Criterion Games
Acclaim
Racing
1-2
04.30.03

Burnout 2: Point of Impact


Burnout 2 managed to not only meet all of my expectations, but surpass them as well. As a fan of the original Burnout, I was pleasantly surprised to see the racing action revamped in the sequel. I figured there was no real way they could improve upon virtual perfection. The first game delivered a lot of thrills, both as a racing game and as a nice stress reliever. The core game for both is that of a checkpoint-to-checkpoint racing game, but with many twists and turns along the way that help to not only make things fun, but help make the Burnout series one of the most unique racing game seriesí in quite some time.

Graphics

Burnout 2ís graphics received a nice little overhaul from the first game, as the vehicles now have tons of details in them, and more variety in the paint jobs as well. Aside from the vehicles, the courses look fantastic as well. The roads themselves are nicely detailed, as are the buildings and obstacles that are contained in them. There are numerous little touches as well that add a bit of style to the game, like the Burnout 2 stock ticker on one of the courses. The graphical effects used throughout the game, like the many lighting and haze effects help to make the game a graphical wonder. The lighting effects help to make the vehicles look a little better, and the haze effects help make the speed boosts seem that much faster. Keep in mind though, that the latter can contribute to you getting into an accident, but thatís one of the trade-offs of the boost system. In the end, the graphics are pretty stunning. The car models are fantastic, as are the courses and roadside areas.

Sound

The music in Burnout 2 is quite an improvement over the tunes featured in the original. While the new songs arenít exactly the greatest things ever to be heard by gamers, they are a quantum leap ahead of most of the stuff in the original game. As a nice little bonus, Criterion added in all of the songs form the original game in this game, which lets you compare the soundtracks of the game nicely. There is also a custom soundtrack feature in the game, but itís a bit flawed in execution, as it doesnít let you play the exact track you want. It will let you select a track from a soundtrack, but no matter what, it will play that soundtrack from the beginning. This little faux pas really drains some of the fun out of the custom soundtrack feature. In a nice touch, the music gets higher in volume when a boost is used. Sadly, unlike the first game, there is no heart monitor beeping sound effect to add to the tension used when you activate your boost. Aside from those flaws, the rest of the sound is great. The sound effects for crashes, in particular, are fantastic, as they feature some sickening metal crunching and glass breaking to drive home the damage caused by a crash.

Gameplay

New to Burnout 2 is a training mode, which helps teach you how to succeed in the game. This mode should help those who have never played the game get familiar with how the gameplay system works; and it is also quite helpful to those who are familiar with how the game works, but are a bit rusty. The training mode does itsí job nicely and helps shake off the rust and get you right into the race by teaching you step-by-step how to succeed. Youíll be given tests to see how well you can weave through traffic while coming close to crashing, or to see how well you can power drift, and one of the most exhilarating tests involves you racing against traffic, with the end goal of it all to teach you how and when to use your boost meter. The aforementioned three things being the key methods of getting your boost meter filled up.

The boost meter is something that is usually not seen in conventional racing games, and is usually only reserved for futuristic racing games. Iím glad that the Burnout series uses it, as it helps set this series apart from most. The boost meter also adds a surprising amount of strategy to the game as well. You can choose to either use your boost when you first get it, or wait to use it, and hope that you donít crash along the way. Crashing will not only cost you time, but it will knock your boost meter down quite a bit as well. Be sure to use your boost meter carefully, as you donít want to activate it at the wrong time and go head-on into traffic at a rate of speed that makes it nearly impossible to control your car. Conversely, hitting your boost when there is no traffic in sight can also be a smart move, but it can also be a gamble as well, due to the possibility that traffic could just come out of nowhere. You could also be going so fast that you wonít even notice the traffic coming at you, which can occur due to the screen blurring effect used when the boost is in use. Despite the shortcomings of the boost feature, it does fit the white-knuckle theme of the game, and adds a lot of strategy to the game as well. Itís one of my favorite features from the first game, and itís been carried over nicely to the sequel.

