It's hardly uncommon for developers to take successful home console franchises and try to convert them to run on their handheld brethren, often with mixed results. If you take a 3D adventure game like Tomb Raider and squeeze it down onto an original Game Boy, where it becomes a black and white 2D scroller, then it's hardly fit to carry the same name. There is of course a worry that taking a game like Burnout, well noted for it's legendary speed, and squeezing it down onto a handheld will result in a tepid recreation of the original, effectively neutering the one thing that makes it stand out from the slew of other driving games out there.
Thankfully, this is not the case.
Not only does Burnout Legends successfully create the sense of speed of the originals, but it also manages a pretty good replication of the graphics as well. Now in truth, returning to your Xbox or PS2 version after playing the PSP version is going to remind you that the graphical gap is wider than you thought, but that's not something you're going to worry about when it's just you and the PSP screen. Only when properly scrutinised is the lower resolution going to make itself more apparent, as will the loss of the screen warping speed effects you're accustomed to, but neither of these things ruin the illusion that this is still Burnout. Early cars feel fast, later cars make you stare intently into the distance desperately trying to pick out the next oncoming car or corner before it's too late.
The gameplay mechanic used throughout is based on Burnout 3, so it's that versions takedown and boost system that you'll be using. This means that after you crash holding down the X button will give you Impact Time, and the ability to control your wreck slightly via simple aftertouch. Nothing is more satisfying after you crash than managing to steer your wreck across the track into one of your rivals. The rest of the game however is a combination of the first three Burnout games, meaning you get the best tracks, cars and modes from each. This means the welcome return of the Pursuit mode, sadly dropped from Burnout 3, where you get to relive your Chase HQ memories by driving the cop car and knocking the bad guys off the road.
The game is such a faithful recreation however that it does mean that some of the series low points have come along for the ride as well. The music is loud and thrashing, and frankly not very good, still not having heard a track with any kind of racing feel to it. Thankfully the rest of the sound is up to par, with suitably throaty engine noises and satisfying crunching of metal when you bang into the wall for the hundredth time. Other problems come in the shape of the loading times, which make you want to warmly shake Nintendo's cartridge loving hands, and the time it takes to get through all the screens after each race. The number of statistics and rewards is all very well, but they really need to find a way to wrap all that stuff up a bit quicker, because I still find it hard to get excited when I'm told that another new car has been delivered to my garage.
Overall, the reason I'm a fan of this series is because there's no attempt at being realistic, the crashes are wildly over the top and the controls are a simple accelerate, brake and boost combination. No time is spent wasted trying to setup a virtual suspension, or accurately simulating the friction levels when rubber and tarmac interact, they simply get you on the track, give you a fast car, and let you have fun. And since we live in a world where driving your car at 200mph up the wrong side of the road is both dangerous and illegal, it's nice to know some developers are still creating games that let you escape reality.