Whether you call it a spin-off, an offshoot, or a lighthearted detour, Burnout Crash probably wasn't the game most fans of the series were expecting when it was announced back in July. But even though this is a downloadable game with Kinect support and a decidedly outlandish sense of humor, you don't have to work too hard to find the ties that link back to previous games in the series. In fact, the biggest one is right there in the title: Crash.
This latest game from Criterion is focused entirely on the Crash mode from previous entries in the series. If your memory needs some refreshing, Crash mode was the feature that asked you to take your fancy new car and throw it into an intersection with reckless abandon as you smashed into other cars for points. The goal was to keep the mayhem going for as long as possible, cause as much damage as you could, and try to beat your high score. No racing, no tracks: just an intersection and a hefty insurance bill.
Burnout Crash takes this foundation and applies it to a few different game modes: Road Trip, Rush Hour, and Pile-Up. We covered Road Trip and Rush Hour in our previous look at Burnout Crash, so let's instead focus on Pile-Up. This mode is interesting because it's a sort of 180 compared to those other modes. You're still driving your car into an intersection and bouncing around between cars to cause damage, but there's some restraint and a different style of strategy required to rack up the most points.
Pile-Up basically asks you to fill up a damage meter by crashing into cars and buildings, and once that meter is full, you trigger what's called the "inferno" finale. When you achieve inferno status, your car more or less turns into a flaming pinball that you use to light objects around you on fire. Once you run out of cars and buildings to set ablaze, the round is over. So the strategy in the early part of a round is to pile up (get it?) as many cars as you can without fully destroying them and then use them as firewood once you've achieved inferno status. It's a very odd turnabout from the other modes, where you're just frantically trying to destroy as much stuff as you can as quickly as you can manage. Hopefully this mode makes for some nice variety in the overall package.
Another new mode is a Kinect-based variation of Rush Hour. Those other game modes support the Kinect, but this is the only one that requires it. Basically, you get a few people together and divide yourselves into teams. You then take turns causing as much destruction as you can within a 90-second window over a period of rounds. The twist is that the "after touch" explosion you rely on so heavily to bounce around the street is triggered with a goofy motion gesture, including a karate kick or squatting like a chicken. This Kinect party mode is definitely a silly variation of the core Burnout Crash gameplay, and it's one Criterion admits is designed more for social get-togethers than hardcore players.
The whole game comes with an Autolog score-tracking system similar to the one used in Criterion's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, so if you're into competitive high-scoring (which Criterion recommends using a controller for instead of the Kinect), you'll find an entire suite of notifications and scoreboards designed to let you know when a friend has topped your high score and which challenges the game recommends for you to take on. You'll be able to do that for yourself when Burnout Crash is released on September 20 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, at a price of $10.