Criterion
EA
Racing
1-2 (6 online)
09.07.04

Burnout 3: Takedown


The Burnout series has come a long way. Acclaim (now in bankruptcy) published Burnout 1 and 2, and now that EA purchased Criterion a short time ago, Burnout 3 is theirs for the taking. Criterion made huge leaps and bounds in making the sequel to the original. Now with a new publisher (and owner), Criterion continues to make unbelievable improvements to the overall gameplay and graphics found in this series. As a result, Burnout 3 immediately comes off as one serious racer packed with hair-raising excitement.

Gameplay

One of the first upgrades that I noticed with Burnout 3 was the new impact time. While you're in the middle of a crash you are able to steer (in slow-motion) where you want your car to go. If you make contact with an opponent (aftertouch takedown) you get extra boost. Burnout 3 World Tour is the main mode. The way it's setup is in the form of a globe called your Crash Nav. You'll race in different lands such as USA, Europe, and the Far East. Each region has its own characteristics, keeping it unique from the others. You start off by selecting one of the few races available. The best way I can explain how the Burnout 3 World Tour mode works is playing through crash and race events, and continuously unlocking new cars and new events. Even if you don't win a medal, you still get points that are used to unlock new things. After each race in the "main" mode you get points for takedowns and skill. And then you even get a "takedown breakdown." The primary events that take place can be a regular race or a highly acclaimed "crash" event. The race events include road rage, kings of the road, eliminator, face off, special events, etc. In Road Rage, you have to get as many "takedowns" as you can. A takedown is best described as running someone off the road and causing them to crash. In eliminator, you do not want to be the last car after each lap, because you'll get eliminated quickly. Face off is best described as a one-on-one race event and if you win, you get their car. After advancing deeper into the game, you'll come across grand prix events. The grand prix events allow you to choose a car, and then race in a short series of races where you have to get enough points to win. You'll have to do halfway decent because if you don't, you have to restart the entire grand prix to get a worthy overall position.

Crash mode is mouth-watering and irresistible! They really toned down the amount of damage (in terms of dollars) that you can incur. In Burnout 2 I used to get 50 Million dollars worth of damage. Now, in Burnout 3, it's very hard to break $200,000…let alone a million. Another thing that's changed in the crash mode is that they don't give you full boost from the start. Instead, you have to find the rotating marker in the middle of the road for "instant boost." Another addition to the crash mode is "crash breaker." When you press B after a crash (provided enough cars were involved), your car explodes and blows up everything around it. This seems a little arcade-like, but that's what the Burnout series is all about, and it's glorious. After each crash event you get total damage points. When you get a certain amount of money, you win a new car. The new "impact time" is a nice added feature as well. As I mentioned before, impact time allows you to control your crash. You will eventually figure out the control scheme, but it takes a good amount of playing time to master. As you hit a ramp, the slow-motion control can really change the outcome of a crash, and it's an excellent element to add instead of just "watching" the crash. There are also cash multipliers and extra icons to run over before you make the big crash. Hitting the cash multipliers usually assures you a higher medal. I wasn't a huge fan of the "heart breakers," which take away points. There isn't that much of a learning curve, but it will take time to master each crash event.

Once you've had enough of the main mode, there's the "Single Event" mode. Here you choose between a Race, Time Attack, Road Rage, or Crash. Single event Crash is good for when you know what you want to play, and you don't feel like dealing with the main mode. You can choose whatever car you'd like (can't do that in the regular mode). The only drawback is that you can only play the tracks that you unlocked previously in the "Burnout 3 World Tour." Because a lot of different things can happen, playing a crash level for the second or third time still might feel like a new track. Some of the time attack events are crazy and insane. You have to basically have your turbo on the whole time without crashing in order to win. Other than that, each of these modes offer great variety, and I'm sure you'll have your favorites. The good thing about "single event" is that your points still add up, which means you can still unlock new cars, and all of the regular unlockables that are found in the main mode. There's over 100 different crash tracks/roads, and you also unlock quite a few types of car classes (i.e. Muscle cars).

Let me say this: Xbox Live play cannot be missed! This is easily my new favorite racing game both online and off. The speed, and knowing that I'm racing against other people is a huge adrenaline rush that I can't control. There's plenty of Xbox Live action to go around here. The online play is not flawless, as there are a few issues, but for the simple fact that it exists is a good step for the series and EA.