The action-packed crashes from the original Burnout are back with a vengeance, and have even been given their own mode, which incorporates not only the of the original gameís crashes, but the amount of monetary damage done by them, which has been carried over the originalís single player modes, and omitted from this gameís single player modes. This change is a welcome one in my opinion, as it shifts focus away from the crashes, which tended to be more of a gimmick in the first game, and puts the spotlight on the actual racing action, which is fantastic. Burnout 2 features some of the swiftest racing gameplay out there, with many fast-moving cars out on the road at once due to the road-hogging traffic, which acts as just one of the obstacles you should try to avoid during the course of a race. The crash mode is probably the most flat-out fun mode in the entire game, as it gives you about 30 crashing scenarios to go wild in. Netting a gold medal in this mode is always fun, and never really gets boring due to their being so many possibilities to the crashes, plus the crashes get a fancier presentation in this mode, with a helicopter flying overhead, and the damage bill just getting higher and higher with each successive crash caused by your original crash. This mode certainly has a lot offer to anyone who just wants to have fun with the game every now and then.

The traffic has taken a backseat in the core single player modes, much like the crashes have. Now, instead of wanting to crash as often as possible in the main modes, you want to avoid crashing, since that not only doesnít give you any cash, but it also takes time away from you, which can cause you to lose your track position or miss a checkpoint, and as I mentioned above, it will also deplete your boost meter. Do whatever you can to avoid crashing in the game. Especially when youíre in the championship mode, and a single crash at the wrong time can cost you a victory. Despite these potential pitfalls, the traffic does add quite a bit of excitement to the game. Driving with traffic going towards you is one of the most exciting things to do in the game, as there is always a lingering sense of danger involved with doing it since one false move could send you into a huge pile-up. This excitement is more of a good thing than a bad thing though, since it gets your adrenaline pumping, and makes you want to keep playing more and more.

The aforementioned championship mode is something that was executed rather poorly in the original, but is executed to near-perfection in the sequel. The first gameís version of a championship mode was a bit on the bland side, as it was little more than an endless chain of races. The sequel gives you plenty of races to compete in, and some other modes as well to keep things fresh. One of my favorites is the pursuit mode, in which you play a cop who is trying to smash a criminalís car to bits. Hit the opposing vehicle enough times, and you will win. This mode will unlock some nice cars for you to use in the game, including the hilarious cop car, which is well-balanced, but features an annoying siren that blares when the car is used. Another favorite of mine is the face off mode, in which you race another vehicle, and if you beat that vehicle, you win the car. This mode nets what is, in my opinion, the best car in the game; a stock car with an alternate paint job just like that of the original Daytona USA car. This is my favorite car to use in the game, and Iíve got the face-off mode to thank for it.

Sadly, not all is great with the championship mode. First off, the later rounds of the championship mode, particularly in the standard races, tend to be a bit on the impossible side. Now Iím glad the folks at Criterion didnít allow for easier difficulty settings, but sometimes the races become impossible to win without you becoming one with the game. In later races, you will have to make use of every single ability in the game, all the while chaining together turbo boosts, if you want to even catch a glimpse of the first place car. Heaven help you if you crash or slow down, since that will probably cost you to lose whatever ground you may have gained. On the upside, you wonít have to worry about missing your checkpoints, since this game features the most lenient ones Iíve ever seen.

All of this diverse gameplay wouldnít be worth playing if the game wasnít easy to control. Thankfully, Criterion delivered in this department as well. True to form, the controls are extremely responsive, and nearly as diverse as the gameplay. Having the option to switch between using the D-pad and the left control stick on the fly is nice, as it allows you to alternate between one method of control and the other to coincide with whatís happening in the race. Personally, I like using the control stick for straight roads and for small turns, while I like using the D-pad to bob and weave out of traffic, and to take on tight turns. Iím glad this feature was left intact from the first game, as it really helped make the game a bit more fun to play, since the player had more control over what they were doing, and how they were doing it, in the game. Aside from the diversity offered by the controls, they are also quite responsive as well. The usual R for acceleration and L for braking control scheme is offered, with the B button acting as the boost activator. I like this control setup since itís simple, and quite logical given the Xboxís controller layout.

Replay Value

Burnout 2ís diverse modes and fun gameplay make it a very replay-friendly game. There is always something to do in the game, whether itís to unlock a new vehicle, or progress to the next round of races, you will always have something to entertain you in the game. Plus, if you canít get your kicks from the unlockable stuff or from progressing through the game, you can always just play for fun, or play to do better in the crash mode. There is also some multi-player fun to be had in Burnout 2.

Bottom Line:

At the end of the day, Burnout 2 is the most fun Xbox racing game on the market. While some things have been improved from the original, some things have sadly been left out that added a bit of charm to the first game. Thankfully, the good far outweighs the bad, and that makes for a fantastic game for pretty much anyone to play. If you like your racing games with a maximum amount of action, and a minimal amount of fluff, pick up Burnout 2 as soon as you can.

-Jeremy Peeples




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