Full Review: You'll never look at intersections the same way again?
Back in April of 2002 Criterion games released a doozey of a racing game dubbed Burnout. The experience was one of high-speed racing and thrilling crashes, something not often seen in racers these days. Burnout 2 was released a year later and was even more warmly received by the gaming public than its predecessor, with a mode devoted entirely to crashing and even faster paced racing. Now, a year and a half later, we have what is easily the best of the series and quite possibly the pinnacle of the Burnout games.
Burnout 3: Takedown manages to take all of the existing Burnout elements, bring them exceptionally near to perfection and adds in some equally high calibre new features to boot, online play not the least of them. The utter genius in the crafting of this game can be seen throughout, and the hard work Criterion has put in has truly shown through. EA took notice of this and in fact published the game this time around, and luckily for us this is one hell of a collaboration.
The first thing fans of the series will notice is the change in the interface ? while there are still menus, the rapidly rising popularity of a "world map" or GPS type approach is felt as one is now present, initially allowing you to choose from one of the three playable areas (the US, Europe and Far East). When the game begins you can only race in the states, but very early on you'll be able to jump to the other areas, each offering a number of events (though fewer by far in the Far East than in the other two). You'll be able to either select one of the many "tracks" of any area (sometimes circuits, sometimes point to point), which will in turn offer you a selection of race types, or you can opt to head to a crash junction, which is usually a busy intersection located within one small portion of a larger track.
The game truly shines in all of the areas it encompasses, but the crash junctions are perhaps the most awe-inspiring. The objective is the same as in the past ? cause as much vehicular damage as is possible ? but the means to the end are somewhat varied. There are now power-ups involved, including cash bonuses, score multipliers (double or quadruple your score), score deductions, and flashiest of all, crash breakers. The latter instantly incurs a Hollywood-style explosion of your car when the icon is hit, making for the most spectacular crashes ever seen in a video game. Additionally, if you reach manage to cause a pre-specified number of car wrecks in a given crash, you'll be given a free crash breaker which you can activate when you wish with the B button. Timing can be critical though, as once you've started a crash the clock is on and you only have so long for the damage to be done.
Having played through every single one of the game's crash junctions it quickly becomes apparent the sheer ingenuity involved in making these scenarios ? waves of vehicles will come rushing in on your flaming wreck, often just as you're landing a perfectly angled jump from one portion of the track to the next or right as you hit a crash break icon. Tanker trucks will explode if hit, semis will lose their loads and all the vehicles have breaking glass, deforming bodies and numerous parts which will fly off upon impact, including tires and hoods. Add in some highly impressive sparks, smoke and explosions and you'll find some pretty damn incredible crash scenes, occasionally reaching the $2 million mark and beyond (with the help of the multipliers, that is). There is a certain skill in creating the ultimate crashes, as you'll have to find the best routes, figure out whether or not you want to use the often provided boost power-up, choose the right ramp, aim for the right targets, and hope for some lucky bounces every once in a while. Of course, the inclusion of the very cool Aftertouch makes all this exceptionally fun to work with.
Aftertouch allows you to slow time once you've either crashed your car or gone off of a jump by holding the A button, and then gives you limited control over your vehicle. So let's say, for instance, you've just flown off of a ramp and are heading down a hill towards two lanes of traffic on either side and a myriad of power-ups amongst it. By holding the A button and using the left thumb stick, you can alter your car's course enough to collect the right power-ups or hit the right vehicles at just the right angle to cause the most destruction possible. The same ability is available just after you've crashed your car or if you use a crash breaker, making for a very cinematic and immersive crashing experience. In fact, after touch is even available during all other racing events should you wreck during one.
And there are indeed many types of other racing events ? regular 6-car races, time challenges, one-on-ones, grand prix's and my personal favourite, the road rage events.
The regular events start you off in the lowest class of cars (compacts) with three vehicles to choose from. As you progress through the game, there are more of each type of car to unlock, done by achieving preset goals such as gold medal counts, various types of points or specific ways of destroying your opponents' cars. These races feel exceptionally fast and by the super car series you're going to be on the edge of your seat, staring at the screen trying not to blink for the entire length of the race. Never have I felt like I was actually in an Indy Car while playing a racing game, but Burnout 3 brings you closer than ever to that sensation.
