Monday, August 29, 2005


I picked up a used copy of Burnout 3: Takedown a couple months ago. Turns out I got it just in time for pre-orders for the next Burnout game (which finally graduates the series sequels from numbering to simple subtitles) to roll around, but oh well. The first Burnout was overpraised and actually pretty dull when I rented it, but the series has improved a lot and realized its potential. This may have happened by Burnout 2, I don't really know.

Anyway, now instead of having spectacular crashes that get in the way of racing, the crashes have been integrated into the gameplay in a way that makes sense. Driving dangerously fills your boost meter (and the game is a bit more forgiving when it comes to near-misses, making that easier to pull off), causing opponents to crash fills your boost and increases its capacity, and crashing your own car loses you boost, unless you maneuver your car in slow motion into another car and cause it to crash even as you are crashing.

And the races are pretty much impossible to win without using boost over half the time, which forces you to do all of the above things. The crashes are less obtrusive and don't stop the gameplay cold. The music is licensed pop-punk stuff that ranges from excellent (Go Betty Go, and, um, The Ramones) to mediocre (I don't know who; come on, I said they were mediocre).

There is also a crash mode that is fun except for the long load times and moral queasiness. They are brief levels in which you are pointed at a busy intersection, where you must cause the biggest pile-up accident you can. If you meet the minimum quota of cars smashed, you get to detonate the Crashbreaker, which blows up your car and sends everything flying, hopefully to create more wreckage. Then the game tallies up your damage (in dollars, which seem rather arbitrary and not actually in the league of how much your damage would cost to fix--for instance, a totaled car is one or two thousand dollars). If you picked up some power-ups it can add to or multiply your score.

The Crash levels are very short, which means that you have to sit through a lot of load screens per less-than-one-minute of gameplay. But the weirdest thing about it is that, even though the game is not meant to be taken realistically at all, you can't help but impose a narrative on it. And the only thing that makes sense is that you're engaging in some kind of vehicular terrorism. The drive to create the biggest pile-up possible feels a bit sadistic, and the fact that you cap it off by blowing up your car, well--draw your own conclusions. Did you conclude that you feel like a suicide bomber? Okay, then. Maybe the game should calculate your score in terms of casualties and fatalities. It would almost make more sense, carrying this ghoulish bloodlust to its logical end.

But, once you get past that, yeah, it's pretty fun.

1 comment:

Zack said...

I like the "danger equals boost" thing. It's been used in scrolling shooters for awhile (your gun is stronger while enemy bullets graze you in Shikigami no Shiro, for example).

I don't like many racing games. I wonder if I'd like Burnout 3. Cars themselves don't interest me, although I do like explosions. I like vindictive kart-racing games, and pushing people over in SSX, and Bump N Jump (in which your car jumps on other cars and bumps them into walls). The licensed soundtrack is a turnoff, though.