Full Review: Survival Horror has a new king. Oh?and so do arcade racers.
More often than not, a game franchise starts out with a bang, and slowly exits stage left with a mighty thud. Such is the ordeal of trying to top what's been done previously ? a tough task. However, in the case of Burnout, things have been completely opposite. When the original Burnout game released in 2001 with little fanfare, it released as a solid, fun arcade racer that was flawed and fairly shallow, but at the same time brought some unique gameplay not seen in its competitors. A year later, Burnout 2: Point of Impact improved on the ideas of the original tenfold, adding new wrinkles to the main concept of driving like a bat out of hell and avoiding traffic in the process. Still, improvements could certainly be made, as it didn't have the overall polish of its competitors. However?now we come to Burnout 3: Takedown. With a new publisher in Electronic Arts, Criterion's baby had both the budget and marketing muscle to eclipse the meek support for the first two games ? and oh boy, did they accomplish that, and more. Quite simply, Burnout 3 is the fastest, most terrifying, addictive, deepest, and fun racing game in years ? blowing away others in its genre by miles and miles. There are flaws, but they are forgiven because of just how high-quality the total package is. If you haven't yet experienced Burnout, this is the place to start ? but prepare to be unable to fully enjoy other racers for a long while.
If you're a newcomer to the Burnout series, it goes a little something like this: a traditional racing game, on crazy, winding tracks, going at breakneck speeds. On its own, it's nothing innovative, and likely fairly standard procedure. However, Burnout mixes it up a tad thanks to the inclusion of traffic. While that itself isn't innovative either, it's the whole ?crashing' thing. See, unlike other games where traffic is just for bustling up the town, in Burnout, the traffic can mean the difference between a win and a loss, thanks to the insane crashes that can result from plowing into other cars, or even barricades, etc. It adds a bit of a horror feeling to the genre of racing, because blasting around at 150 MPH is a risky, freaky thing with oodles of traffic around that can derail you in an instant. Add in a hyper-fast boost and you're talking of the fastest racing game on the planet. The formula was enhanced in Burnout 2 by the Crash events, where you're actually encouraged to smash into things and cause as much mass chaos as possible. While shallow to a fault, Crash mode is extremely popular and is great for a quick fix of racing thrills.
With Burnout 3, Criterion has adjusted the formula again, resulting in an entirely different game, as veterans will surely notice ? and that's not even mentioning the increased violence when it comes to crashing in a race. Everything from the first games return, with enhancements and additions to make it fresh. Most important is the concept of ?takedowns', which are another way of saying ?brutalize your opponents.' While in the past, avoiding opponents was the wise idea since they could burden your race, but in BO3, Takedowns mean you'll want to clip, push, and otherwise pound opponents, human or otherwise, and take them out of the race for a few seconds and gain massive boost (which now can be used at any time, not just when it's filled up). This becomes the fundamental angle of each race in Burnout 3, since you'll likely have to take a few chances and take out some cars on the way. Takedowns can even happen when you crash, thanks to the slow-mo Impact Time which lets you move your crashed ride around to ?aftertouch takedown' as a measure of revenge. For those in love with the takedown concept, Burnout 3 has a ?Road Rage' mode, which lets you intentionally take down a batch of cars in a given period of time, or until your own car is destroyed (in the case of just a traditional, exhibition Road Rage, there is no time limit, you go until you explode basically). This addition is unquestionably the best new gameplay element of the franchise, as Road Rage events are incredible and addictive short bursts of energy, and also is extremely helpful for actual races because you'll learn how to effectively take down opponents.
For Crash fans, it has returned with a brand new feel. Criterion saw fit to include a ton of different pickups to collect while crashing, resulting in better, or worse scores. For instance, there's a 4x pickup ? collect it and your score will quadruple, putting you in good shape for a gold medal. On the other hand, a Heartbreaker pickup will reduce your score in half, and overwrites any other pickups ? if you get a 2x pickup, and then a Heartbreaker, the 2x cancels out and your score is halved. Typically the Heartbreaker is planted in a tough location near one of the multipliers, which means you really have to take advantage of the new Impact Time during crashes to guide your car towards the icons. Crash mode is even more entertaining in multiplayer thanks to the different modes of play. Team crash lets you and a friend plow into traffic and cause double the damage, Double Impact has 2 players competing for the best score (as well as being able to reverse points by hitting the special pickup), and Party Crash for up to 8 different people to see who can get the best score.
