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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Criterion Games
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-2
April 30, 2002
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 Written by Ilan Mejer  on April 09, 2002

First Impressions: Is your driving experience comprised of near misses and narrow escapes? Well, then we have a game to recommend to you!

The GameCube further distinguishes itself from its predecessor as another game niche is being augmented by a 3rd party title. Essentially a port of a nearly fresh Playstation 2 game, this one seems to be faring better than others. Burnout appears to be a relatively straightforward arcade racing game at first. That alone would probably be sufficient for those owning only GameCubes, as Nintendo is lacking a solid, realistic racing game. However, Burnout on the PS2 was much, much more. Burnout has been crafted on the Renderware middleware engine to facilitate easy porting from system to system. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 is a prime example of what is possible on the engine. However, this time around, the developer of that engine succeeded in showing PS2 fans what the engine is truly capable of and hopefully a port will not diminish that effect on the GCN.

Instead of being satisfied with crafting a tight control system and adapting it to the relatively tired arcade racer style of gameplay, Criterion went forward and implemented some unique new features. The game encourages you to race to the finish with as little caution as possible, and provides you with ample opportunity by placing the tracks in traffic-thick streets and highways. The premise behind the game is an admittedly simple one; it is fun to drive like a madman, dodging incoming traffic, swerving and avoiding vehicles in the wrong lane, playing chicken, and sideswiping slower vehicles. This is exactly what the game rewards you for doing. As you progress in pulling off high-speed, reckless stunts during the race, such as ?drifting? during turns, and tormenting other drivers, you will accrue more power in your boost bar. Maximizing your boost bar will allow you to engage a beautifully realized overdrive mode that actually feels convincing. Aside from allowing you to win the race faster, the overdrive mode will also allow you to pull off more reckless and adrenaline inducing stunts, which are announced on the bottom of the screen, like in an extreme sports trick system. Crashing at any time, even during boosts, will greatly reduce your boost bar, thereby making it even more of something to avoid.

Speaking of crashing... crashing is another feature that Criterion truly built upon. Burnout introduces a very sophisticated physics system for real time crashes and car damage; it is entirely possible to set off (or end up in) a spectacular multi-car pile up. However, as fun as pulling off these massive crashes may be, the game does penalize you for not surviving your own reckless driving intact. In an amusing turn of events, the game will keep track of your most expensive car accidents by adding up all of the monetary damages of all of the vehicles involved, and saving that final sum to your memory card for bragging rights. The game will also features a solid 2-player multiplayer mode that can be just as fun as the main arcade mode itself, especially when two skilled daredevils are at hand to take control. While it is unknown what new gameplay features, if any, are included in the GCN port of Burnout, Criterion did manage to pull off much welcome progressive scan and true 16:9 modes. The graphics were considered solid for the Playstation 2 when Burnout was first released, but on a normal television, they are merely adequate for the GameCube. However, the framerate has been improved over the original, and is now being locked at a constant 60 frames per second.

Final Thoughts
This game looks to again capture the simple fun of arcade racers with true grace. Criterion isn't stopping there though. By throwing in some truly daring gameplay elements, they have managed to capture the adrenaline rush that results from true-life close calls. Burnout is a technologically solid game, but its unique and exciting gameplay suit it perfectly for the GameCube, a welcome addition to a lacking niche.

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