Being new to the Burnout franchise I went into this latest iteration of the series oblivious as to what to really expect from the title. While an arcade racer in nature, a run of the mill driving experience ala PGR, Forza, Sega Rally or NFS it certainly isn't. A welcome change for a machine not exactly dry on racing titles.
The big selling point of this title compared to it's predecessors is its new open world aspect, the same you would find in say a GTA or Driver game.You start driving around the games city, aptly named 'Paradise City' in a shabby wreck of a car. At your own free will you can participate in a significant number of events which are located at every crossroad and junction you pass through. While overwhelming at first, it doesn't take too long for you to acquaint yourself with the city and it's adjoining surroundings. Soon enough you'll be driving from place to place taking various shortcuts you've discovered on your travels just like it was your own local neighbourhood.
The events you'll find in Paradise city can vary between straight forward street races, point A-B survival runs with AI cars trying to force you off the road and stunt runs in which the cities natural and artificially placed obstacles or ramps can be used to string together a ludicrous score in the same way you'd link together a combo in the Devil May Cry series by following one outrageous trick after another.
In and out of these events in the games form of a free roam mode named 'freeburn' you're encouraged to crash your other computer controlled rivals off the street into what's termed a 'takedown'. By doing this you're treated to a slow motion scene of the opponents car (or indeed your own if you mess up) flipping over and breaking into a satisfying collection of pieces and wreckage. As an added incentive you also claim this taken down car to boot, adding it to the selection of cars available to drive from various junkyards around the city (which base as your garage). The crashes all happen in real time and don't interrupt the flow of action with various parts and pieces all crumpling ,breaking and shattering themselves realistically and believably.
As well as completing the games set events there's also a great deal of exploration to perform in the city. There's finding super jumps which are as the name suggests extreme versions of normal sized jumps and also billboards which usually take experimentation or plain luck to find out how to break by driving or flying straight through them.
The cars you drive while fictional in make and design all handle like real life counterparts and all of which look stunning. In no time you'll be able to flat spin, barrel roll off ramps, power-park or perform hand-break turns with quite considerable ease. All the 75 cars available to you come in one of three classes; speed, stunt and aggression. A slight turn of strategy is involved by the player deciding which car is better suited for each event in which they partake. Obviously a stunt car will make racking up a huge combo score easier for a stunt run, but put that same car into a takedown race where all the AI cars are gunning to impale you on the nearest building and it won't survive a mere gentle shunt let alone a head on collision.
Fun as the single player experience is the real meat of the game is in it's online mode. It's here that up-to 8 people via XBL can join in the same city and either engage in races, challenge events in which a task is laid out for all the drivers to complete or just simply enjoying cruising around trying to outdo each others scores in various Burnout disciplines such as who can drift the furthest or drive the longest in oncoming traffic. A neat added extra in the multi-player is the inclusion of camera support which will upload a snapshot of yourself following a take-down to your smug assailant as he drives away. It's a very clever and novel way of making use of the 360's so far under-used camera attachment and almost worth a purchase for the feature alone.
Despite Burnouts many admirable qualities there is also a handful of bad points along with the good. The camera view while low to give the game a sense of speed can sometimes obscure proceedings and more often than not you'll find yourself wrecking by misjudging a turn or vehicle pass by the smallest of possible margins. The lack of a retry feature on race & time trial events often means you'll have to spend more time driving to and from failed attempts then actually racing itself. While not game breaking it certainly adds a degree of annoyance to making any progress within the game. It could be argued that this forced attempt to make you drive from location to location makes you investigate the route and it's surroundings but I feel it should have been the players choice whether to do this or not.
Another problem is the cars. While some vehicles are obviously better than others during the course of the game, a great deal of them stutter around the mediocre mark with very little difference between any of them. Finally the game's direction indicator can be very hard to follow, especially during a race. Whilst the game encourages you to find your own route to a given location, for the first couple of hours as you're learning the city layout just getting from point A to B can be an exercise in frustration as you constantly over-run turnings that you were supposedly meant to take.
The soundtrack is also the usual hash of the EA marketing machine at work with Disturbed and Avril making their umpteenth appearance in a video game. Driving music it certainly isn't. It should be noted that Adam Ant & Faith No More was a welcome (if not bizarre) inclusion however.If you're a fan of driving games but feel after playing Forza for the simulation side and PGR for arcade thrills that there's very else left to choose from in-between. Burnout is defiantly worth a look-in for an altogether different driving experience.
While some aspects of the game could certainly do with some tweaks or alterations to lower the end users annoyance factor, overall it's an enjoyable ride well worth taking a spin.
Good: Impressive visuals, novel game-play, longevity, fun multi-player.
Bad: Occasional bad game-play design, repetition, troublesome camera views.