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Game Profile
Criterion Games
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-4
April 08, 2003
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 Written by Ilan Mejer  on May 06, 2003

Full Review: Racing and crashing, two great tastes that taste great together! Neither has ever been as fun.

Much like the first game, Burnout 2 arrives on the GameCube about half a year after its original release on the Playstation 2. Thankfully, the delayed release sees us with upgrades to the game's engine and more modes and features to rip through. For the uninitiated, Burnout 2 continues the trend of the first game, that of recklessly racing against 3 other equally uninhibited drivers against realistic locales that are dominated by ongoing traffic. The only significant changes to last year's winning formula include a difficulty level that skews towards the less challenging and a general gameplay feel that's closer to arcade than simulation. All other changes are either simple tweaks, or, for the most part, positive additions.

What differentiates the Burnout games from other like racers is the focus on not just driving at insane speeds, but incorporating all of the recklessness and irresponsibility you would never be able to get away with in either real life or even most other racing titles. The focus of the game is its Burnout meter, which fills up the more your drive recklessly. Essentially, four racing techniques will contribute to filling the meter. These include power-sliding (drifting) around corners, near misses (speeding as close as you can to other vehicles without touching them), using bumpy terrain to catch air (a trick new to Burnout 2), and the fan-favorite, racing against ongoing traffic in the wrong lanes! Exploiting this concept to the utmost, you can combo in a line of these techniques in order to greatly increase both your Burnout meter and your score. For example, it is quite possible to drift around a corner against traffic, in the wrong lane, hitting a slew of near misses with the opposing traffic flow.

Of course, the Burnout technique returns in full force, perhaps too much so. Though a simple concept, actually accomplishing a Burnout is a bit more difficult. Once the Burnout meter is filled, tapping R will initiate a breathtaking speed boost, which the game handles flawlessly. Expending the entire meter in one continuous boost without crashing will initiate the Burnout, earning you massive points in the process. One of the greatest changes to the gameplay is the lessening of the challenge involved in building and executing a Burnout. It is now possible to initiate many more of these per race than ever before, which also has a hand in the increase of the arcade element, and a distancing of the sim mechanics. As a consequence, it also makes the game that much easier than the original.

The game teaches you all of its tricks and techniques by requiring that you play through a mandatory Offensive Driving 101 tutorial. It's rather quick and, as a bonus, skilled players will even be able to earn their first unlock-able reward by perfecting it. The game's meat, and primary mechanism for unlocking tracks, races, and new vehicles, is its Championship mode. This time around, Criterion has seen fit to incorporate a dozen tracks and a slew of varied gameplay-defining rules into the mode, making it a much more worthy mode for solo players than before. Additions to this mode include chase off sequences with lone racers, a police chase, a pursuit mode, and of course circuits of three ? six races of increasing difficulty. There's a lot to do, and it is more than varied enough to sate all new comers.

The two-layered point system, which independently tracks stats for individual races (for that arcade high score satisfaction) also tallies a separate point counter for the actual races. This means that though you may completely bail on a race, doing very well on the rest of the circuit may just allow you to attain first place overall, not unlike the Nintendo classic, F-Zero X. You'll also be able to meet specific criteria for the different races (this includes all modes, not just Championship) and win bronze, silver, and gold medals. Of course, this is also a key feature in unlocking the game's wide breadth of hidden content. Frankly, the game's default vehicles, being sadly unlicensed, are quite bland and generic. To improve this, Criterion included a slew of hidden vehicles, which range from police cars to lovingly detailed hot rods.

One of the game's more incredible modes is the Crash mode, which has you careening towards intersections, junctions, and many other instances of congested traffic with the sole intent of crashing and starting a pile up of truly epic proportions. The game then proceeds to tally up the total monetary damage incurred, and multiplies it by the number of vehicles involved in the horrific accident. Your total score will determine whether you score a medal, and if so, of what metal, as it were. Acquiring gold medals will net you more and more crash levels to experience. It bears mentioning that the GameCube version of Burnout 2 features fifteen more levels in this mode than the Playstation 2 game, and a four player version of it for good measure! The rest of the multiplayer mode is limited to only two players, however, like the PS2 game.

Renderware, the core engine with which the game was created, proved its viability as a game design tool in the original Burnout, but the tweaks and additions added to the game through Criterion's GameCube specific coders truly make Burnout 2 shine. The original was pretty, but Burnout 2 is downright gorgeous. With incredibly modeled locations, vastly improved textures, an improved dynamic lighting that is capable of reproducing realistic looking reflected light ?blooms,' Burnout 2 manages to impress on every level, and even accomplishes pulling off effects that have been reserved for the Xbox, until now. The particle system has been given such an upgrade that it makes crashing a sheer pleasure to witness. Watching the tires, hubcaps, fenders, and the inevitable clouds of dust and debris shower out during the more explosive collisions is truly an experience, one never so convincingly realized in a racing game before. The game is also locked at an unwavering 60 frames per second in single player mode, and maintains a solid 30 during two player gaming. Tech heads will be thrilled to learn that the game not only supports progressive scan, but also 16:9 widescreen for those with high budget televisions!

The music, which is a blend of rock and techno, merely gets the job done. It's rather low key and uninspired, though manages to remain partially relevant to the ongoing gameplay by being moderately dynamic in nature. Initiating a Burnout will cause the music to increase in tempo and volume, a dramatic departure from the first game's accompanying silence during this exact situation. Fortunately, Criterion dealt with the sound effects with much greater detail. The game has full support for Dolby Pro Logic II, and it makes a huge difference when rushing through tunnels or when weaving through and around incoming traffic. From the incredible echo effect of the former to the blaring horns of the latter, the cars and environments very much sound their part.

Bottom Line
Simply put, Burnout 2 ? Point of Impact is the greatest racing game available one the GameCube to date, and is one of the most well realized examples of the genre in general. Though this will most likely change once Nintendo's one-two combo of Mario Kart Double Dash and F-Zero GC smash onto the scene later this year, not even those two will take away from Burnout 2's many successes, accomplishments, and additions to racing games. Case in point, I don't even like racing games outside of those like F-Zero and Wipeout. It is truly a testament to Criterion's mastery and innovation that Burnout 2 has received such high praise from this editor.

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