Released on November 1, 2001, Burnout was the first in a long series of racing games that has been featured across many consoles. It is developed by Criterion Games and was published by Acclaim until 2004 when EA took over publishing the series with the release of Burnout 3: Takedown.
Burnout is a racing game focused more on aggressive driving than typical endurance or avoidance. The player is rewarded for risk taking, like taking down your opponents or driving against oncoming traffic. The major draw for this game was the slow motion replays of the crashes, a mode that would be expanded in future games in the series.
Burnout 2: Point of Impact introduced one of the most popular features in the Burnout series: the Crash Mode. In this mode, the player is instructed to create as much damage as possible by plowing into busy street intersections. The players can create chain-reactions, causing other vehicles to continuously smash into each other until the street is clogged with wrecked cars. This kind of mayhem does not go unrewarded though, as the more destruction a player can cause, the more points he will earn.
In Burnout 3: Takedown, the system of taking down opponents by ramming them off the road or into traffic was introduced, becoming essential for victory in the various modes. Road Rage mode was also added, where the objective is simply to to takedown as many other racers as possible. Another major addition was online multiplayer, a first for the Burnout series. It was also the first Burnout game to feature licensed music for the soundtrack, now a staple of the series. A very large step from Burnout 2, Burnout 3: Takedown revolutionized the series, earning many perfect and near-perfect review scores, and has been the model for Burnout games ever since.
Burnout Revenge, the fourth game in the series, added the "traffic checking" feature. This allowed players to hit (or "check") traffic from behind without crashing, adding another method to take out rivals. However, this feature somewhat diminished the Burnout mantra of risk-versus-reward, as traffic checking granted boost to the player, thus severely reducing the incentive for players to drive against oncoming traffic to gain boost. The traffic checking feature has since been removed from subsequent Burnout titles.
Burnout Legends was released on the PSP and was notable at the time as one of, if not the best, console-to-PSP translations because of its sharp visuals despite high speed and true-to-form gameplay. It was essentially a portable version of Burnout 3: Takedown with some cars and tracks from Burnout 1 and 2, along with the pursuit mode from Point of Impact. It also featured many of the same songs on its soundtrack as Burnout Revenge. It was also released on the Nintendo DS, but was an entirely different game due to the hardware limitations of the DS, and was thrashed by critics for its extremely poor gameplay. A Burnout title has not since been brought to the DS.
Burnout Dominator was released only for the PSP and the PlayStation 2 and showed the return of some aspects of the older Burnout games, which revolved chaining boost by expending the entire boost bar without crashing. It did not feature the crash mode.
The first installment designed for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was Burnout Paradise, a drastic change from the previous games in the series, featuring the open world city of Paradise. The player could drive around at his leisure, while accepting challenges by "burning out" at intersections. Paradise also introduced "drop in/drop out" multiplayer, and allowed players to compete in both cooperative and competitive challenges.