The pinnacle of arcade racing
Blaze a path of destruction and never look back. It's the philosophy behind Burnout 3. There have been vehicular combat games that encouraged slamming opponents before B3, but none had ever done it with such a realized sense of aggression and satisfaction, and none have been able to match it's impact. The blood thirsty addiction to taking out opponents that players develop while playing B3 gives it an edge in the crowded world of arcade racing games, which struggled to find a new icon after the nineties concluded.
Yet the takedown is only one of many impressive mechanics found in a very strong racing build. This game has a serious sense of speed to match its brutal edge. Boost is constantly earned during the races and it allows for maximum speeds to frequently be met. Drifting rounds out the racing feature set and it is perfectly executed. It's easy to manipulate your cornering as you fishtail around bends. Everything works well together and as you bomb down tracks with opponents hot on your tracks, while opportunities to crash zip by at 100 miles per hour, the sense of absolute control is greatly appreciated. If you do crash, there’s no need to fret, takedown aftertouch gives you an opportunity to change the trajectory of your destroyed vehicle to take others out with you. Frustration easily becomes elation. It’s genius!
The visual front does not disappoint. There is no striking art style to be found as the game strives for a realistic setting for these very unrealistic races. However, the technical merits hold up. While you may find the occasional weak texture or non-polygonal object in the environment, why the hell are you looking there? Stop crashing. While actually racing, the motion blur amplifies the sense of speed and the cars successfully reflect the environment in a manner that still looks impressive 5 years later.
As for the audio, the sound effects get the job done, but the real story here is EA Trax and DJ Stryker. When initially playing the game in 2004, I had a grave disdain for the soundtrack and was fairly indifferent towards DJ Stryker’s predictable hard rock persona. While the indifference has stood the test of time, I have seriously warmed up to the soundtrack. From the bouncy pop-rock and pop-emo to the Vegas-yearning licks of hard rock and garage rock, the soundtrack does a great job of capturing popular rock in 2004. It all remarkably matches the energy of the races and the songs are so damn catchy. I hated this music at the time, but now that it’s safe to give it the nod of approval (and I got over myself), B3’s EA Trax selection has become infused as another shining aspect of the experience.
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Burnout 3. With its 5 year anniversary passing two weeks ago and the aughts coming to a close, I can safely say that it’s the most fun I’ve had with a game this decade.