Burnout 3 Takedown
Developer: Criterion
Publisher: EA Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-8 and network play
Words By:

The first Burnout was a tough game. There weren’t many ways of filling your boost bar, and if you crashed you lost it all. You really were on the edge of your seat in every race, as one little mistake meant the difference between finishing first or not finishing at all. The game did suffer from some dodgy collision detection though, and even a minor scrape could end the race for you.

Then along came Burnout 2: Point of Impact. It was improved in almost every way over the original; there was a new, improved, boost system, and the new crash modes. The collision detection was vastly improved, and there weren’t many times where you felt that you crashed without a good reason. Speaking of crashes; Burnout 2 liked to give every single crash its own mini-replay, which got on your nerves pretty quickly.

Enter Burnout 3; the series is back, and is faster and louder than ever. There’s a bit of a twist though; it’s no longer focused on how well you can drive, rather how good you are at crashing, and taking out opponents. Burnout 3 (as the title suggests) introduces “takedowns”. Basically your boost bar is extended (up to three times) and filled completely for ramming opponents off the road in various ways. The boost bar itself is simplified as well. In previous games, you had to have a full boost bar to be able to use it, now you can use it any time you want as long as you have some left. The game is now on the opposite end of the spectrum with crashes; there are now times where you actually feel you should have crashed but didn’t, although I’m sure a lot of people will think this is an improvement.

Combine this oversimplification of the use of boost with the fact that there are no longer timed checkpoints, and you have a very easy game. Most times you don’t even have to drive on the wrong side of the road to keep on boosting. If you crash you can now get ”aftertouch takedowns”. By holding the “boost” button during a crash, it goes into slow-motion and you get slight control over your wreck; if you manage to takedown a rival with this it means that you’ll start with a full boost bar when your car is reset, which obviously makes it easier to catch up. However, this doesn’t make Burnout 3 a bad game; far from it. For starters, it’s at least four times bigger than previous games. With over 170 events, it should take you at least 20 hours to unlock everything in the game.

The main mode of the game is the “Burnout 3 World Tour” and in there, everything is spread out over three continents; USA, Europe, and Asia. On each continent there are two different symbols on the maps; one designates crash events, and the other races (and I use that term loosely). While crash mode isn’t separate anymore, it will automatically take you onto the next crash if that’s what you were playing, or the next race if you just finished a race. If you wanted to, you could probably do all 100 crash events without even touching the “race” part of the game. Although you’ll probably want to mix things up to keep it fresh.

As with all parts of the game, crash mode has changed quite a lot since Burnout 2. In Burnout 2 the crash mode just consisted of you going as fast as you can into a junction and hitting the biggest thing you see. There are now lots of different “power-ups” to collect which will significantly affect the outcome of your crash. There are multipliers; if you want to get gold or make the headlines, you need to get these. Then there are “Heartbreakers” which you really want to avoid. If you collect one, there isn’t really even any point in watching the results of your crash as your score will end up so low, because it halves your total and wipes off any multipliers gained. The most significant is probably the “Crashbreaker” though; essentially it’s a bomb that goes off inside your car. After creating a certain amount of crashes you get to use one with the R2 button, but some levels have additional ones you can activate by hitting them. All of these additions are an improvement to the old crash mode, and make it even more enjoyable, more varied and much less repetitive.

The race modes are a lot of fun. Unlike most racing games though, they encourage “bad” or “dirty” driving, and as much fun as this is when it comes off for you, this is what will put a lot of people off Burnout 3. With the introduction of “takedowns” you are encouraged to do as much as you possibly can to take out the other racers. Ramming into, scraping against, and shunting is encouraged with point bonuses, and if you manage to take them out, you get a load of boost as well. Racing is incredibly fast, so fast in fact, that you will spend a good amount of time crashing at the start of the game until you get used to it. (And you will get used to it after a while).

