Burnout is up there with the best racing titles on the GameCube.
The Single Race mode is a good session for anyone in the mood to test their pedal to the metal in a practice race all for themselves, without worrying about having to vie for the top spot. The only downfall to this mode is that the courses in it are ones you've unlocked, and need to further unlock in the Championship mode if you want to progress further into it. Because you can't initially practice before you enter the big races, players are forced into competing from the very beginning, which doesn't sit well with racing fans that aren't greatly skilled at video games. However, there isn't much to worry about since Head to Head mode freely opens the tracks, with the exception of having to either race against a friend, or against a computer controlled opponent. Time Attack is a little like Singe Race, since here you get to race by yourself. But in this mode, you are in fact competing... against yourself. After completing the selected track and setting a record time, you then have the choice of restarting the same race, only to see if you can beat your own top standings. Lastly, Special is not only where you can watch replays of your car's crashes over and over again, but it's also the spot where you're able to unlock hidden game features, such as the Face Off mode, in which you'll compete against any of the hidden game automobiles, beat it, and then unlock the car to use it as your own pride and joy.
Burnout isn't just about making your way to number one. It's also about doing your best to avoid sending your car to the impound lot. Within the Championship mode, you can choose from a number of cars that range in difficulty from Easy to Hard. Taking an Easy and slow compact car out onto the road, you'll be faced with the Easy game. Taking the powerful muscle car on the other hand, and you'll find your races to fare vastly different with tougher competition, and tougher challenges at quicker demolition speeds. Getting behind the wheel of any of the vehicles, whether it is a pickup truck, sports car, or even the aforementioned muscle car, and controlling any one of these, your main task is to focus on not hitting anything. Burnout places you into vast urban areas, bustling with oncoming, upcoming, side-by-side, turning, stopping and signaling cars and trucks. Each one of these cars pays attention to the traffic laws of the streets, whereas it's your goal to forget everything you know about biding by the rules -- but at the same time you must dodge, brake, turn, and do whatever you can to not find yourself turned upside down with the competition passing you up. Otherwise, once your car comes in contact with another object, whether it be a vehicle, a tunnel wall, a street lamp post, or a fountain in the middle of the road, you will start losing out on racing time by being forced to watch an inescapable replay movie of yourself bumping, breaking, spinning, flipping, crashing, or flying into another solid object at breakneck speeds.
By performing insane stunts such as driving on the wrong side of the road and zipping by vehicles head on, or coming close to near collisions with another car and surviving, a meter on the bottom left hand side of the screen powers itself up. Once the bar reaches full, your car can then set off a power boost for a limited time. Doing so gets you ahead of the competition, and sets you into the number one spot more often than not. Fortunately, for those who think the game may be tough to get a handle on shouldn't, because Burnout is an easy game to adapt to. The controls focus on the simple concept of moving the vehicle in any direction freely and braking for getting around those tight corners. With a sharp eye, anyone can enter into Burnout almost as an expert, since the main aspect is to drive and not get hit. Easy stuff.
Today's racing games are becoming awe inspiring to look at. Gran Turismo 4 was just the first game in the genre to graphically take a leap from video game visuals, to what might actually be real life on the television screen -- even though it wasn't. Burnout comes close to this accomplishment. Traveling to both American and European cities, your car -- whatever it may be -- is set into busy highways, city streets, night eclipsed mountain towns, and more. Some of these areas are modeled fairly well, even with the consistent lack of moderately furbished backgrounds. Each of the individual computer driven cars inherently interacts with one another, as well as you and your rivals. And in doing so, the immense racing world you encounter all looks amazingly lifelike, with your vehicle absorbing reflections of other worldly objects, including light sources and the other cars on the road.
Some faults do manage to line themselves up in a few areas. For starters, the windows on the vehicles are plain black, and sometimes you can even see through them, only because the camera angle reveals that nothing's there to begin with and soon enough will change back to a dark shade of color. Another minor problem has to do with the damage to the cars. If you were to drive your car right along the side of a wall, no actual physical damage will occur unless of course you're traveling at a lightning fast speed, which only happens when a replay movie is presented. Other than that though, there really aren't many graphical glitches. Vehicles will kick up dust as they drive over dirt, sparks fly as the bottom of your car slides against a decelerating and accelerating hill, skid marks trail your tires as you burn up pavement, and of course the crash replay movies are just absolutely stunning. From whatever vehicle you're using, the game pays attention to actual physics pertaining to each ride. After jumping up a curb and heading straight into the back of a moving car, you'll get to watch the front side of the vehicle smash from the window, down to the fender. Nailing a stiffly mounted object in the middle of the road, and you'll be treated to your car flipping over and landing upside down, or even spinning circles around and around all in precise action -- spot on, every time.
Amidst all the crashing, bashing, smashing, and rehashing of car pileups, the in-game sounds in particular all sound very true to nature. Scrapes, slides, bumps, flips, and even the roar of your car's engine pump the variable sounds of a speeding vehicle on the road through every noise possible, and turn out great in the end. One thing that is a little annoying though, is that during each race and after passing a checkpoint, an in-game announcer will remind you to confirm you have reached that position. With the voice quality lacking, and the fact that you have to hear the same announcer about ten or more times in a single run, you may become annoyed by its presence quickly.
By filling the game's background void with techno tracks, players will want to stick to and endure through every one of the tracks. Every race has a different song to tune into with your ears that seems to really set the mood for the race. On the interstate highway level, a fast track presents itself to get you really going in dodging many cars and trucks along the way. When switching over to a large European city backdrop, a deeper and more subtle electronic rhythm soothes into your brain, giving you the power to race from start to finish, and letting you enjoy the entire time through it all.
Originality isn't really Burnout's strong point. It's that the game combines so many elements of other racers, and uses them to its advantage to create a look and feel that stands out in its own right, and impressionably overall is a worthwhile experience. While Burnout might not be the best racing game on the GameCube, it's one you should certainly try out just to say that you've been there, and done that, and you had a good time with one of Acclaim's greatest racing titles.