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Criterion Games



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Wreckless driving in a videogame has never been more encouraged…and such rewarding too!


The racing genre is one that seems easy to work with. There is a wealth (perhaps an overabundance) of games from which to choose. Each of these games have a variation on a simple engine - go fast, reach point "B" from point "A" first. Some of the variations on videogame racing engines include cars that hover over the ground (such as the Wipeout series) or how vehicles behave on certain types of terrain (such as RalliSport Challenge).

Traditionally, the more complex a racing game, the more things go wrong. Usually by adding in so many "bells and whistles" a developer or publisher lose sight of the original intent of a racing game. Acclaim brings us Burnout, a game that strips away some of the various modes (or "bells and whistles") in favor of adding not filler, but full traffic. Burnout keeps things basic, but not simple.


"Burnout spectacularly showcases a seemingly infinite number of ways to crash your car."

There isn't a lot of evolution within the racing genre that can happen. The graphics can get more realistic, the cars can get more detailed, you can mess with the number of laps required to finish a course, but overall, the genre consists of "Go that way. Really fast. If something gets in your way... turn." Burnout takes that basic premise, and doesn't change it; the game has another layer added onto it. This layer comes in two parts: real-time traffic, and spectacular crash physics.

Players take on other computerized racers in some obviously illegal races through various urban areas. Some areas are more populated than others, and traffic will increase or decrease to reflect that. While the racing modes are rather standard, it is the execution of these and the implementation of the traffic that truly sets this game apart.

The "meat" of the game is the championship courses - a series of races that if successfully completed will unlock further courses. These courses range from highways to winding narrow roads to bustling cities - each teeming with life in the form of traffic (oddly, there are no pedestrians). Traffic actually moves, if a course runs through a city, you have to watch out for cross traffic at the intersections, cars will exit/enter the freeway, and cars will pass each other.

This adds considerably to the depth of the game. Instead of memorizing one of the courses, you have traffic patterns to deal with, which are not always the same. Weaving in and out of traffic is much harder than racing on a closed circuit. When you crash (and you will crash) it takes some time to recover and get back on the road, making you further behind - no, the clock doesn't stop just because you zigged when you should have zagged.

When you are blazing down the road at over 100 mph, one slight miscalculation on a windy mountain road can spell the difference between life and death. Burnout spectacularly showcases a seemingly infinite number of ways to crash your car. The realism of the crashes is particularly satisfying when a multiple car pile-up happens after rear-ending one lone car on the freeway.

Cars will spin, jump, flip, and perform all sorts of other neat tricks upon collision. Different speeds and points of impact will affect how the crash is played out. While other games may claim to have spectacular crashes, Burnout truly delivers in this area. It's fun just to drive around the different locations seeing what kind of accidents you can cause. It's really fun to cause another racer to rear end a bus by ramming into him at the last second.

Cars handle rather well with difficulty levels represented by the cars you are able to drive instead of actually choosing AI difficulty. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of discernable differences between the cars other than handling. It would have been nice to see a few attributes given to each available car, such as handling, speed, etc. Further cars are unlocked by competing in one-on-one challenges, which are further unlocked by the Championship Mode.

Each of the cars are nondescript, there are no officially licensed cars here. This is a good thing, because that has allowed the developer not to get bogged down with attempting to replicate a series of specific cars and worrying about leaving any cars out of the game. The developer has been free to work on the great physics engine complete with moving (and realistic) traffic, spectacular crashes, and a solid racing game to boot.

The sound is decent - it gets the job done, but doesn't stretch the boundaries in the same way that the gameplay does. Unfortunately, user created soundtracks aren't supported, and what music there is, isn't terribly great. The sound effects however, are outstanding. The squeal of the tires as the moment of impact arrives (not to mention the crunch of the metal) is as realistic as they come.

Multiplayer in Burnout is a little lackluster, since the game only sports enough coding for 2 players. This is the Xbox with 4 controller ports. And LAN support is absent as well. This is a game where hooking up the LAN and having 8 or more people race in a series would have been outstanding. Hopefully Acclaim will remedy this with the sequel.

The modes in Burnout leave a little to be desired. You have your standard Championship Mode (with a series of races to be conquered), Single Race (hitting the open road on any unlocked course), Time Attack (beat the clock on any unlocked course) and Head To Head (where you and up to... one other person can race). There are also Face Off (where you unlock other vehicles) and Survival Mode (one crash and it's over). A few other modes would have been welcome, particularly in the multiplayer portion of the game.

"Cars will spin, jump, flip, and perform all sorts of other neat tricks upon collision."

Another way that this title stands out from the crowd is it's scoring system. Sure, there's the standard keeping track of fastest time, but additionally, Burnout keeps track of how much damage is created on a given course (amongst other things). You may find yourself trying to get through a course just to get the highest damage total, but be careful not to run out of time (remember, each crash wastes precious seconds). Unfortunately, only three letters are allowed on the scoreboard. This is something else that should get remedied in the sequel. Each of the current crop of consoles has the capabilities for players to enter full names, and Burnout should be no different.

There is the opportunity to save selected crashes, and replay them at your leisure. This is particularly useful when attempting to show off to your friends "No, I'm the worst driver. Take a look at this pile-up!"

Though the number of tracks in the game may be few, and there isn't a heck of a lot to unlock, this game will provide many hours of fun. If you're something of a gearhead, you may find this title disappointing, but if you're looking for a straight adrenaline rush, then Burnout is definitely the game to buy.

Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
Has been playing Burnout ever since he got his license. Only now he plays the videogame.

Burnout: The Scores













The Final Word:  Burnout isn't a game for everybody. This doesn't have the depth that PGR has, but it does provide a great (and exhilarating) racing experience. There will be times when you get so frustrated you'll throw the controller down in frustration, but 5 minutes later you're picking it back because the game is not only challenging, but fun.

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