There are four types of people in this world: those who love Wipeout, those who love F-Zero, those who love both, and those with bad taste in racing games. When it comes to the battle for the best futuristic racer, it's been a real tug of war between those two franchises for years. F-Zero of course came first, but wasn't followed up on until after Psygnosis's brilliant launch of the Wipeout franchise. Wipeout took the crown in the 32/64-bit era, with F-Zero making a surprising comeback in the following generation with the SEGA-developed F-Zero GX, still one of the finest racing games ever made. Not content to sit on their laurels, the Wipeout team came into the next gen hard with what was one of the best-looking PlayStation 3 games for a very long time, Wipeout HD. Sadly, both franchises appear to be dormant, with Captain Falcon of F-Zero seeing more time Falcon Punching than driving the Blue Falcon, and nary of a whisper of Wipeout after the release of 2048 and the disbanding of Studio Liverpool.

With these two titans taking a nap, and for that matter, unlikely to make an appearance on iOS anytime soon, the time is ripe for someone to step in and take the futuristic racing crown. There have been a few contenders, most notably Repulze [$0.99], which kind of carved its own path, and the original Flashout 3D [$2.99], which was slavishly faithful to its aim of imitating Wipeout. Neither was a match for those big budget giants, but it's hard to realistically expect that from small teams on shoestring budgets. The real question is, with the release of the bigger, brighter, and, well, flashier Flashout 2 [$2.99], do we have a new iOS champion? Unfortunately, I'd say the answer is a firm no.

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The tragic thing is, this game ends up being a whole lot worse than it ought to be, and it comes down to one simple, yet horrifically complicated, thing: poor balancing. Now, don't get me wrong, futuristic racers are often quite difficult by nature due to the high speeds of the vehicles. F-Zero GX might be one of the hardest racing games ever made. It's something I actually expect from the genre, and when that thrill of the slightest mistake costing you the race is removed, something important is lost. The difference between those genre kings and Flashout 2 is that in those games, the only barrier to your success is your own skill level. In Flashout 2, that's not always the case. Without the right vehicle, the right items, and the right upgrades, all the skill in the world isn't going to help you in certain races. What can help you is the lovely selection of boost items offered up to you before each race. You can buy these using coins that you can earn in-game by winning races and picking them up off the track.  You can also buy these coins with IAP, of course.

The chance to buy items comes just before you start the race, via a handy little pop-up window. The items on offer include shields, boosts, mines, and a few different weapons you can buy with in-game coins. Then, without missing a beat, right beside those items in the little shop window are the IAPs for coins. Granted, there's no practical difference as to where the developers opt to put the currency IAPs in relation to other items in the game, but I have to think there's a reason why this stuff is usually put in its own menu, and that reason starts to become clear when you're staring at a literal example of pay-to-win just before starting your race. Most egregiously, this shop menu appears just the same when you're playing multiplayer as it does in single-player. I think many people have accepted the idea that players can pay real money to get a leg-up against a computer opponent, but it somehow feels wrong that you can do this in a race against a real person.

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It's easy enough to grind out a few races to earn a bunch of coins that you can then gamble on some items to try to finish more difficult races, of course. You can also upgrade your vehicle, though the most useful upgrade, the speed upgrade, carries a relatively hefty cost. If you do these things, you will probably make your way through the cup you're currently on. Unfortunately, once you make it to the next cup, you're probably going to find your current vehicle is inadequate, and this is where the game's economy completely breaks down. The new vehicles are pretty expensive, so you really need to save up to buy them, but saving up means not spending on frivolities like boosts that may or may not win you the race. The first few cups aren't too bad, but it doesn't take long before you find yourself running perfect races and still coming up incredibly short without having some relatively pricey gear. It soon becomes clear that you have a choice to grind, grind, grind, or pay the pain away.

The good news in this, if some can be found, is that economic balance issues are one of the easier things to patch, and the developer does seem committed to finding a bit more fair of a curve. There's already been an update that apparently doubles the amount of coins distributed through play and removes an extremely irritating mechanic present in the original version. Before, if your vehicle was destroyed, and it often will be, the game made you wait an agonizing five seconds before respawning you, asking if you want to pay to instantly respawn, with the cost going down with each tick of the timer. If this had stayed in the game, I'd be even more cranky, but it instead can now serve as evidence of the developer's goodwill in trying to find a more appropriate balance.

