile game called Wipeout Merge, which apparently will release later this year or next), as the developer behind it, Studio Liverpool, was shut down several years ago. But there have been a few fan-made attempts at bringing the Wipeout series back to its' roots via spiritual successors. Flashout 3 is such an attempt.
Flashout 3 is the sequel to Flashout 2. Both games are developed and published by Jujubee, who’s also responsible for Punk Wars, RealPolitiks I and II, COVID: The Outbreak, Deep Diving Simulator, Spellcrafter, and the original game that started the Flashout series: Flashout 3D. Flashout 2 had been met with mixed reception due to poor controls, bad handling of the vehicles, repetitive gameplay, and unimpressive texture quality. Does Flashout 3 address some of these issues? Furthermore, does it meet or exceed your Wipeout cravings? Well, you’ll find out soon enough.
I’ll start off by saying yes, Flashout 3 is certainly a love letter to the Wipeout series in just about every facet. The anti-gravity vehicles that hover slightly above the ground; the techno music; the futuristic, neon-like environments; the weapons that can tear your opponents to shreds and leave them behind the pack; a cockpit view; the barrel rolls that you can do while your ship is in the air. It’s all there. The electronic music is solid and really spot-on with each unique environment. The graphics are great too; I certainly don’t think the textures are bland. The core gameplay, for the most part, is pretty entertaining.
I’d say the only difference between this and Wipeout is that as far as your weapons are concerned, you don’t actually pick them up from the track; your ship comes loaded with them out of the gate and you can use them at any time during the race. Your ship can come loaded with up to three weapons. Weapons range from turret machine guns, to mines, to magnets that stick to your opponent’s ship and explode after a few seconds, to homing missles, to grenade launchers, to everything in-between. You can use them any time you want, but using them excessively within a short period of time will cause them to overheat, temporarily preventing you from being able to use them again.
It’s not just weapons that your ship can carry. You can also deploy a bot that heals your ship, use a booster, or temporarily shield yourself from oncoming attackers. But you have to keep in mind the amount of energy your ship has. Each ship has their own “energy” rating. The higher the energy it has, the better weapons or items it can carry.
In addition to energy, ships are also categorized by their endurance, their handling, and their speed. As you progress in the Campaign mode, or by doing a couple of custom races, you’ll gain experience. Get enough experience, and you unlock the next class of vehicles. There’s about a dozen different classes of ships, and each class comes with three separate models. Of course, the last few classes that you unlock are going to be some of the best ships available. My personal favorite is the “Speedtail,” which has good durability and energy, while still balancing a decent amount of speed and handling.
Levels, at least as far as the aesthetics are concerned, are pretty decent in design. In addition to neon-like environments there’s also an underground tomb, and a volcanic-like area where you have to avoid the oncoming fireballs showing up on random places on the track. It’s a good mix of futuristic and more modern maps.
In Campaign mode, you select one of two drivers – Bea, or Silas. A brief description of each character is presented. I personally played as Silas – the one with the funny-looking goggles. As far as I know, the only difference between each driver is the unique weapon that they carry. In Silas' instance, he has a saw that is “capable of cutting through everything in its' path.” Bea has a military drone that has “an advanced ammunition system capable of piercing through any type of armor.”
Other than that, the Campaign mode doesn’t really offer much of a story to either character. It’s about a dozen or so events that are hamstrung together. It will last about five or six hours, depending on how often you need to restart a event. Each event, albeit for the second-to-last and final, has four races – these usually consist of a standard race, a race against the clock, an elimination mode where the driver in last place gets removed every 20 seconds, or a destruction-type of race where your goal is to earn the most eliminations within a time limit. The higher you place, the more points you earn. The points get added together after the last race. Place third or better, you get to move on to the next event.
If you don’t want to play the campaign, you can set up your own custom race. You can set the mode – regular, time attack, elimination, destruction, etc – the speed of the vehicles (four different categories), the number of laps, the AI difficulty, whether the track is forward or in reverse. This, of course, is in addition to choosing whatever vehicles that you have unlocked and the weapons or utilities that it can carry, as well as whatever levels you have unlocked.
No online multiplayer, unfortunately. But there is a splitscreen mode. If you want to play locally, or even wanted to use something like Steam Remote Play to get your Steam friends on the action, that should be do-able.
As much praise as I’ve given to the game so far, my frank opinion is this: Flashout 3 is almost equal parts fun as it is frustrating.
Let’s start with the speed of the ships. The campaign starts off with the slower vehicles; a good choice to get the player acquianted with the controls. It’s not a bad start. But almost as soon as you get to the next event in the career, you’ve already unlocked the next set of ships. You use these ships, and the speed of them is drastically increased. To the point where you’re more so fighting against not hitting the walls than you are against other racers. I can’t tell if this is actually because of the speed of the ships, or due to the way the level was designed. Just be prepared to use your airbrakes every time you make a corner.
