Burnout is what an arcade racer needs to be: fast, accessible and flashy

User Rating: 8.5 | Burnout (Platinum) PS2
In an age where Gran Turismo, realism and authenticity reign supreme in the racing world it does come to some slight relief that developers still have a knack for the classic pick up and play nature that was once fundamental to a lot of car games. I think Criterion have succeeded in doing so because once Burnout has you in it's grasp you'll remain gripped. Keep your suspension of disbelief in flux, your preconceptions of driving game necessities out of the way and your reflexes in their very prime. They're all imperative to enjoying this wild street racer.

Don't take me lightly when I say that either. Burnout lacks licenced cars and tracks but it makes up for it with bold, nerve-wracking speeds of 200 miles per hour rate. It is no push over, as the game forces you to divert away from incoming traffic, sabotage your opponents and drive with skill to victory. Every turn is heart pounding as a single crash can cost you the race and beating the clock before time runs out is just as frightening, and thrilling, of a situation. But pushing your luck by creating near miss collisions, driving past incoming traffic and drifting round tighter corners can reward you with additional boost power that can go the extra distance in competition.

Burnout is intense.

Although there are less than ten tournaments and only five tracks based on real world locales, to beat Burnout on first try is like doing a marathon without practicing. You'll be shouting and screaming at your controller, your Playstation 2 and your screen with each slip-up made and the very inconsistent number of crashes and cars to divert from can make your head spin. The cars themselves are a standard set-up with an initial set consisting of the Sedan, Compact, Muscle and Pick-up. A couple of sports cars are further unlockable aswell as a truck. They're likewise seemingly based on their real-life counterparts and control as you expect them to. The muscle handles with very slippy turning resulting in powerslides round corners and the Sedan remains largely neutral and consistent in its speed and acceleration.

For a game of late 2001, Burnout looks absolutely fantastic. The game itself plays blazingly fast at 60 frames per second, here in Europe it has an optional 60Hz option for such gameplay. The tracks and cars are all beautiful and the effects pulled off by Criterion's inhouse Renderware engine produce some unforgettable blur and motion effects that convey a better sense of speed unlike other racers. Naturally the highlight of Burnout derives from the physics engine however, or more specifically, the crashes which are mimicked superbly.

It is understatement to call the path of destruction left by crashes as action packed as shattered glass scatters across the moterways while the very frame of the car itself crumples with the collision in slowmotion. Crashes can be saved and replayed on Burnout to be seen frame by frame and the very devastation left can often leave you a sinister smile, especially when playing against a friend in splitscreen. When the crashes are inflicted on yourself, it is often the other end of the spectrum that you'll be on and I've found myself to be cursing multiple times from a mindblowing crash.

Sometimes they're obvious, othertimes you just never see it coming; either way it is going to annoy the heck out of you to the very end of the race. Literally put, it is impossible to complete a race without crashing – unless you're very lucky because Burnout does have some rather gimmicky colission problems. It can range from the typical slide across another car that inexplicably shunts your own but other times you'll just end up crashing out of nowhere. It is frustrating to say the least say when on your own screen it was clear that you slipped yourself between two other cars without touching, but somehow still crashed without crashing.

Unlike many other arcade games unfortunately, Burnout also has terrible music and sound. It is just downright forgettable, even the announcer doesn't intrigue any particular memories, which might come as a shame from a longtime Ridge Racer and Daytona USA fan such as myself. You could say that is a minor complaint in the scheme of things but you'll be quick to grab your iPod and turn on your own tunes after some few minutes of play.

And naturally, Burnout is short. Those few tracks take time to complete but can be mastered with enough practice and luck. Once you've got the hang of the cars and the feel for techniques such as drifiting it isn't beyond the reach of an average gamer to complete this racer within a week. As I hate to admit it, on this occasion, it would be better to go for a realistic racer like Gran Turismo 3 for lifespan. Once you've finished with Burnout the chances of going back to it on a second or third playthrough are slim.

But aside from this, I can't say Burnout should be ignored. On the contrary, it has a place of distinction bearing in mind that this came of somewhat of a surprise to Playstation 2 owners that were starved for games such as myself. Burnout is what an arcade racer needs to be: fast, accessible and flashy. Besides a few blunders in the sound department and a few gameplay quirks it is really worthwhile.