reviews\ Oct 20, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Burnout 2: Point of Impact - PS2 - Review

A little more than a year ago, Acclaim released what is arguably one of the most exhilarating racing games ever made: Burnout.  Using big, traffic-filled city streets and The Fast and the Furious-style cars, Burnout quickly raced its way into many gamers' stockings.  Never before had a game made you feel as though you were really engaged in a street race.

Not one to wait a while to release a sequel to a successful game, Acclaim immediately hired Burnout's developer (Criterion Games) to work on the next title in the series.  Thanks to Acclaim's smart business move, Burnout 2: Point of Impact has arrived in plenty of time for the Christmas shopping season, and is bigger, faster and [nearly] better than the original.

A few changes have been made, starting with the vehicles.  The simple rating system from the first game has been replaced with a better, more standard system that rates the vehicles' speed, control and acceleration.  There is a wider variety of vehicle types, too -- from a classic, '57 Chevy-style vehicle and a modern, American flag-painted sports car, to a speedy cop car and several unlicensed knock-offs, Burnout 2 has something for everyone.  Most of these vehicles have different coats of paint that appropriately match its model type (the '57 Chevy has a nice color palette of light or dark blue, white, gray, pink and black), but some, like the police car and the NASCAR racer, have one default color that cannot be changed.

The game begins with only a few vehicles -- the rest must be unlocked by winning first place in all of the races.  You can beat the game just by winning a trophy from every circuit, but your opponents' vehicles are always improving, and if you don't have a speedy new ride to compete with, then you may not be able to finish the later races.  Of course, most experienced gamers will be able to unlock the NASCAR racer very quickly, and considering how high its stats are, that's really the only car you need to finish the game.

In addition to the one-on-one and circuit races in the Championship mode, there are new Pursuit races where you play as a cop and try to stop a speeding criminal from getting away.  The object is to ram the police car into your opponent until his health meter has fully depleted.  Upon completing a Pursuit race, a new Pursuit mode will be unlocked on the main menu.  Then you and a friend can plug in an extra controller and play game of cat and mouse -- one player is the cop, the other is the criminal!

The Pursuit mode is a nice addition, but the majority of Burnout 2's fun lies within the standard, single-player races.  The first game was fast, but this one is even faster.  The controls are tighter than before, giving you the ability to "nearly miss" oncoming cars and crash a lot less.  A near miss occurs when you drive really close to another vehicle (anyone but an opponent) and pass it without making physical contact.  This is the main way to increase your Burn Meter (Burnout's lengthy version of a turbo boost), but you can also fill it up by jumping, drifting and driving on the wrong side of the road.

Burnout 2's roads are filled with tons of vehicles of all sizes, including several hazardous semis.  Crash into a semi and you could cause a lot of damage -- possibly even trap your opponents and stop them from getting ahead!  Despite the increased amount of traffic, Burnout 2 is actually easier than the original.  This is mainly due to the controls, which are extremely tight, and the increased speed.  I've cruised pass several busy intersections without receiving a scratch.  In the first game, I had to time it just right or face a serious accident.  I love the challenge of the first game, but I also love the improved controls of the sequel.  My advice?  Make the computer-controlled opponents even tougher in Burnout 3.

The crashes are more realistic, too, though not as intense or as cinematic.  Every collision sends a farrago of body parts into the air (the car's body parts -- this isn't Mortal Kombat!), complete with some of the most impressive particle effects that I have ever seen.  Smoke is used in a higher abundance this time around, and it enhances the crash effects more than you'd expect.  The best part is seeing the result of each crash: the crunched metal, the totaled vehicles and the tires that continue rolling, even after the vehicles have stopped moving.

With all of these improvements, you might be wondering why Burnout 2 is only  "nearly better" than the original.  The reason is because of the few things that were taken away.  Burnout 2 improves on the gameplay, but eliminates the awesome Crash Replay Theater.  Without a replay mode that allows you to change the camera angle, the replays aren't much fun to watch more than once.  Part of the fun of the first game was watching all of the cool crashes from multiple angles.  While this keeps Burnout 2 from being an entirely superior sequel, it is still a really, really good game.

Now let's sing a variation of Reel Big Fish's classic tune, "Sell Out."

Burnout -- with me oh yeah.  Burnout -- with me tonight.  The insurance company's gonna give me lots of money and everything's gonna be...alright.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.5
As with the first game, Burnout 2 delivers an exciting experience that'll satisfy your needs for a fast and furious racer.

Graphics: 8.9 
The most obvious graphical enhancements are the lighting, which is stunning at times (especially when the sun covers your vehicle), and the textures, which are much more realistic.  With crashes this beautiful, who in their right mind would want to drive safely?

Sound: 6.9
The rock intro is great, but the rest of the music is a usual, repetitive mix of techno and rock beats.  The sound effects are pretty repetitive too -- revving engines, skidding tires and the sound that a car makes when it slams into a slower moving object.

Difficulty: Medium
This is a great example of a racing game that has an intermediate difficulty.  It's almost too easy at times for me, an experienced gamer; and it'll probably be too tough at times for new players.

Concept: 6.5 
Burnout 2: Point of Impact is a terrific game, but it doesn't feature many new things.  In fact, it does less.  The loss of the Crash Replay Theater is extremely disappointing to me.  You can't improve a game and make a superior sequel if you're going to eliminate one or more of the original game's coolest features.

Multiplayer: 7
For a two-player game, Burnout 2: Point of Impact is fun and all...but why isn't there a four-player mode?  This sort of thing was tolerable for the first game, but this is a sequel, and sequels are supposed to move forward.  I was hoping that Burnout 2 would be a great excuse to get a multitap, but without a four-player mode, you don't even need one.

Overall: 8.5
Longer generally = better.  That is definitely the case with Burnout 2: Point of Impact.  Burnout 2's Championship mode is longer than the one in the first game, and when you beat it, a new, Custom Series Championship mode is unlocked!  There aren't really 30 different tracks though, just several variations, so don't be fooled by what it says on the box.  It's still longer than the first game, and is better and more exciting than most of the other racers out there.  So when you're chilling out in the cold this winter, pick up Burnout 2, grab some hot chocolate and have yourself a gaming treat that'll make you warm (sweat) with intensity.


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