Burnout 3 E3 2004 Preshow Hands-On Impressions

One of our early favorites among EA's E3 lineup is the insanely fast sequel to the great 2002 racing game. We practically scorched our fingers playing this thing.

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Burnout 3: Takedown
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Pretty much the only people who could count themselves as not being fans of 2002's Burnout 2: Point of Impact are people who never actually played it. This racing game let you fulfill your most primal racing urges--going against the flow of traffic and recklessly endangering yourself and others around every bend. The game's breathtaking sense of speed and insanely realistic crash physics contributed to what was the single greatest racing experience of that year. As such, the news of a third installment in the series was very exciting indeed. It must have been for some smart folks over at Electronic Arts, anyway, since the megapublisher snatched up the rights to publish developer Criterion Studios' next big thing. We actually got a chance to play a late-alpha version of Burnout 3 at an Electronic Arts pre-E3 event, and we came away more excited than ever about this new game.

Granted, Burnout 3 isn't going to be a major departure from its predecessor--but we're pretty sure that's going to be a good thing. In the previous game, you earned boost by near-misses with other vehicles. That's true here, too, but the game's big, new feature is that it rewards you for takedowns. Cause an opponent's vehicle to spiral out of control and get into a huge wreck, and you max out your boost meter entirely and can press the advantage. This dynamic causes Burnout 3 to be an even more aggressively oriented driving game than the previous one, if that's even possible.

The game already looks gorgeous running on the latest version of Criterion's proprietary RenderWare engine, best known for its appearances in the Grand Theft Auto games. The frame rate is perfectly smooth, the resolution is sharp, and the action is blisteringly fast. The game will feature about 40 different tracks and about 70 different drivable vehicles, which, like in Burnout 2, will not carry real-world licenses--but they look really slick, anyway.

The crashes are as spectacular as ever. All that's missing are full-on explosions and drivers flying through the windshields. Burnout 2's popular crash mode, in which the goal is to cause a horrific pileup, will of course be back, and it promises to be even more fleshed out than in that game. The controls here are simple and extremely responsive--this is the definition of arcade racing. We had no trouble getting up to speed, pun intended, though it's hard to keep from crashing horribly into something before long. Fortunately you just pop right back onto the track moments after the scene of the accident. Just like real life.

Judging by what we've played so far, we're quite convinced that Burnout 3 is going to be just the sort of game that Burnout 2 fans are hoping it will be when it ships this fall. We can't wait to play more, and EA reps told us to expect to get to play its multiplayer mode on the show floor at E3. It'll be great to introduce some of the show-goers to oncoming traffic. In the game, we mean in the game.

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