Crash 'N' Burn plays decently, but it will leave fans of high-impact arcade racing wondering where the rest of the game is.
- Persistent wrecks are a great idea
- Attractive car models with great customization options.
- Frame rate takes a hit when things get busy
- Sound is pretty unremarkable.
Crash 'N' Burn has as straightforward an approach as you're likely to find in any game this year. It goes like this: Racing is good, crashing is better, and burning... Well, burning is just sweet. While the game has some fun packed into it, there isn't enough to really distinguish it from other titles in the genre.
Let's get the inevitable comparisons to Burnout 3: Takedown, the game Crash 'N' Burn will most likely be compared to, out of the way early. As in BO3, the premise of Crash 'N' Burn is to win races that are run mainly through city-street circuits. Like BO3, the game's arcade controls and easy handling combine to make for an immediate pick-up-and-play experience, complete with simple steering, gas, brake, and turbo control options. Finally, as the game's title suggests, racing in Crash 'N' Burn means you can expect to crash (and burn) a lot, which is another feature found in BO3.
Where Burnout 3 focuses on the sheer visceral thrill (and, in many cases, the sublime beauty) of destroying cars, Crash 'N' Burn's approach focuses more on the consequences of these steel-bending automobile mashups. A race begins with 16 cars on the circuit, including your own. This same number of cars will be on the track when the race ends, whether each one is actually running or not. Throughout the contest, you'll be trading paint with your competitors, who are all intent on beating you to the finish line by any means necessary. Any car that breaks down or explodes is left on the track as either a flaming mass of metal or a simple obstacle to be avoided. Your job is to not only win the race, but also keep your car "alive" in doing so. Each bash, bump, and scrape your car suffers, and each fiery stretch of tarmac you speed through, deals damage to your car. If your car suffers too much damage, you'll find yourself out of a race before it even ends. By the final lap of a race in Crash 'N' Burn, you'll be dodging not only the carcasses of abandoned cars that litter the course, but also any surviving members of your opposition as well.
The game's tracks are typically both short and pretty simplistic, and they are located in a number of fictional re-creations of real-world locales, such as Miami, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. As the flaming wrecks pile up, and as the oil slicks are laid out, the added complexity introduced by these ever-changing course conditions initially makes for some compelling gaming. Some courses also feature live intersections that you must cross twice per lap, adding additional layers of danger to a race. Even on a simple track, such as the Las Vegas oval, no two races ever end exactly the same way. In addition, Crash 'N' Burn features some interesting race variations, including kamikaze race, where half the cars head in one direction on the track while the other half head in the opposite direction. The first lap ends up looking more like the result of a crash-up derby rather than a street race, so it's definitely worth a laugh or two. Other race modes include last man standing, bomb tag, and running man.
As you progress in the game, however, you'll find the complexity introduced by these persistent wrecks lends itself more to a feeling of frustration rather than real challenge. Some of the later unlockable tracks, such as Detroit, feature some extremely narrow stretches of road. In a kamikaze race, it's exactly these thin sections of a track where the majority of cars meet, oftentimes resulting in 16-car collisions...and no room to avoid participating in the pileup. Instead, you are reduced to bulldozing the car in front of you, while watching sparks and fenders fly, in hopes that you can quickly sort yourself out of the auto melee. The game's insipid artificial intelligence-controlled cars seem basically unable to avoid crashing, so you'll often find yourself as one of only five or fewer cars to even finish a race. About the only way to consistently find success in the game is to hope you find a lane early in the race and then get out in front of the pack. Suffer a traffic-snarling crash, even during the first or second lap, and you may find yourself too far back to ever hope to win. Instead, it's easier to simply restart the race and hope for a better start off the line.