I hope the developers follow through, because while the bathwater may be a bit dirty and smelling faintly of cabbage, the baby itself is Gerber-tier awesome. The gameplay is a major improvement over the first Flashout. The controls are much smoother, the feeling of speed is stronger, there's a larger assortment of vehicles and tracks, and multiplayer is here right from the start. The track designs show a lot more sophistication in how they're laid out, and from a visual point of view, this sequel shows signs of moving in its own direction rather than directly nicking from Wipeout like the first game did. Slice away all the problems of how the economy's been implemented, and you've got a great sequel and a very competent futuristic racer. That's a fair bit of slicing at this point, however.

Flashout 2 offers a nice variety of control options, with accelerator controls set as default. Regardless of the setup you choose, you'll find the vehicles are a lot easier to handle than they were in the first game. In that game, it often felt like you were fighting against some unseen force pushing the other side of your racer, but in the sequel, things feel a lot more natural and smooth. It's a lot more fun to play as a result. As in the first game, each track has a secret shortcut you can open up by collecting an icon on the track, though if you miss the icon, you'll almost certainly wreck your vehicle on the closed off wall. It's a good balance of risk versus reward, so the shortcuts don't quite break the game the way they do in some other racers. The game's 10 tracks are based on real cities, but that usually just amounts to having whatever famous building or monument the city is known for parked somewhere in the background of the neon tunnels and ramps.

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In terms of gameplay modes, you get all of the modes you would expect out of a racer. There's a career mode where you work your way through a variety of cups, a single race mode, a time trial mode, and the multiplayer mode. Tracks must be unlocked by playing the career mode before you can use them in the other modes, but it doesn't take too long to get the bulk of them opened up. The multiplayer mode works pretty well mechanically, if you can find an opponent. Still, while everything runs smoothly, I had trouble investing myself in the multiplayer mode knowing that my opponent could just sink a ton of coins in and kick my butt regardless of skill. That same feeling taints the game's Game Center leaderboard. At least the achievements are clean, I suppose.

I hope the game gets better with updates, because it's got a very solid core. The graphics are great, the controls are nice, and there's a lot of content. The problem is that with the way things are set up right now, Flashout 2 feels like a free-to-play game, and not a particularly fair one at that. That makes it a tough recommendation for all but the hungriest fans of futuristic racing games. If you're interested in the game, keep your eyes on the thread in our forums. The developer is participating and you can probably get an advance idea of potential updates.

TouchArcade Rating

  • bigjack66

    It's still a decent game. Grinding's not too bad if you enjoy the game. When I played Wipeout I played it constantly so it wasn't grinding. Of course you have to buy a new vehicle for a new championship. It's always been that way and vehicles always cost too much it's par for the course. The only annoying thing is buying weapons upfront. I just armour up and do a couple of races weapons free. I've been shot to bits and still made the end of the race. Cockpit view would be nice too. Buy it's a fun game!

    • Larni69

      Yeah, one of the things I said to the devs was the possibility of increasing the amount of ammo you could carry (for the same price). I find a few cannon to take out any one I can't overtake does the trick.

  • Jake7905

    Considering I love both F-Zero and Wipeout, I'm very tempted to give this a shot. But considering the pay-to-win nature of the game, I'm more tempted to wait for (another) price drop.

    • Larni69

      It's not pay to win. It's pay to bypass things like learning the track and getting the best line but if you think about how hard F-Zero was and how many time one ran races on the same track over and over on WipEout to win you will be right at home.

  • Wolfcoyote

    Definitely looks like it could scratch my Wipeout HD replacement itch. After playing Repulze 3 and being slightly disappointed though, I think I might want to wait. Besides, I have too many iOS games to play through anyway.

  • Larni69

    One really good thing about it is there are no timers or energy bars that need to be recharged. That killed games like RR3 for me.