Best part is, Burnout 3 is fully online with a wealth of gameplay modes. All the mentioned Crash modes are present, as is the usual race modes. Road Rage takes a fundamentally different approach online though, thanks to Team Road Rage. Made for 6 people, 3 people are assigned ?blue team' and 3 are assigned ?red team.' The basic gist is the blue team has to cross the finish line designated, before the red team obliterates them all. The concept is awesome, and extremely addictive with the right people. Online supports Broadband only and does support voice, however, voice is shoddy thanks to the ?press to talk' system. Hitting L2 during a race to speak just isn't cool, everyone. It also sucks that the lobbies don't support keyboards, so at least those lacking headsets can communicate. Using the software keyboard (without the usual QWERTY standard at that) with a controller is el stinko. To top it off, EA's servers have been very unstable causing many headaches to merely set up a game. As of now, buy this great game for offline play, not online.
If online isn't your thing, the Burnout World Tour is. Mixing in all the different Burnout events including Burning Lap time trials, the World Tour is massive, spanning 173 different events, roughly 20 hours of gameplay. This is where all the magic happens, as the massive amount of events and usually good challenge will occupy for some time. There's a ton of things to unlock too ? Signature Takedowns will net you goodies, as will gathering all Crash headlines from different locations, as well as a ton of different objectives to earn Takedown Trophies. All of which are usable online, which means if you want the best cars to race, you best spend plenty of time offline working through World Tour. In short, Burnout 3 rewards you with the amount of time you spend with it?nothing wrong with that; giving things away without earning them is too easy.
Shockingly, it's the intangibles that really make Burnout 3 awesome. For one, it's fast. It can't be stressed enough ? Burnout 3 is the fastest racing game on the PS2 or Xbox, for that matter. It becomes even faster when you hit boost ? some cars can get so fast that it's almost impossible to handle the tracks and traffic because everything comes up so quickly. Even ol' Anakin Skywalker would struggle with the fast-paced action of Burnout 3. Regardless of speed though, the cars handle awesomely, though stick to the arcade roots ? but enough so you can actively swerve around and over traffic even at top speed. You tell a car to turn ? it says how far and which direction. Without this, Burnout 3 is rendered a frustrating, flawed experience. Burnout 3 also suffers from the ?one more game' addiction that is the mark of any arcade-based game. There will be times when you know you should be quitting to tend to other things, but then you unlock?unlock new races, new cars, new events, new crash junctions, etc. It's a game of perpetual unlocking ? always something new available to keep you going. Some people don't like being rewarded for playing often, but if you love unlocking new things?Burnout 3 will be Heavenly. Best part is, you don't need all golds to keep unlocking ? long as you can get a bronze medal, you're in good shape. Going back for golds unlocks more goodies, but you never have to constantly get gold to progress.
Alas, there are some flaws in Burnout 3 ? namely, the rubberband AI will annoy the crap out of people. It's usually at its worst in Face-Off events, where you can never seem to really pull ahead but it's all too easy to get seconds behind. If you force a takedown, they recover pretty fast, but at the same time, you get taken out and it's all over. It can get frustrating though because the game is so addictive, you'll just keep restarting until you topple the event that's bugging you. The same thing goes for regular races, but not as bad ? long as you don't mess up late in the race you have a chance to recover a bit. BO3 is not overly challenging, or anything, but it has its frustrating points, especially as you get later in the game with those events. Also the Burning Laps are pure evil ? some of them are so tough that you cannot take your finger off the boost and if you get in one single crash, it's all over. Some of the later ones are extremely annoying when you're rounding up golds. Other modes aren't so bad ? Road Rage features so many respawning and random cars that it's no biggie, and Crash is only tough when you get knocked into a heartbreaker accidentally. It all evens out though, seeing that Burnout 3 is just such a fun and intense racing game that gets nearly everything right.
Burnout 3 is visually stunning ? perhaps not so much by the actual graphics, but the unrelenting sense of speed. It's so fast, yet never slows down and gives an incredible sense of speed. You may not even have time to notice the well-detailed, yet fake cars, and nicely designed and polished track design and environments or oodles of EA related billboards all over the place. Instead, you'll be focused on the crazy blurring effects when you hit the boost and trying not to blink while you race through traffic at insane speeds. The game does look damn good however, and has a sharp yet gritty polish that stands out as some of the best and most colorful looking PS2 graphics yet. The crashes are intense and destructive, they're a bit exaggerated but no less stunning in action ? be glad you aren't really in them!
On the other hand, the audio has some real down points. The soundtrack has been much ballyhooed as being full of trash, and that's pretty accurate at times. The band selection is questionable but at the same time, it could have been a lot worse. At the most, the loud rock is fitting for an intense racing game, though some tunes feel out of place. But then?we have Stryker. From SSX3, Stryker returns again, in his usual retarded form. Simply, this buffoon is the most annoying DJ I've ever heard, spouting inane crap and acting like the 15 year old nerd trying to fit in with the cool kids. You can turn him off, so please do ? being subjected to such a tool may lead you to become a serial killer or even an EA suit that approved his inclusion in this game. Otherwise, various things like different engine sounds and plenty of annoyed traffic honking like crazy rounds out a really wacky audio presentation.