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Burnout 3 Q&A

We get the lowdown on the development of the third game in this brutally crash-focused racing series.


The third installment in the popular Burnout crash-racing franchise, aptly titled Burnout 3, is now in development at UK-based Criterion Games. The new game will place an increased emphasis on reckless driving, as you can literally use your own car as a weapon to neutralize your opponents or to simply cause traffic pandemonium. In light of the recent announcement that Electronic Arts will publish Burnout 3, we spoke to Alex Ward, creative manager at Criterion, about how the game's development is proceeding.

GameSpot: How long has the game been in development?

Burnout 3 will emphasize crashing even more than in previous installments.
Burnout 3 will emphasize crashing even more than in previous installments.

Alex Ward: Work began formally on Burnout 3 right after the close of E3 2003. Originally, we were going to save the title for the next generation of hardware systems. But we came away from E3 with so many requests to do the game that we decided to do it straightaway. There didn't seem to be too many new driving games at the show. Only Need for Speed Underground really caught our eye.

GS: Who is working on it?

AW: The core development team here at Criterion Games Limited in Guildford, UK, is the same core Burnout team that developed the previous two versions of the game. But this time the team is much bigger because the game this time is also much bigger.

GS: How are you approaching the third entry in the series?

AW: The bar is always getting raised, so we're always out to push ourselves harder than ever before. We were all really happy with what we did in the second game, but there are always new elements to improve on. We pushed the PS2 pretty hard last time, but after a good look inside [the hardware], we've found a whole heap of new ways to increase performance, so you'll see that all over the place. The worlds are much more detailed than ever before, the cars look way better than ever before, the environment mapping on the cars is incredible, and the crashes have gone in a new direction, just like pretty much the whole experience.

The first time around was all about racing on the busy streets. The game was very tough, so it was very hardcore--very driven by all of the influences from the old Sega driving games. Tough but enjoyable.

The second game was a refinement of the first. Still very pure but very accessible. We made sure everyone knew how to play the game from the start. It was all about being able to chain the boost all the way around the course. And just when you think you've mastered that, then there's crash mode.

Believable traffic is the key to making Burnout 3's gameplay work.
Believable traffic is the key to making Burnout 3's gameplay work.

For the third game, well, we decided from day one that network play was very important. We wanted to deliver a solid Burnout experience online. And the key here was traffic. No other online racing game was featuring traffic, because it's tough to do online. There can be all sorts of problems. So we spent a lot of time at the start working out how to handle this because Burnout has always been about racing in traffic. And looking closely at online play helped give us a new direction. We all know that people like to misbehave online, and we didn't want the offline and online play experiences to be different. I could be chaining a burnout around the track and then see three guys blocking the road ahead just trying to mess it up for me. So we began thinking about making the game much more aggressive.

So in Burnout 3, it's not about racing through traffic anymore. It's about fighting through the traffic. It's a lowdown dirty race to the finish line, and you'll be rewarded in both boost and points for ramming your opponents off the road. So the race is not so much about taking a beautiful racing line, but it's more like a bareknuckle fistfight. We knew this is what people would be doing all the time online, so we thought we may as well get everyone ready for that in the offline game. You have to take first place and win by any means necessary. Pushing, shoving, ramming, shunting. In most other games that would be bad. In Burnout 3, we want you to do that. You'll have to just to survive.

GS: What do you feel needs to be added?

AW: We always get letters asking us to show the driver going through the windscreen (windshield), but somehow I don't think we'll be doing that.

GS: What do you feel needs to be cut?

Speed demons will drive unfettered in Burnout 3, since police vehicles have been removed.
Speed demons will drive unfettered in Burnout 3, since police vehicles have been removed.

AW: I can tell you that we've cut the police vehicles from the new game. Burnout is all about danger, risk and reward, and driving like a maniac on the wrong side of the road, so we felt driving a police car didn't fit so well. The game is all about speeding, and as we know from real life, it's better to do this when there are no cops around!

GS: What do you think is the source of the franchise's appeal?

AW: People like speed, and people like spectacular car crashes. It's probably between those two--and maybe the arcade-style nature of the game. Burnout has always been a "pick-up-and-play" title. Most of the driving games these days seem to come down firmly on the simulation side of the fence, whereas we're right on the other side.

GS: What can you tell us about the game's online functionality?

AW: All of the game modes are playable both online and offline. That includes the crash mode. There is no difference between the offline race and the online race. It's a six-player race, and all of the traffic is in there.

GS: What graphics engine will it be using? An entirely new one or a tweaked version of the existing one?

AW: It's all new. I've been reading some of the early reaction to a few screens that have appeared on the Internet, and some people seem to think that the last game looks better. Well, I think they may well change their minds when the see the game running for themselves. Burnout 3 blows Burnout 2 clean out of the water.

GS: How are you enhancing the AI in this installment?

AW: Well, for starters, there are now five other racers against you, which makes for a more exciting battle than ever before. Our AI has always been pretty clever (most other games struggle to make their AI drive around an empty course, let alone one littered with traffic that reacts to what the player is doing), and this time around it's better than ever, and it's out to give you the race of your life.

GS: How are you enhancing the crash experience?

The team is styling the car crashes after what you'd see in an action movie.
The team is styling the car crashes after what you'd see in an action movie.

AW: I can't talk about crash mode right now, but I can speak about how we're doing crashes overall. We've spent a long, long time looking at ways to improve the car crashes. Our goal is to show the crashes just like they would be done in a movie. So we've rewritten our camera systems, our particle systems, and our deformation systems. This time you can really wreck the car. Doors fly open, hoods and trunks come open, and the car will twist and tear like you've never seen. Want to rip the front end of the vehicle clean off? Now you can. We've also looked at a load of movie sequences, and we'll only be happy when what you see on your screen matches what you would see on the "big screen."

GS: What will change in the single-player experience this time out?

AW: I won't say too much other than that the single-player game is much bigger and much deeper--at least a third bigger than Burnout 2 in its entirety--and that's not including crash mode. There are some new race modes, which offer a wider variety of races, other than the GPs and face-offs we have done before, and the overall game structure is a lot less linear than we have done before.

GS: Thanks for your time.

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