Burnout: Crash is a downloadable game. With that bit of information and the word "Crash" in the title, it's not too tough to figure out what this XBLA/PSN release might be. And your assumptions are (mostly) right. Burnout: Crash takes the fantastic Crash mode from games like Burnout 3: Takedown and spins it out into its own game. Considering the puzzle-like nature of the mode, it's well-suited for a short-session downloadable game. But Burnout: Crash doesn't just yank material from the previous games and repackage it. Criterion's building an all-new game that lets you look at your crashes from an all-new perspective.
The other piece of the Burnout: Crash puzzle should come into focus once you know that it's a top-down game. It looks sort of similar to the old Grand Theft Auto games, though this is a polygonal game. The basic idea is the same, though. You'll select a car, with heavier cars like the B-Team Van creating bigger explosions than the lighter, faster models, and you'll drive into traffic. Once you've crashed, you can guide your car around in mid-air using aftertouch, which is something of a Burnout staple. This lets you curve and glide around as you attempt to slam into as many different cars as possible. Should you find yourself at a standstill, you can execute a crashbreaker--again, nothing you Burnout aficionados would be unfamiliar with--to pop back up and keep moving. A meter on the screen, governs the use of your crashbreaker, but the idea is that you'll be able to blow up every five or ten seconds, keeping the action moving.
Your score is totaled up based on the amount of damage you do, and in Burnout: Crash you can damage buildings as well as cars. In order to get higher scores, you'll need to combo together a large chain of horrific wrecks, but there are some other features in the game that you can use to earn higher scores. One such concept is a pizza delivery truck that, when destroyed, activates the Pizza of Fortune. This game-show-like wheel pops up, and you'll spin it to enable some sort of extra bonus. The game also presents you with vehicles that you shouldn't destroy, like ambulances. Keeping those safe as they drive onto and off the screen gives you another score bonus.
This is all set across multiple crash junctions that take on different visual styles. Seacreast has that Miami Beach look, while Roswell is where the UFOs from that ratings board leak back in May probably come in. What of the Lobster Monsters, you ask? No idea. Didn't see any. But the game seems to have a good number of junctions in it, with multiple modes to try in each spot. Further adding to the leaderboard battles is a score-focused take on Criterion's Autolog stuff that lets you challenge specific players and trade championship cups back and forth as you battle for the lead.
Oh, and it has optional Kinect support. That's actually how I played it, leaving me unable to tell if the aftertouch feels just like it did in previous Burnout games, but, well, I had to know. When playing in Kinect mode, you'll steer with your hands in the air, Joy Ride-style. Once the crash has started, jumping executes your crashbreaker while stepping around in different directions controls aftertouch. The Kinect support seems like it's reasonably well-implemented, though... yeah, I'll probably play it with a controller. The game will also come to the PlayStation 3, and it sounds like the team at Criterion isn't confirming or ruling out the possibility of PlayStation Move support. Considering some parts of this game's design date back to a Wii project that, to hear Criterion tell it, simply wasn't coming together, my guess is that it won't support the Move.
Meanwhile, Burnout: Crash isn't Criterion's only project. When talking to Alex Ward, he noted that it was great to be able to get a small, downloadable game like Crash up in running in around a month, while on the developer's "other project," they were still talking about all of the other fire, water, and other graphical systems that a "big" driving game needs. I don't know about you, but I'm crossing my fingers over here that this means Burnout: Crash is going to pave the way for a big, new, full-fledged Burnout game... but it's probably going to be 2012's Need for Speed release, right?