Burnout: Crash is a rip-roaring, long-overdue return to what Burnout does best: crashing cars for sport.
Burnout: Crash is a top-down puzzle game where you're job is to crash cars to earn points. Set in the unfortunately named Crash City (seriously, who thought that was a good idea?), you travel across its many districts, taking down unsuspecting automobiles wherever you go. It's a faithful recreation of the original mode and a natural next step, bringing the series in an unexpected new and welcome direction.
Upon starting, the game gives you a quick run-down of the how the basics through a tutorial video. To sum it up, you direct your car in to the first moving vehicle you see, then wait for the crashbreaker to fill so that you can both send immobilized automotives flying and ignite them to spark a chain-reaction of detonations. All the while, you can continue to control your car through the power of aftertouch, which allows you to move toward more traffic following a crashbreaker. All of this is viewed from a top-down perspective, granting you the perfect window to watch the mayhem unfold from. And when I say mayhem, I do mean mayhem.
Creating large-scale car pile ups isn't all that Burnout: Crash is about. It's about bending the elements to your will. That's a bit of an over-dramatization, but its the truth. Natural disasters and supernatural entities cap off each crashing session, stomping through the junctions to raze the scenery into a wasteland, appropriate apocalyptic music playing during their brief spat of destruction. To summon these forces of nature, you need to crash the specified number of vehicles shown in the upper-left corner of the screen, your progress indicated by an arrowed bar that fills with each act of ruin.
In fact, just about everything you do is accompanied by some over-the-top event or musical chime. Cause a massive chain-reaction of explosions, leveling an entire section of the map, and a quick chant of hallelujah will play. Freeze all the traffic-goers on-screen and you'll get a quick passage of "Ice, Ice, Baby" accompanying the sudden tundra. It's these oddball actions that define Burnout: Crash and give it character. The series has never been one to take itself seriously to begin with, but Crash does away with it entirely.
This is its greatest advantage. The sheer absurdity of Burnout: Crash is a huge part in what makes it such a pleasure to play. It's use of licensed music to compound the ludicrous actions that play out before you is novel and makes some hysterical results. Car accidents may be horrifying occurrences in reality, but in the fictionalized world of Burnout, its a comical, uproarious activity. The goofy way its all presented is partly responsible, but more than that, it's just because orchestrating large-scale road-side disasters is so much fun. Pulling off a carefully structured plan successfully after so many failed attempts, finally learning the optimal plan of attack and launching an extravagant parade of destruction, is immensely gratifying. It taps into that train-wreak fascination we all have and indulges it splendidly.
Burnout: Crash gives three modes to wreak carnage in: Road Trip, Rush Hour, and Pile Up. The main mode, Road Trip, sees you crashing cars for a good three or four minutes, keeping the pile up growing and preventing cars from escaping the wreaking field until the super feature -- one of those major events that summons things like tornadoes, tidal waves, UFOs, and (get this) lobster monsters -- activates and transforms the juncture into a wasteland. Rush Hour drops the super features but increases rate at which targets are streamed in. Here, you're objective is simply to cause as much damage as possible in ninety seconds, then finish with a massive chain-reaction of explosions with your vehicle's souped up crashbreaker. It's the best mode simply for its encouragement to let loose with the destruction. Pile Up is more methodical, having you with a finite number of cars to crash before engaging the multiplier-carrying inferno mode, which sets your car on fire and multiplies all points earned by up to a factor of five.
Out of the three, Pile Up is the weakest, and Rush Hour the strongest. Pile Up is undoubtedly the most puzzle-esque mode of the three, but it's also the least Burnout-y. Burnout: Crash performs at its best when its constantly asking you to go nuts with the 'splosions to destroy everything as you go rather than conserve them until you happen to get inferno active. It's not worthless, but it is noticeably lacking by comparison.
To lend some longevity, Burnout: Crash also lifts the autolog system from 2010's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit entry for its leaderboards. This only lets you compare scores with friends, however, which means you can't see how well you stack up against player worldwide. It's a nice feature, but if you haven't any friends who are playing, the autolog does little to justify its presence. The multiplayer in the 360 version is also disappointingly absent here.
It's a small loss, however, for the rest of the package brings more than enough value for its $10 price tag. Burnout: Crash is a lot of fun. A return to the insanity of vehicular accidents was long overdue, and Burnout: Crash delivers an appropriate revival of that most beloved mode from Burnout's past.