Review of Burnout
Burnout was very high on my list of most anticipated PS2 titles this fall. Yeah, I was looking forward to MGS2 just as much as the next person, but damn I love a good driving game and this appeared to have all of the ingredients that equate into a fun arcade style racer.
Jumping into the initial menu screen it was nice to see that there was a Dolby Surround AND a Dolby Digital option for sound! I also appreciated the fact that the GTForce wheel was fully supported in the game. Game modes consist of Single Race, Championship, Head to Head, Time Attack and a “Special” menu that allows gamers to access their favorite saved crash replays and some secret gameplay modes that are unlocked from the Championship races.
Jumping into a Single Race game to get a feel for things I noticed that 3 of the 14 courses were made initially available for selection. Other courses can be unlocked from the Championship Mode.
Gameplay is rather simple and straightforward. Gamers will race against 3 computer-controlled opponents with the objective being to finish first over a three-lap race. All of this takes place at breakneck speeds through city streets or country roads that is populated with real time traffic at a constant 60fps.
Courses are very nicely configured and quite long. An average three lap race can take anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes to complete and this is not counting the endurance courses that naturally take even longer to finish. Following the pathways is made easy by bright flashing green markers that indicate where you should go. Many of these markers block off active intersections, so even though your car can’t drive through them, there is still traffic flowing from these areas so watch out! Some of these areas are opened in later tracks very much in the same way that the Ridge Racers series opened its courses.
Daredevil and balls to wall style driving is the primary method of transportation here. Since the streets are crowded with many other types of vehicles, learning to swerve in and out of traffic without clipping anyone will get you into the front of the pack. If that doesn’t work you can always try sideswiping an opponent in an attempt to send them careening head-on into on coming traffic (hehehe). There is nothing quite so satisfying in this game as successfully ramming an opponent into an oncoming truck and then hearing the crush of metal and tinkling of glass coming from behind you. You just know that had to hurt.
To further reward your reckless abandon there is a “Burn” meter on the lower left side of the screen. You can fill this meter up in a number of ways; driving for extended periods of time into oncoming traffic, narrowly avoiding a collision, or just driving flat out like a lunatic without getting into an accident. Once the meter fills you get a limited time turbo boost that you can use to really shoot your car ahead. Be warned though, this meter is very hard to fill up. There were many races that I had in the beginning where I wouldn’t even get the darn thing half filled. When using the burn meter players will also be rewarded with a super trippy blurring effect similar to the Star Ship Enterprise entering into warp speed. You really have to see it to appreciate it.
There are a small variety of vehicles to choose from in the beginning that range from easy (car is rather slow and handles very well), to medium (nice sports or saloon style car that is a good middle of the road performer) or hard (fast car but shit handling or a pick-up truck that controls like a boat on wheels). While the pick-up was relatively hard to control, I did notice that it could take a bit more serious hit without crashing…something to consider.
The Championship mode will have gamers playing through a series of races that must be completed before unlocking the next series of tracks (and also before you can save the game). Before each race you will be given a position that you must place in before progressing to the next race. Players are given 3 credits or “redo’s” in the event that the criteria isn’t met or if time on the track expires. Oh yeah…there are checkpoints. Failure to make a checkpoint within the set amount of time ends your race to glory. Of course, if you have time left when you hit each checkpoint it is added to the time granted for that particular check.
That’s really about it as far as the mechanics and general gameplay go. As for my personal opinion, this game rocks…hard. It is pure arcade action driving bliss. There are a ton of vehicles on the roadways that you must maneuver around consisting of cars, semis and buses. Mass also plays a critical role in the crashes. Smack into another car at high speed and both cars will careen wildly, often rolling right off the track. Whack into a bus or oil tanker though and you will see them hardly move, while you car generally gets crunched big time.
Some of the most fun I had playing the game was seeing how big of a pile-up I could cause on a major highway. I managed to get ten cars piled up at one time and walked away thoroughly satisfied. There is also a wonderful Crash Instant Replay option at the end of each race. Players have the ability to scroll through each mishap and watch them individually with full control over the speed of the replays and the camera angles. These replays can then be individually saved to the PS2’s memory card for later viewing pleasure (or bragging rights). I really just can’t say enough good things about Burnout…it is a total blast to play.
I should also mention that each accident is given a dollar value. Some of the more “tragic” crashes tallied up $80 plus thousand!! At the end of each race you are given the total dollar amount for all of the accidents you incurred during the game. In addition to the “Hall of Fame Fastest Lap” name saves, the game also gives gamers credit for “Worst Driver” and “Most Damaged” awards. Clever…
Not only is Burnout a great playing game, it is also wonderful to look at. This game is easily one of the best-textured games on the PS2 to date. The backgrounds totally blow away any of the backgrounds in GT3 and that’s a fact. Every cobblestone, building and wall texture are meticulously designed and displayed. There is never any blurring or washing of textures. Even the background water (rivers, etc.) in some of the tracks is beautifully rendered. This is one spectacular looking title no doubt about it. The car models are also rock solid, but these I would not put in the same league as GT3…close but not quite as nice.
Lighting effects are used liberally and to fantastic effect and the dirt/dust clouds that are kicked up are volumetric and not just bit mapped. They are very real looking indeed…and do a wonderful job clouding your field of vision. About the only thing that this game desperately needs is mip-mapping. Everything shimmers quite badly and there are some serious jaggies present, but the game moves along so quickly you soon forget to focus on it. Regardless, if this game was mip-mapped and the car models a wee bit better looking it would have gotten a perfect graphical score…it is really that nice looking.
I wish I could say the same for the music though… Burnout features some of the, well umm, strangest music to ever grace an arcade game of this type. Some of the songs reminded me of country western complete with a slide guitar, while others were operatic in nature. None of the music was bad per say, but it just totally did not fit into this game. What were they thinking?
At least things get redeemed in the sound effects department. All of the vehicles have a nice engine sound and the crashes feature some sweet crunching noises. Everything was accurately portrayed, from the various road noises (pavement vs. dirt) to the echoing effects that occur when you drive through a tunnel. Oh and remember, there is also a Dolby Digital option buried in the menu, which really brings the game to life on a good sound system. Who said the PS2 couldn’t do DD?
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Burnout' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 17 Burnout in-game screenshot slideshow
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