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Burnout Review

Shawn_Sanders By:
Shawn_Sanders
12/01/01
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Racing 
PLAYERS 1- 2 
PUBLISHER Acclaim 
DEVELOPER Criterion Games 
RELEASE DATE  
E Contains Mild Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Crash and burnout.

I like my racing games with lots of crashes. It falls somewhere between a passion and a fetish. I don't care what any dystychiphobic gamer says - there's nothing like snatching the gold from a smug first-place racer at the very last minute by driving up to one of his blind spots and giving him a well-placed tap that sends him spinning out of control, causing a massive pileup that you just narrowly escape.

So why is it we few, proud and reckless drivers are given the more comical, less serious gaming swill that ferments at the bottom of the racing game barrel? The Playstation version of Vanishing Point comes to mind, as do countless other arcadey throwaways. Why is a game that incorporates good crashing considered unrealistic and arcadey, while games where you barely spin out and never leave the ground are considered simulations? If there's no impending threat of being trapped in two tons of reticulated steel, then your game is doing a piss-poor job of simulating some of the more exhilarating aspects of real-life driving.

Burnout is Acclaim's attempt to satisfy the Jackie Chans of the racing game scene. The game offers some great crashes, but many are so forgettable it's nerve-wracking. So buckle up and hold on tight - it's sure to be a bumpy ride.

The game places you in everyday speedy sports cars, little compact numbers and trucks - None of which are actual cars. The game's difficulty setting is determined by which vehicle you choose.

You are offered six different modes of play: Championship, Single Race, Head to Head, Time Attack, Face Off, and Survival. Most are self-explanatory, but a few deserve mention. Fight your way through Championship against three other CPU controlled racers and place first or second to open other courses that can be used in any mode. Face Off is opened once you finish the Championship mode. Here, you go against one other CPU racer who's driving a locked car. Beat him and the car is yours. Survival mode is essentially an endurance race. How long can you go without crashing?

Taking place in the U.S. and Europe, you'll race across realistic streets and roads in 14 courses packed with dense rush hour traffic. The streets have been sectioned off, though, meaning absolutely no deviations or detours. I would have liked a few point-to-point tracks instead of the strict laps you find in Burnout. Besides, point-to-point makes more sense when you're racing on everyday streets and roads. Looping around the same section of a city for three laps at speeds in excess of 100 mph just seems like it would attract the attention of said city's finest. Incidentally, there are no cops in this game at all. How convenient!

Also convenient is the inclusion of the ever sought after racing game crashes. Burnout purports to be all about crashes, but it takes them to an annoying level. Indeed, the crashes can be spectacular, with several cars flying end-over-end causing glorious pileups. However, these prime moments are very rarely seen. What you usually get are minor, uneventful fender benders and mild scrapes. No problem, you say? Yeah, well, you haven't played it yet, then.

Let me explain. Every time you crash, no matter how severe or wimpy, you are forced to watch three consecutive replays of that crash (a sort of triple take ala Bloody Roar). That's fine if it's one of the monster crashes, but it could also be a boring fender-bender that resulted in your car coming to a complete stop. Nothing to see here, you'd think. Wrong! The developers feel that whenever cars collide, the game should come to a complete stop while you watch a series of replays.

It gets worse. Hooray! - the game has damage modeling, and it's pretty good, too. Booo, hissss! - your car's damage is completely repaired after you crash. Allow me to embellish. You're driving along just fine and a car moves in front of you forcing a rear end collision. Your front end crinkles up, the stupid replays start and when they're done the car is magically fixed like new. Huh?

There's more. Those annoying replays that totally break up the game's flow wind up being totally unnecessary, because at the end of each race you are treated to a decent full race replay. You can't customize the camera or the play speed, but it goes through a bunch of predetermined camera angles that are, for the most part, fine (except for the first-person view).

You're also able to access a group of replays that just show the different crashes that occurred in that particular race. Oddly, here you can move the camera in any position and you can speed it up or have it play at two different slow motion speeds. So with all these replays, why the heck do you need the retarded in-game replays that completely stop the game flow and throw off your rhythm, resulting in many more uninspiring crash replays?

Continuing down the road of uninspiring design is the overall look of the game. The graphics could use some serious touchup work. Grainy textures, jagged edges and a general lack of detail run this game's aesthetic appeal right into the ground.

But maybe this is why the game speeds along without a hitch. The framerate is smoking and solid and I never experienced any slowdown or chugginess. This is the game's crowning achievement. Weaving in and out of thick traffic, trying to find sizable gaps for you to slip through is pretty exciting and easy to accomplish (thanks to the spot-on control) until you crash, which you will be doing a lot.

While the control is tight, the camera angles you play from are few; actually, to be exact, there are two. The standard is the butt-cam, which places the camera right behind the car, making it very hard to see what is in front of you and impossible to see what's over a hill. There's also the famous first-person view for all those gamers who've wondered what the life of a hood ornament is like. It's not particularly a good way to drive.

At least Burnout rewards risky driving by giving you a turbo boost meter. Drive in the oncoming traffic lane, narrowly escape collisions and utilize long drifting power slides to add boost to the meter. Kinda cool, but there is so much uncool stuff here it outweighs the good.

Burnout has so much potential it's threatening to burst at the seams. Too bad Acclaim has made sure those seams were made with super-fortified industrial strength steel tension cables. There will be no bursting. This game's potential is locked in tight, never to see the light of day. Excessive replays, an overemphasis on watching uneventful crashes, terrible camera perspectives, lame stop & go gameplay and weak presentation make this one little more than a rental


C- Revolution report card
  • Smokin' framerate
  • Dense rush-hour traffic
  • Good control
  • Grainy textures & jagged edges
  • Too many crash replays
  • Two terrible camera angles
  • Dumb damage modeling system
  • Incredibly frustrating
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