Cruising down the A56, with the only thrill being slightly breaking the speed limit, keeping a close eye out for Vauxhall Vectra’s with no hub caps, in case that the extra few miles an hour are worthy to warrant a small fine and a few penalty points, I often wonder what it would be like to put my foot down, cross the grass verge and play chicken with the unexpecting on-comers. Of course in reality this kind of thought would lead to a psychological examination. But finally I get to see what this would be like with the imminent release of Burnout. Will it finally satisfy my curiosity, or will I actually write off my Mondeo?
I got quite excited hearing the news that it would be arriving through my letterbox in a matter of days, constantly questioning whether this could be the game that would leave GT3 standing, as many have claimed. Will my heart race and the adrenaline pump as I career down the wrong side of a by-pass at 3 figure speeds, desperately trying to get past the road hogging lorry before the oncoming family saloon reaches the tunnel? The answer to that question is, no, not really.
One of the first things that will make you think that this is the gaming experience you’ve been eagerly waiting so long for, is how fast the game is. It is undoubtedly one of the fastest driving games around, well, which doesn’t involve floating crafts. But this feeling of speed will soon dissipate as you notice how jaggy it all seems. You desperately try to keep a look out for vehicles coming towards you in the distance, but all you will see are horribly jaggy specs, that you assume are anything but a vehicle. And as you emerge over the brow of the hill, you are surprised to see this once jaggy spec only a matter of feet away, and even more surprised at the fact that it is actually a car. But its not all bad because as well as the forgiving re-spawning, you are treated to the questionably realistic crash replays. You can cringe and squirm, as the car collides with the object obstructing your racing line, causing the car to bend, buckle, roll and flip all over the road, leaving shards of broken windscreen, and damaged chassis behind.
Another amusing aspect of the game is that the computer controlled adversaries, are from good drivers themselves, as an intense battle between you and one of the three other competitors, becomes quite significantly less intense as you manage to overtake him, and then soon realise your home free as you hear the crunch of his bonnet on the back of the of the newly overtaken bus. Which is made even more enjoyable when its your mate who’s the one who gets the short end of the straw in one of these situations, when playing in the two-player mode.
But, and a big but, is that as entertaining as some of these replays are, they can get extremely frustrating. This is only the second time this year I have actually shouted at the screen, and I consider myself a fairly tranquil kind of guy. The main cause of my anger is that for the main duration of the race I was in 1st place, quite far ahead of the competition, until I was involved in quite a nasty accident. This first accident caused me to re-spawn just ahead of the rest of the pack on the final lap. Then I ended up in another crash which inevitably left me in 4th place. But instead of letting me get on with the race and try to regain a decent finishing position, it thought it would be nice to show me the crash 3 times, at this point I was already on my feet shouting as loud as I could I KNOW I $#%KING CRASHED, GET THE $#%K ON WITH IT!!!!! Not good.
The cars are very shiny, and remarkably stay shiny after you’ve done a bit of off road driving, they should at least pick up a tiny spec of dust. And the car designs themselves seem very dull, obviously based on real models, but drastically simplified for the purposes of the game. As mentioned before its eye sore inducingly jaggy. The replays are jerky, they seem impressive in normal game speed, but are not anywhere near as impressive in slow motion. The realism of the crashes is questionable. In an attempt to see how realistic they were, I attempted to cause the nastiest crash possible. I managed to get the car to career off the road and plummet down the edge of a mountain. The car suffered minor damage, only a smashed windscreen, and a few unsavoury dents in the bodywork, oh and not forgetting the fact that the car stayed shiny. There are a limited few number of tracks, but vary greatly from each other. Although you may be racing along the same track as you have done before, certain changes like rain and darkness, make it feel like a new track.
The music is dreadful. It sounds very reminiscent to a boss battle in a turn based RPG, with all the violins and atmospheric drum lines. And the mixing from one track to another sounds like it was performed by a one armed, hard of hearing, tone deaf disc jockey, just skipping from one track to another with no attempt to get them to blend. The crashes could have done with being crunchier, and sound more like whiplash inducing rather than cardiac arrest inducing. And many of the cars sound very similar to one another.
The controls have a very arcade-like feel about them. Accelerate, brake, rear view, gear change, and burnout buttons are all there. The burnout meter is filled by driving as scarily as possible, driving as long as possible on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic, and performing long power slides. When the bar is full, you can activate it by holding R1, but be warned, this causes you to go very fast, and I mean fast. But alas, there’s no handbrake or no reverse. The fact that there is no handbrake is almost hard to believe, as there are 90 degree turns and u turns to navigate, and is very frustrating as its nigh on impossible to take a corner without going too wide, without slowing down too much. And when the occasion arises when you do end up facing the wrong way, the car goes into a crazy wheel spin to try and let you whip the rear end round, to face the right way. But the first time I discovered this I ended up performing 5 unintentional, but impressive doughnuts, purely because there is no reverse. But other than that, the controls are sufficient to perform all the tasks necessary. A nice thing about the controls is that the analogue control is not too sensitive but sensitive enough, if you all know what I mean, and makes racing almost delightful, if it wasn’t for the other flaws in the controls.
There is quite a selection of modes of play. There’s the championship mode, where you race against three other cars. This usually consists of three races, three laps each with target finishing positions you must achieve in order to progress. You get three credits in each championship in order to perform this. Then there’s the single race, where you can practice previously unlocked tracks. Two player mode, where you can race against your mates, and force them into other vehicles. Other cars are unlocked by trying the Face Off mode, where you go head to head against the car you can potentially win. These are the main modes of play, but there’s also survival mode, to see how long you can last without crashing, and a mode where you can race without traffic.
In conclusion, it is a fun arcade experience, and is a very fast game, darting and diving through the traffic is great fun and does cause major amounts of perspiration and stress. But it is prevented from receiving from the score it deserves, because of some major and not so major flaws, in graphics, sound and gameplay. You could easily finish Burnout in under 5 hours worth of gaming which is disappointment if you want a game that will last. A question which another member of the team often asks himself when reviewing a game, which I now ask myself, is, would I feel satisfied if I had gone out and spent £40 on this, and the question is a big no no. Undoubtedly there will be people out there who would thoroughly enjoy it, but its not the GT3 or GTA3 beater which some people out there seem to believe it is.