It’s almost like Criterion wanted you to crash a lot, because not only do you have the speed to deal with, but the other drivers are very aggressive, and they seemed to think it would be a good idea to blind you with specular effects and lens flares. For those of you that don’t know, the specular effects here are basically the reflection of the sun off the road, and as most tracks are in the midday sun, there are quite a few points where you can’t even see oncoming traffic, and just have to hope you picked the right lane to drive on. Following the lines on the road marking out the lanes helps a lot here, but sometimes even they get lost in the glare.

The “racing” is nice and varied though; rather than them all just being standard races (with crashing thrown in) there are “Eliminator” races, where the person in last place is eliminated from the race at the end of each lap; “Special Events” where you get to try out some other cars; “Grand Prix” races which see you competing on three stages to try and win a mini-series; “Face-Offs” where it’s just you and a competitor in a faster car and if you manage to beat them, you win their vehicle; “Road Rages” where you have to try and get as many takedowns as you can in a certain amount of time (or before your car is totalled) and “Burning Laps” which are my favourite. Burning laps (the game also calls them “Preview Laps” for some reason) give you one of the fastest cars in the game, with a fairly strict time limit. You can only really beat a burning lap if you hold down the boost button for the entire race, and don’t crash at all. Sadly there aren’t many of these in the game, as they were by far the best stages in my opinion.

As you can see, there is a lot to keep you occupied here, and there should be enough variety to stop it feeling too repetitive. A nice thing they have done is that you are always unlocking things; I can barely remember when I last finished a race and didn’t win anything for it. Something I did find a bit strange though was that you often unlock better cars for a class you don’t even have yet. By the time I was into the Sports, and Super Cars, I had already unlocked some of the best cars in the class.

Another annoyance with the game is that the takedown system, although fun, doesn’t always work right. Sometimes it won’t give me the takedown, instead it gives me an “extreme escape” bonus, sometimes it doesn’t make your car invincible for a second like it would normally, so taking down an opponent results in immediately getting taken down yourself by his wreck, and getting a “takedown avenged” message, which isn’t fun. And sometimes if you ram a rival into another, and take them both down, you will only get one takedown for it; I can kind-of see why this is, but I feel that you should be getting the points (and boost) for both.

Multiplayer is great fun, and there are some interesting modes in there. I don’t want to repeat what has already been said in the Xbox review, as it’s identical. Something I should point out though, is that I didn’t have any problems with the game online at all. It seems that the problems online are only with the Xbox version of the game.

Sound-wise, the game is great. Crashes sound impressive, and Dolby Pro-Logic II does a fairly decent job, although separation could be a bit clearer on the rear channels. Gear changes sound excellent, as do some of the engine noises. The music isn’t to my taste at all, and the DJ is annoying, but these are pretty minor. There’s not really anything I can fault the game for aurally otherwise.

Visually the game is jaw-dropping. It is, without a doubt, the best looking racer on the PS2. It’s hard to believe that this level of graphics is possible on the PS2 really, especially when running at 60 frames-per-second for the most part. The sense of speed is incredible, especially with the blur effects they use. Specular effects on the road look superb, (if annoying) there are good looking reflections on the vehicles, and a fair bit of detail in the scenery (although you’re usually going too fast to notice it).

Crashes are where the game really shines though; the amount of particles flying around, the deformations of the vehicles, and the smoke effects all going on at once are unbelievable. Sadly the game is let down with some occasional framerate issues. They’re pretty rare, and it doesn’t really happen until quite a bit into the game, but when it does slow down it’s absolutely horrific. It’s not a problem in the crash modes really, but it’s a real pain in the races. Fortunately with the game being so easy, it’s not race-ending, but it’s not much fun either.

The Burnout series has probably improved and changed more than any other game series has in recent years, and Burnout 3 is definitely worth purchasing. It may not be much of a “racer” anymore, but it sure as hell is good fun.

Best Bits

- The speed!
- You’re always unlocking stuff.
- It looks stunning.
Worst Bits

- Not enough “proper” racing for some.
- It’s a bit too easy (although it is long).
- No race replays.

by: AndrewFee

Copyright © Gamecell 2004