  • grammatonfeather

    I detest blatant scam games like this. I wonder what's wrong with people thinking this is ok. The game costs £1.99. Why the frack should I pay to win? I don't even like paying £1.99 for an iOS game unless it's exceptionally good. I remember buying a game recently almost on principal to support the developer. An ex Disney employee who got sick of making trash games purely driven by iap. His game cost 69p with no iap.

    • Larni69

      This game is not a blatent scam game. Have you played it?

      • grammatonfeather

        No I haven't played it because the price is £1.99 and it still wants me to pay more to win races.

  • Firedog5698

    This is a copy of wipeout 2048

    • grammatonfeather

      But at least wipeout 2048 wasn't past more to win.

      • Larni69

        It is not pay to win. I have the game and have been winning races and cups and have not bought a single IAP. If you have not played it you opinion on it is irrelevant. There are things I don't like about it but the game play is solid and 3.5 is currently a fair score. Of course it rips of WipEout; it's a futuristic ios skimmer racing game. They ALL rip of WipEout or F-Zero in some way. The Devs seem to be responding (although putting the price back to £1.99 from £.69 is a bit of a head scratcher)

      • grammatonfeather

        I don't have any issue with it being a wipeout clone. The review says you're presented with a purchase screen just before a race. He said if you either pay or it's a grind. Jet car stunts 2 was free to play with option of single purchase to unlock everything. I was happy to do that. I detest games that charge full price and then want you to pay more to unlock. I would have had no hesitation in installing this game if it had been free to play and single purchase unlock or the £1.99 had been for everything.

  • grammatonfeather

    "you're staring at a literal example of pay-to-win just before starting your race. Most egregiously, this shop menu appears just the same when you're playing multiplayer as it does in single-player."

  • grammatonfeather

    Pay to win on a game that costs £1.99.

  • grammatonfeather

    Oh and I've just taken a look at the App Store reviews on this game. Almost entirely negative pointing out the blatant iap and play to win.

    • Larni69

      I have won races and cups and built up a sizable amount of money through playing the game: all without spending a penny. Iap will always rub people up the wrong way but to suggest as you did that this game is a blatent scam without first hand knowledge of the game is idiocy and I'm calling you on it.

      • grammatonfeather

        I'm just going by the review and the largely negative feedback from people who have purchased. Since there isn't a demo version I'm not gonna waste £2. I guess if a developer is confident in their creation then they don't mind releasing a demo.

      • Larni69

        That is absolutely fine and I would not have bought it myself at full price because the IAP is aggressive. But a 'blatant scam' it is not. It's a polished and challenging game that (with some tweeking of the IAP by the devs) is a blast to play. There is no floor in the actual gameplay. Compare with the blatant greed of RR3 and associate timers. I've no time for either. We obviously disagree but we've both made our points, reasonably. All the best.

      • grammatonfeather

        If they rethink the price and aggressive iap then I would buy because there's a real shortage of hover racing games.

      • grammatonfeather

        I don't mind paying £1.99 for a game, if they had only left it at that instead of trying to make more money from people in a blatant way. The game itself looks good.

      • Larni69

        I can't argue wuth that. It is a good game that is currently pretty grasping. I REALLY hope they can do something with the economy because it would be a damn shame if this game sank without a trace. I hope the devs read this because they could have a winner if they chose.

  • primalxconvoy

    The devs seem to have learnt nothing, even by the time of their recent Ouya release in 2015. That version contains two different versions (one full-screen with no hardware controller support and one with a huge black border, no training mode and rudimentary hardware controller support). The regular android version, to this day, still has no hardware controller support, indistinct voice overs announcing power-ups, a confusing controller map (showing abstract icons, instead of words next to each button, meaning you don't know what each button does) and to top it off, the devs STILL refuse to answer prospective customers' questions via the email address THEY SUBMITTED THEMSELVES to Google Play (instead, auto replying and insisting that you buy their game first and then contact them via the option in the settings). At least, there is a demo on the ouya version...

    Jujubee is definitely a dev avoid (at least for the meantime).

FLASHOUT 2 Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 3.5