Burnout Crash (demo impressions)

The Burnout series is an interesting beast; there is no argument that developers Criterion have taken the series from strength to strength adding features and new concepts, embracing the changing face of gaming along the way. However, sometimes less is more and as much as the latest titles may be lauded by gamers there are often equal numbers of people that miss the simplicity of the original games.

Consider Burnout2, back in the days of the PS2 and original Xbox. The game had balls, it was a challenging racer, driving around excellent tracks against well programmed AI, the soundtrack was pumping, the graphics were crisp and the crash mechanics were second to none.  This was a game you played until you finished it, unlocking faster cars leading to bigger and better races, and you could even watch the replay of your glorious last race in full. I remember reliving the moment I won a race after taking a ramp and jumping over the two cars in front, those were the days – if only the PS2 had been online and youtube existed.

It was also my first experience with Burnout and Crash Junctions. An unlockable series of traffic intersections set up with the sole intention of barrelling into the traffic at ridiculous speeds and cause as much mayhem as possible in the resulting chaos. Make no mistake, it was awesome.

The mode was simple and addictive, no gadgets, no bonuses, no aftertouch, just physics and gravity. So when later games started introducing  ‘crashbreakers’ and extra post impact control they took some of the magic away.

This brings me to the recent Burnout Crash – an XBLA title that offers nothing but the crashing. When I first heard of it I was excited, hoping to relieve some of that PS2 glory, but things had changed. The game had switched to a fixed overhead view, Kinect controls were mooted and there would be Autolog connectivity.

The changes had me worried, but it could still work, so I grabbed the demo on day one eagerly anticipating an immediate spend of MS Points.

The short story is, ‘it just doesn’t cut the mustard’. The game is designed to keep you crashing for as long as possible on a single screen, perhaps trying to be a dynamic puzzle it really does not deserve to sully the memory of Burnout and its original crash games. The demo offers a fairly slow vehicle to trundle into the junction, but even the promise of better and more dangerous vehicles doesn’t push me over the edge. The classic game was about impact, momentum, physics and luck.

This game takes an entirely different direction, crash and cause a pile up, then subsequent vehicles hitting your wrecks will increase your crash meter. When the meter is full you can re-explode your vehicle causing more mayhem and allowing some movement as you control the wreck in flight. Rinse and repeat as long as you can keep vehicles from escaping, there are some power-ups and specials to aim for, with a level ending on a generally cataclysmic note.

It begins to feel dull and offers none of the ‘one more go’ thrill that the original games did.

The Kinect controls are there, but nothing to shout about and the Autolog system that was so addictive in Need for Speed Hot Pursuit won’t keep the interest, because you know the players won’t keep coming back.

Hot or Not?

So, as a demo impression – it’s a thumbs down from me, I sadly won’t be shelling out the points. Now I’m off to find a PS2 and Burnout2.