The one-on-ones are significantly more difficult than the 6-car races, as in the latter the other cars will constantly be vying for position and not only trying to crash you into walls, rails and other cars, but each other as well. While after a crash you'll be reset, the time lost does add up if you lose it more than once or twice in a race. There are even different ways you're supposed to wipe the track with your opponents, and doing so will reward you with additional vehicles. Steering opponents into pillars, tollbooths, semis and even into lakes are all either "signature takedowns" or are part of a list of goals to complete.
As with the one-on-one races (where winning will reward you with your opponent's car) the time-trial type races can only be won by keeping your boost meter at least partially filled, keeping your thumb firmly on the A (boost) button at all times, and crashing no more than once, maybe twice if your lines are particularly good. Events of this variety are usually precursors to a new class of events, giving you the opportunity to get used to the quicker cars with slightly different handling before diving headlong into a race.
While all of the aforementioned race modes are certainly a fast-paced blast, by far the most exciting are the road rage events. All too few and far between for my liking, the goal here is to take down as many of your opponents as possible in the given time. They are naturally trying to do the same, though in this case the game will never beat you out of a medal by taking out more cars than you. While this may sound particularly vindictive, do believe me when I say it's disturbingly fun to play, perhaps even more so than the more logically approached crash junctions. Here it's all about slamming the boast and nailing your opponents into walls or incoming traffic, and while there is undoubtedly going to be some senator somewhere that finds this exceptionally appalling, it's a great way to get out all the frustration that you may be building up while driving on the real roads (and if you live in the lower mainland there is lots of that, no matter how patient of a person you are). In the event that you get taken out, you can always use Aftertouch to try and nail any racers coming from behind you, which will then add onto your regular takedown count.
As far as multiplayer's concerned, you can race and crash with or against a friend on one ?Box or play online. Online play also offers a special adaptation of the Road Rage mode, where one team has to try to reach the finish in one piece and the other has to try to take out the fleeing cars. As in the single player mode, each player's car can take so much damage before falling out of the race. Moronic users of Xbox Live aside, there's a lot of fun to be had here.
The game's track design is exceptionally well thought out and varied throughout the three different areas, the US having the most traffic-infested tracks, Europe the most exceptionally beautiful ones and the Far East with a blend of the two. You do genuinely feel as if you're on different continents in each area, and no expense was spared on the detail or exceptional track design in any part of the game.
Graphically, Burnout 3 is a shining example of next-gen horsepower, with the most incredible crashes, speed, deformable cars and exquisitely detailed tracks quite possibly ever seen. The rush of driving in these luscious environments with these fast and often exotic looking cars (none licensed, but you can often see very particular resemblances to real-world cars) is truly a treat, one not easily tiring. The audio helps too, with extraordinary whoosing sounds, a wide variety of engine roars, great crash effects and a very, very convincing Indy Car whine to go with the speed. There's also a pretty well varied and reasonably large library of music thanks to EA. There's even a "Crash FM" DJ to talk you through the game and add some additional light-hearted entertainment.
The number of unlockable vehicles is also most impressive in Burnout 3, ranging from the high-end cars of each class (including compact, sports, muscle and supers) to the Crash $$ reward heavy weights. These are awarded when your total accumulation of crash damage reaches a certain point, the highest of all being the $90 million mark. You'll be awarded semi trucks, a delivery truck, garbage collector and if you collect all 10 crash headlines (there are 10 crash areas in the game, each with numerous sub-junctions) by scoring around the 1 mil mark in each area, you'll win yourself a Fire Truck for use in multiplayer or single-event crashes (the "World Tour" or main area of the game automatically selects what car you use in the crash junctions and some of the racing events, only in the "single-event" crashes can you choose? but those points are added to your total, too!). The goals throughout are set far enough apart to take some time to achieve but close enough together to keep you interested in getting there, yet another masterful design element on Criterion's part.