reviews\ Jun 13, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Burnout - XB - Review

Less than thirty seconds after playing Burnout, you'll know exactly what kind of game this is going to be -- a fast and furious street racer that's worth every racing fan's money.  Wherever you go, there's a slow-moving vehicle just waiting for you to crash into it.  Avoidance is the key to success in Burnout.  Avoid oncoming traffic, avoid running red lights (unless you can do so safely), and avoid every building!  You also have to worry about rear-ending semis, vans and other slow-moving vehicles.  The only cars you can hit without causing a major wreck are your opponents.  They usually drive pretty fast, so hitting them will not harm your vehicle.

Speed is an integral part of this game.  As your vehicle's speed increases, your chances of winning do as well.  The first few races aren't that difficult, but every race after that is very challenging.  No matter what you do, your opponents will always start out in first place.  Fortunately, their ability to drive fast and avoid crashing into another vehicle is not that good.  The guy in first place is less prone to crashing, but the second and third racers won't hold their respective places for long.

The best thing to do in this situation is to speed up and ram them from the side.  Chances are they'll slow down just enough to let you pass them, but if they're being persistent, continue ramming them (into a wall if possible).  When you see another car, trap your opponent in the lane with the other vehicle and force him into it!  At times, this strategy will backfire and either you'll both crash or you'll crash and your opponent will get away safely.  Believe it or not, this is a good thing.  Part of the fun of this game is watching your vehicle slam into cars that got in your way.  The crashes are really impressive.

There appears to be no end to the possibilities that Burnout has for new crashes.  Hit a semi in a wide-open area and it may spin around in circles, hitting other vehicles in the vicinity.  If your opponents are close behind, they may decide to join in on the fun and hit a car or two (unintentionally, of course).  99 times out of a hundred, you crash because you made a mistake, not because the computer is being cheap.  I was angrier with myself for losing than I was with the game.  These crashes, although frustrating at times, make the times you don't crash a lot more exciting.  I sighed more than a dozen breaths of relief in the first circuit alone.

Each crash triggers one of several different camera angles that [usually] best represent the particular crash.  There are too many to list them all, but one of my favorite angles is the one that is directly in front of your vehicle.  As the vehicle crashes into a building or a wall, the camera will quickly switch views to enhance the experience.  In this case, the vehicle drives toward you, as if it were crashing into the screen.  In the crash replay mode, you can slow down the crash and zoom in close to see all of the detail.  Tiny pieces of metal are ripped from your vehicle, while the windows crack and/or shatter (depending on the extent of the crash).  The bodies of every vehicle involved in the crash are dented, crumpled and completely totaled.  Most of these effects have been seen in other games -- that's not what makes Burnout so impressive.

The physics, however, are far superior to every other console or PC game, and the dramatic camera angles made the crashes even more exciting.  The only downside (why does there ALWAYS have to be a downside?) is that you can't move the camera all the way around your vehicle if you crash near a building or anything else that might obstruct your view.  The camera is blocked by the building, so it can only be moved a small amount.  This may not sound like a problem, but a lot of great crashes are ruined because of it.  I want to be able to view every crash from every angle, but I can't.

Burnout is a mostly realistic game, so you won't find any weapons or power-ups anywhere in the game.  There is a Burn Meter though.  The meter is empty at the start of each race, so you'll have to perform a few Crazy Taxi-style moves to fill it.  One such move is power-sliding (referred to as "Drift" in this game).  The longer you hold the drift, the faster the meter will fill up.  Another, less difficult (but equally dangerous) move is the Near Miss, which occurs when you drive past another vehicle so closely that you "nearly" miss them.  Actually, that doesn't make any sense, since you are not hitting the other vehicle!  If I said that I nearly missed running into a tree, that would imply that I hit it.  Confused?  Think of a Near Miss as Burnout's version of a Crazy Through.  Lastly, there's the oncoming traffic distance.  How long can you drive on the wrong side of the road without crashing?

Once the Burn Meter is full, press and hold the X button to unleash an amazing boost of speed.  You won't just go faster in the game; you'll actually feel it.  The whole screen stretches a little, similar to the effects used in racing movies.  If you have a straight path, hit the Burn button and don't let go.  Just kick back and enjoy these few thrill-packed seconds.  It's the closest thing you will ever get to playing a video game that captures the essence of The Fast and the Furious.

You will not believe how exciting this game is.  Burnout features the kind of on-the-edge-of-your-seat action that made movies like Speed a success.  I am still on the edge of my seat and I'm not even playing it right now.  When you drive between two cars, when you swerve past a bus and when you avoid a head-on collision by an inch in any other game, it's exciting.  But when you do all of those things in Burnout, it will leave you breathless.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.5
I have never played a game before that made me look forward to crashing.  Whether you win or lose, Burnout is non-stop fun.

Graphics: 8.5
The Xbox's true power is not used to enhance this PS2-port, but it still looks great.  The framerate never, ever drops!  No matter how fast you go, Burnout moves at a smooth, incredibly fast pace.

Sound: 6
There's nothing special about the sound, but the music isn't annoying, so it deserves a 6.

Difficulty: Medium
Burnout is one of the most challenging racing games around.  It's fairly short, but there is a lot to do, and it's rare that you win a circuit on the first try.  The replay value is somewhere in between good and great, so you'll definitely want to beat this game a second time.

Concept: 6.5 
Burnout's concept is great, but Konami released an arcade game just like it four years ago.  Burnout will be an all-new experience for most American gamers, since the other game was only released in Japan.  If you want to play the game that inspired Burnout, head on over to the Lava Room at the Star Theatre in Southfield, MI.  The Lava Room has a lot of imported arcade games, so I highly recommend that you check it out if you live or vacation in the area.

Multiplayer: 8
There isn't a four-player mode in Burnout, and you can't hook it up to multiple Xboxes for a LAN (local area network) game.  But there's an exception to everything, and in this rare case, the two-player mode is enough.  It's really fast and really exciting.  Close matches are the best, especially when you're speeding down a two-lane highway and a car is coming right at you!  One of you will be hit -- the other will win the race.  There are dozens of intense moments like these in Burnout.

Overall: 8.5
Burnout gets my vote for Xbox Game of the Month.  Play it as soon as you can.


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