"The fact that 90% of the time if you're involved in any kind of crash you'll drop half a dozen places means that you spend most of the single player game avoiding crashes, which in a game like this seems contradictory to the purpose of the game." <-- Yes PZ, that is an absolutely VITAL part of any critique of Flatout (which I omitted, along with possibly hundreds of other flaws). That contradiction is something that only the insane could consider to be harmless.
To be fai to Flatout in that sense, I think its own ambition is to blame in some ways, and ambition is usually a good thing. It tries to be too many things at once though, and the attempt at some sense of realism does not mete well with the Burnout school of racing to which its heart and soul belongs.
I imagined Flatout would have an excellent online mode, that (for the reasons you mentioned) would be simply fun and far more enjoyable than single player. It's a shame I'm not on live yet, but I'll give you a game if/when I am.
In fact as an exception to my own stated wish for all arcade games to be 99% skill-based, multiplayer often doesn't have to be. Chaotic random elements can always be fun in many multiplayer games. So much so that skill might not be a required element whatsoever! That situation only becomes (slightly) annoying when some weak-minded, boastful, and/or jammy git type wins several games and considers himself to be superior in ability. Usually however, the feeling of frustration at their unjustified boasting is surpassed by a feeling of sympathy for their lack of intelligence and modesty