Even though this game is incredible, there are certain things missing that could have made it even better. When you start a crash event, and complete it, I wish there was an option to "save and play again." There's only save and retry. So, if you want to play the same event again and save your points and bonuses, you have to go through all the loading menus. I also wish there were more options for the replays. I wanted to save my crashes, yet I couldn't. It also would have been sweet to get multiple angles when viewing crashes, as well as slow motion and rewind. Another thing that I noticed is that there is not one licensed car in this game. I realized, however, that there's no need for a license in the Burnout series.

The framework of Burnout 3 can be summed up easily. When you win a medal in an event, you unlock a bunch of things, such as new cars, new events, and/or awards. Also, when your global burnout points add up to a certain amount, you can unlock a new car. You are constantly unlocking new things. There are many ways to get extra boost (near misses, drifting, or catching air). When you have the turbo on, your car appears to be slightly less vulnerable to crashing, but I wouldn't go by that because you can get into some wild accidents. If you're racing in another country, be aware of the "rules of the road" because Burnout 3 has the correct system (in other countries, the left side of the road is the right side, if you know what I mean). Controlling your vehicle requires speedy reflexes. While racing with full boost deployed, you only have less than a second to react to the traffic and the surrounding environment.

Graphics

I couldn't get enough of Burnout 2, and now when I compare it to Burnout 3 I am amazed at how much detail has been added. Cars get completely destroyed and totally wrecked. I really like the way the camera zooms up when you nail someone with a takedown. However, I specifically like how it goes back to the race ever so smoothly.

The streets look absolutely amazing. Every detail (and more) is found all over the racing environments. The trees, bridges, street signs, and mountains are stunning eye candy as the frame rate remains smooth while racing at top speeds. I didn't experience any slow down, even when the sparks were flying and an abundance of action was happening. After a huge wreck in crash mode, you end up with a complete mess. You'll see tires rolling around, cars on fire, cars practically in half, and windows blown out. It's really a devastating sight to see. It's not a Burnout game without bumpers and doors hanging off, and flying off might I add. Most of the levels are clear skies and clear roads, but some levels have scenery such as snow on them. When you're blazing at high speeds, everything starts to turn a little blurry. The graphics are the best I've seen in any Xbox racing game all year.

Sound

The trademark EA Game Trax layout is intact. Meaning, that every time a new song comes on, it lets you know the artist and the song name at the bottom left of the screen. It's always a good thing to see when they have real licensed music, but there's really no point when the game supports custom soundtracks. The default tracks aren't that new either, and I would recommend using some tracks of your own. During impact time the music and sound effects slow down and become eerie and spooky, and you never know what's going to happen. And that's the best part. The rest of the sound effects are clear and credible. The burnouts and the sound of metal hitting metal qualify as being outstanding. The announcer is super upbeat and takes the responsibility of explaining what each track consists of. "Striker" also explains how the entire game works, and that helps to understand and learn all about Burnout's controls.

Replay Value

Multiplayer split screen is extremely fun. Team crush is awesome! You can team up with a buddy and simultaneously smash into an intersection. Criterion went all out, and the finished product is top-quality. The online features are just another great reason to get Xbox Live. There is not one ounce of boredom present in all of Burnout 3.

Bottom Line:

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you drove right into an intersection full of heavy traffic? Burnout lets you do that. Not only that, but the amount of detail visible is electrifying. It feels so great driving a brand new shiny car into an intersection, knowing that it will destroyed in a matter of seconds. What more could you ask for? Risk equals reward is the motto of Burnout 3. You can be in oncoming traffic, but at the same time earning boost. You will have to do whatever it takes to win each race. In addition to driving on the wrong side of the road, you'll also be able to "takedown" your opponents, so there's plenty of risks to take.

This could very well be the racing game of the year. Burnout 2 was hot and on fire. Burnout 3 is an uncontrollable, unstoppable worldwide explosion. Burnout 3 is all about fast reflexes and making last second decisions. No matter the publisher, Criterion knows how to make a great racing game. This third iteration is the best one yet.

Related Links:

Official Burnout 3: Takedown Website

-Steve Melanson




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