Criterion
Acclaim
Racing
1-2
04.30.02

Burnout


Burnout was released with very little fanfare during May of 2002, which is a bit of a shame considering it carved a niche for itself on the PS2, and the advancements made to the Xbox version didnĎt quite matter much, when the PS2 original could be had for about $20, while the Xbox version was released at $50. Anyways, Burnout is, at itís core, a checkpoint-based racing game with a few refreshing gameplay twists. You may have seen this game on the PS2 and GameCube, but rest-assured, you have never seen it quite like this.

Gameplay

One of the gameplay twists is the insane amount of traffic in each track, whereas most checkpoint-based racing games just have you going against your opponents, this game has you contending with traffic, as well as your opponents. Youíll have to stay focused if you want to succeed in this game. Another twist is the gameís crashing system. You see, you have to crash into stuff to get money, but crashing costs you time, which can cost you reaching a checkpoint, not reaching a checkpoint ends your run, so you have to balance out crashing, with getting to the checkpoint. The game features a Burn meter that fills up as you do insane and risky things, such as drive on the wrong side of the road, or the shoulder, or narrowly avoiding collisions. Once your Burn meter has reached its peak, youíll be able to unleash a speed boost, called the Burnout, that sends you speeding through traffic at lighting speeds, but if you don't control it correctly, you'll crash, and lose time, so you have to use it wisely.

Each aspect of the game compliments another aspect of it. The crashing aspect compliments the checkpoint aspect because they go hand-in-hand, you canít have one without risking the other. If you want to crash a lot, and go for money, then youíll have to recognize that this could cause you to miss the checkpoint, conversely, if you want to reach your checkpoints with time to spare, youíll need to realize that you wonít be able to crash a lot, or youíll risk not accomplishing your goal. These strategies apply even moreso when you activate your Burnout, youíll need to be in total control of your vehicle when you use your Burnout, or else youíll crash and burn. Your control over the car diminishes when you activate it, so youíll need to choose the best method of control given your vehicle, and the conditions around the track. If the track is littered with traffic, you might want to use the left analog stick for more precise control, if your vehicle will benefit, or, if the track isnít full of cars, you might just want to use the D-pad. Again, you have to think your way through controlling the game. The entire game is full of give-and-take relationships that you will recognize as you play through the game. The gameís constant give-and-take relationships add a lot of strategy to this genre, it makes you to think your way through a race if you want to race a certain way. Burnout strikes the perfect middle ground with this because it allows you, the player, to control the amount of thinking. It doesnít force you into thinking a lot, but youíll be rewarded if you do. Burnout gives you numerous modes, (such as singe race and circuit) and about 20 tracks to give these game mechanics a whirl, so give it your best shot. Burnout gives you six vehicles at your disposal, each of them with their own unique control method. Some of them are easy to control, while others are hard to control. Youíll have to try them all out to see which kind of vehicle suits you the best, and youíll have a blast doing it.

Burnoutís control is very unique. It allows you to mix up the directional control scheme of your vehicle. This adds an interesting parallel because some vehicles, such as the sports cars, benefit from using the D-pad because you have more control over the carís movement, while other cars, like the mini-van, benefit from the stick because they donít require as much control. The controls are as fluid and intuitive as you, the player, make them. This is one of the few games that truly gives you full control over how you play the game. Iíve got to give a lot of credit to Criterion for allowing the player this much freedom in control, they have raised the bar for racing game control.

Graphics

Burnoutís graphics are among the best you will see for an Xbox racing game. The game makes liberal use of several visual effects that really add to the excitement of the game. For example, when you crash, youíll be treated to motion-blur enhanced replays that help to emphasize the damage done; likewise, when you use your Burnout, youíll see a motion-blur trail around the car that helps to emphasize the insane speed youíre traveling at. This is one of the few games that really uses this technique in an intelligent manner, rather than just using it to use it. The game also makes use of particle effects to enhance the feel of the game. For example, when driving over dust, it will go behind your car, obstructing the view of other drivers, this can also be done by cars ahead of you, meaning you could be the one eating dust, so stay alert. These effects do a great job of complimenting the rich textures used throughout the game. Everything in the game, from the buildings next to the track, to the vehicles themselves is covered in rich textures. The buildings in the game have defined looks to them, theyíre so defined, youíll be able to make out the bricks on a building, or the style of window-pane used on it. The vehicles have rich paint jobs that look just like the real thing. The sun glistens off of the vehicles, and realistic reflections, such as light, or the front of the car behind you, litter the back of the vehicles. The graphics have received a minor tune-up in their transition to the Xbox. The textures are cleaner and more pronounced, with richer colors accenting everything.

Sound

Burnoutís sound is as well-done as any other aspect in the game. The music throughout the game has a quick tempo to it that does a great job of complimenting, and enhancing the effects, of the high-octane racing action on-screen. The game makes great use of each sound effect it uses. For example, the crashing effects sound as powerful as the crashes themselves; if you crash into a large vehicle, youíll hear a loud crashing noise, whereas crashing into a smaller vehicle will elicit a less-boisterous sound effect. The amazing use of sound effects doesnít stop there. When you activate your Burnout, the music will fade, and the sound of heart beating will slowly replace it, the heart beats faster as you speed up, and it beats slower as your Burnout fades. This single effect does so much to emphasize the speed, that it must be experienced to truly appreciate.

Replay Value

Burnout is packed to the gills with replay value. Youíll spend many an hour trying to beat all of the circuits and unlocking all of the secrets that the game has stowed away, and youíll have a blast doing it. I would recommend that you space out your play sessions of the game as to not burn yourself out (no pun intended) on the gameplay, which, while fun in short bursts, can become shallow if you play it for too long. Keep this in mind when you play the game, and youíll have a blast. Donít try and get everything done in a day, because you wonít be able to experience everything this game has to offer. This is the kind of game that must be savored for as long as possible, in case there is never a game like it again.

Bottom Line:

Burnout is one of the finest racing games the Xbox has to offer. It combines everything that makes the Xbox a great system. It has great gameplay, amazing graphics, and mind-blowing sound. Itís one of the few Xbox racing games that makes a great single player, and multi-player game. Pick this game up as soon as possible. At the very least, rent the game, give it a shot, and, if you really like the game, buy it as soon as you can. Those of you looking for an arcade-style break from Project Gotham will definitely want to look into picking this game up.

-Jeremy Peeples



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