November 26, 2001
Burnout - Review
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Click here to read an interview about Burnout

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Check the oncoming traffic meter.
Why do we watch car races such as the V8's or Formula One? Is it the thrill of seeing a car racing down a straight at 200km/hour or overtaking other cars on a corner? Possibly both. But more thrilling then that is the sight of a massive crash, as long as no one is injured of course. Video games have, in the majority, sadly neglected this aspect in the past, mainly due to strict licensing agreements from manufacturers. Even the spectacular Gran Turismo 3 didn't have any damage to the cars, no matter the severity of the impact. Criterion are promising not only a great racing game in Burnout, but also plenty of spectacular crashes. For the most part they have delivered the goods.

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Burnout looks spectacular.
Being a racing game Burnout doesn't have a storyline, or need it. The game allows you to take the wheel of 9 different vehicles, four of which are initially locked, and includes compacts, speedy roadsters, power muscle cars and even a bus. Burnout includes 16 different circuits which are set on highways and city streets from America, Europe and the Orient. Each continent's tracks is vastly different and reflects the architecture and scenery found in each region. The game includes some interesting game modes. Beside the single race, career and 2-player mode you can enter a Duel race one car, which is unlocked for you if you manage to win the race. The game also has a hidden mode to remove all the cars beside yours and the opponents to race on clean tracks.

While racing if you come close to other traffic, but not hit them, you earn "Burn" point which accumulate and if you have a full meter you will get an astonishing boost of speed which is indicated by a terrific motion blur and speed increase on screen. Be careful however as the cars become so fast it will require all your skill not to crash and ultimately valuable time. Speaking of crashes they are simply amazing. Never have I seen such a wide variety of spins, flips, rolls and bumps in a game. Each crash is accompanied by a dollar cost that adds up to give you a score at the end. These crashes can be replayed at the end of the race and then save to memory card to show off to your friends.

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2-player split screen is a blast.
As a racing game Burnout succeeds on almost every level. The handling of the cars is impressive, with each style of car having a very different set of characteristics. The cars do seem a little slidey around the corners, but given the pace at which the game runs at and the need to keep it fun it works well. The traffic in each level, which can have over 300 cars, is also extremely impressive with other cars reacting to your current state. If you are heading directly towards another car they will flash their headlights. Honk your horn and cars will try to swerve out of your way, at intersections cars can drive across, and directly into your path. It's an impressive mix which becomes crucial to the gameplay.

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Now thats gotta hurt.
There really is little to fault with this game. More tracks and cars would have been nice but the biggest problem I actually had with the game was it's damage value that it gave to crashes. On about half the occasions the dollar value would be something off like $56,780. However on the other 50% of crashes the game would allocate an exact $20,000 or $40,000 value. It's as if the CPU can't figure out the value for that collision and uses a default. The other problem I had with the damage is the inconsistency of the values. Running a car into the side of a truck may attract a damage of $75000 or so while clipping another car and rolling yours several times will only cause $45000. Still, this really is a small part of the game that doesn't affect the gameplay terribly.

Another slight negative I have with the game is the lack of visible damage to the cars. A perfect example is that on many occasions your windscreen will shatter or you would expect scrapes on the roof when you flip the car, but when you continue the race the cars look like new.

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One of the $40,000 crashes.
As with Criterion's recently released Airblade there is very little complain about the graphics in this game. The levels are detailed, quite varied an include plenty of small details to keep you amazed. In fact tracks will take several minutes to travel around and may take you through narrow alleyways, past harbours, through tunnels, onto open roads, over bridges and so much more. The textures are high resolution and look wonderful, although the speed of the game won't give you too much time to admire the surroundings. The sense of speed is possibly the best example on the PS2 to date while the developers have included a 60Hz mode as well as a 16:9 mode for those of us with suitable TV's.

There is one main problem with the graphics in this game however and it occurs during the replay mode. For some reason when you are zooming in or out during a replay the screen gets a nasty flickering as if the camera is confused to it's actual position. It only occurs when you are zooming in or out or panning during a replay, and you can still see what's happening but it's a pretty nasty glitch all the same.

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First place is just up ahead.
Sound has obviously been a key aspect of development with this title. Criterion have managed to find plenty of lively tunes to suit the game while the sounds effects are what really set this game apart. The crashing noises are harsh and make you really hear the impact of the vehicles. The tyres screech while the other car engines fade in and out appropriately to alert you to their presence.

Burnout is an extremely impressive game. It lacks the overall polish and variety to make it a classic like Gran Turismo 3 but is just as playable, if not more so in the short term. Criterion has really put a lot of effort into this title, and it shows. Playing Burnout is like taking the wheel beside De Niro in the stunning car chases in Ronin. It really feels that good with plenty of near misses and dangerous collisions. This is one game that every PS2 owner should consider adding to their collection.

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