Some levels just have really obscure, tough corners that are a frustration trying to overcome rather than being challenging. To be clear, the controls themselves aren’t bad. I just can’t tell if it’s how fast the ships move or the way the level is designed that makes cornering a bit of a hassle at times.
Sometimes you might hit a wall head-on. If so, you might not be able to get out. It’s a bit hard to explain this, but just be prepared that if you do hit a wall like this, you’ll lose precious seconds against the clock. The way the collision system works can at times be a bit wonky.
There’s no story elements in the Campaign mode, no cutscenes that are played in-between events, so it’s frankly a bit lackluster. What’s annoying is, say, when you finish a destruction race, and three other CPUs have the same score as you, you’re ranked on the bottom. If you notice here in the screenshot, I’m put at the bottom out of the two other CPU players who also got one elimination. I could have received more points if the game just put me in fifth place rather than seventh. And because of this, I’m going to have to work harder on the next race to get my overall rank higher.
There’s also been times in the Campaign where I rank fourth overall. I was just one freaking point behind third. Now I have to start that event all over again due to that one point difference, because I can’t proceed in the Campaign if I don’t place third or higher.
There was a bug in the final event in the Campaign, where the game wouldn’t proceed once you won. Fortunately the developer was very quick to address this when I reported it, so hopefully that bug shouldn’t be there anymore.
I’ve got a suggestion for the Elimination mode. I think it would be good to give racers a 60-second warmup before the countdown begins. All too often I haven’t had time to catch up with the rest of the pack in the first 20 seconds of the race, and then my ship blows up because I’m in last. Give players some time so they can catch up.
Another suggestion for the Destruction mode: have the winner based on the amount of damage that they deal to opponents, not the amount of eliminations. I could have dealt 90% of the damage to a ship, but then another AI comes in and does the last 10%. They get a point, not me. It’s a bit frustrating when you could be dealing a ton of damage to your opponents' ships, but not get any eliminations. You’re in last place as a result.
How Does it Linux?⌗
Flashout 3 has a native Linux version. But I’m going to be flatout honest: Unity Linux ports suck. It’s not really the developer’s fault; it’s just the technology behind the Linux export process with this engine isn’t as up-to-date as exporting the Windows build. For instance, the Linux port uses OpenGL rather than Vulkan. The performance suffers as a result. There’s also no VR support with the Linux build.
In my testing, the Linux build hovers around 30 FPS at 1440p at maximum settings on my GTX 1660 Ti. Forcing the game to use Proton 7.0-4, the FPS jumped to 40-50 FPS on the same settings. I did a comparison video, but don’t take it too seriously. The results may look the same on paper, but when recording, the Proton version suffered a dip in framerate.
I haven’t had the opportunity to try the game on Deck, but my friend tried out the demo. He reported the controls are “pretty sensitive” and “the FPS out-of-the-box dropped like mad on the Steam Deck.”
Worth Your Time?⌗
Flashout 3 certainly succeeds in trying to re-live the good ol' Wipeout days. The graphics are fantastic, the weapons are ludicrously fun to hit other ships with, the ships themselves are generally not that bad in terms of handling, the levels have that futuristic vibe, the music is spot-on.
It’s the faster-moving ships that have this obnoxious difficulty curve, and some tracks are just poorly designed with how tight some corners are. You’re struggling just to survive without hitting the walls, or going out of bounds, than you are racing to get in first place. There’s also a wacky collision system when hitting a wall head-on, some frustrating issues with the Campaign where you may just be one point behind third and as a result have to start the whole event again. Elimination and Destruction modes could use some quality-of-life improvements.
That being said, this game just came out yesterday. I’m sure the developers will address some of these issues; they already fixed the softlock from the Campaign that I had experienced earlier. Overall I’d say the good things that come out of this game outweigh the disadvantages.
There’s another game that carries the same Wipeout blood: BallisticNG. This game is far cheaper than Flashout 3, there’s native Linux support, online mutliplayer support, VR support, and in the five hours I put into it, I’d say it’s also a pretty decent anti-gravity racing game. You may want to have a look at this instead if you’re on a budget.
- decent graphics
- hitting other ships with weapons is ridiculously fun
- the slower ships aren’t bad when it comes to handling
- tons of new ships and weapons to unlock
- spot-on techno music
- futuristic map aesthetics
- native Linux support
- lackluster campaign
- no online multiplayer
- wacky head-on collision system
- the fast ships just move way too fast, and all too often you’re colliding against the walls
- some corners are unnecessarily difficult to overcome
- some QoL improvements could be made to the Elimination and Destruction modes
Flashout 3 is available now on Steam for $20. There’s a launch discount for 10% off.
Review key provided by Terminals.