Giant Bomb Review

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Burnout CRASH! Review

3
  • PS3N
  • XBGS

Pure vehicular mayhem should be a lot more fun than it is in Burnout Crash.

Traffic circle of doom!

Criterion Games has spent the past decade perfecting the video game car crash with its smash-happy Burnout franchise--a series that, much like NASCAR, is ostensibly about racing, though everyone knows the real draw are the spectacular car crashes, explosively rendered in Burnout with an almost fetishistic care. Even when it’s not the main focus of their attention, such as in last year’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Criterion has still been able to deliver satisfyingly crunchy car crashes. With this pedigree in mind, it’s easy to see the potential of Burnout Crash, a downloadable title that retains most of the hallmark mechanics, yet strips clean the racing element, putting the focus squarely on creating as many charred chassis and as much twisted metal on the asphalt as possible. It’s an idea that probably wouldn’t carry a full-size game, yet seems like it could be a good fit for a downloadable title. So why does Burnout Crash feel so underwhelming?

In part, it’s because the game struggles with order and chaos, with gameplay that naturally favors pure pandemonium and a contrasting primary gameplay mode that demands nuance where mayhem is in chronically short supply. More fundamentally, though, it’s because this is a trifle of a game, without much meaningful gameplay variety from beginning to end. That’s not to say there aren’t fleeting moments of fun, or that there’s no skill to performing the perfect car crash. Once you’ve cracked the code on how to approach an intersection and when to trigger subsequent explosions, though, it turns monotonous pretty quick, and the game’s attempts to extend the experience with social hooks and bonus objectives ring hollow.

The notion of forgoing any kind of racing pretext and just crashing the hell out of some cars isn’t a new one, even for Burnout. Fans should remember the Crash Mode from pre-Paradise Burnout games, a dedicated mode where the player would hurtle into a busy intersection, smashing other vehicles and racking up as much damage as possible. As the cars pile up, your Crashbreaker meter starts to fill, and once it’s charged, you can trigger another explosion with the intent of creating some high-value chain reactions of destruction. In a good run, you could pop the Crashbreaker multiple times, racking up millions of dollars in damage in the process. It’s part pinball, part ad-hoc Rube Goldberg contraption, and all fiery explosions. That’s the basis for Burnout Crash, which retains the significant Crash Mode mechanics, but switches the action to a top-down perspective, adds the ability to blow up buildings, and introduces a whole host of absurd special-effect vehicles and ridiculous game-ending events that serve to reinforce the whole pinball table vibe.

Welcome to Crash City: every driving instructor's nightmare.

As a cackling variant in a game already flush with burning rubber and shattered glass, Crash Mode was a fun distraction, but Criterion’s attempts to flesh out the concept for Burnout Crash work against its strengths. There are three ways to play any of the intersections in Burnout Crash, though by default, you only have access to one of them, which wouldn’t be a big deal if the default mode weren't the least compelling of the three. Called Road Trip, this mode features a set traffic pattern progression for each intersection, with special events like explosive gas trucks, tornadoes, meteor strikes, tidal waves, and, uh, lobster monsters appearing at specific crash milestones. All the while, though, you have to be incredibly vigilant and methodical about making sure that no cars make it out of the intersection alive, as the round will end immediately once five cars are allowed to pass through unmolested. Since your ability to move around the intersection is directly linked to your Crashbreaker ability, you have to exercise a lot of restraint, which comes at the direct expense of causing big, awesome explosions. It can be frustrating, particularly when you’re sitting there with no Crashbreaker, helplessly watching traffic ride off into the sunset, and the rounds always feel like they go on for several minutes too long.

Far more engaging is the Rush Hour mode, which ditches the five-strikes limit in favor of a 90-second timer, while also throwing way more traffic at you. It’s more chaotic and less exacting, which makes more sense for both the underlying premise as well as the soft, limited controls you actually have. The Pile Up mode sort of splits the difference between Road Trip and Rush Hour, throwing a predefined number of cars at the intersection before entering a score-multiplied end-game sequence where your multiplier is defined by how many cars you let slip past. It’s a structure that encourages you to try and catch all the traffic you can in the intersection without obliterating it completely until the score multiplier kicks in. It requires less precision than the Road Trip mode while rewarding your restraint with big crazy explosions at the end.

There are 18 different intersections (read: levels) included in Burnout Crash, and though they often feature different road layouts and surrounding structures that can require a slightly different approach for maximum carnage, the experience doesn’t really significantly evolve from beginning to end. You do, however, unlock additional vehicles with unique stats as you progress, though once I unlocked the slow-moving but highly explosive cargo truck, I never felt compelled to revisit the others. Access to additional intersections is throttled by a star system that rewards score goals and secondary objectives, usually concerning destroying specific objects in specific ways. The Autolog feature introduced in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit resurfaces here, creating dynamic challenges based on your friends’ performance. But without as much meaningful gameplay variety from mode to mode or intersection to intersection, its ability to extend the experience is limited.

Mmm. Pizza!

On the Xbox 360, you have the option of playing Burnout Crash with Kinect, with a specific party mode designed to take advantage of it. Stepping around the room as though you’re walking on a giant D-pad to influence the aftertouch is effective enough, if not particularly exciting, though in a party evironment, there’s something to be said for forcing players to jump in the air, clap their hands, or squat like they’re laying an egg to trigger the Crashbreaker.

It’s not a completely disappointing experience, but I felt like too much of my time with Burnout Crash was spent almost having fun. In a way, that’s almost more frustrating than if Criterion had whiffed it completely, since you can see the game that you’d want to play right in front of you, and yet it remains just out of reach.

30 Comments
Posted by delorean99947

BOOM

Online
Edited by Cyrisaurus

Not surprised. Now make real Burnout game, please.

Posted by Guyzea

& BURN!

Posted by TurboMan

Played the demo, wasn't impressed. Glad to see me and Ryan are on the same page.

Posted by LoktarOgar

Called it from the moment it debuted.

Posted by ApolloBob

Crash mode from Burnout 3. An entire game of the Crash mode from Burnout 3. That's what they should have done.

Posted by onan

I just want regular crash mode. Is that too much to ask? It's the difference between Dead Rising and Atom Zombie Smasher and frankly it always seemed like a waste for them to be putting effort into this to begin with when they could have easily made it more visceral with a better camera angle.

Posted by EricFine

Even though I am having a ton of fun with it I still would give it a 3 out of 5. There is just something off about it.

Posted by Absolute_Zero

Bummer.

@ApolloBob said:

Crash mode from Burnout 3. An entire game of the Crash mode from Burnout 3. That's what they should have done.

Also, this. It's what I would've liked. But I haven't even played the trial yet, so maybe I'll like it. xD

Posted by Eidderf

I thought the change in perspective was odd since one of the main appeals of crash mode to me was seeing the detail in the crashes up close, though I'm not sure they could have made a full arcade title out of the old version of crash mode so I get why they changed it up so much but it kind of undermines it when the crashes themselves lack the impact (see what I did there) that they previously had.

Posted by Cincaid

3/5 is by no means bad, but I'll pass on this until it's on sale or something. Got so much (better) stuff to play right now. Shame, as I love the Burnout franchise.

Posted by Gerhabio

Weird, didn't really expect this to get anything below 4 stars. I bet the guys were surprised too.

Posted by BR4DL3I9H

I always thought that this looked like somebody taking a fun extra from a retail game, changing the perspective and then making you pay again to play it as a downloadable game. I can see some people enjoying this game, but the videos from giant bomb have pretty much shown me all i want to see from this game.

Posted by Sammo21

Figured.

Posted by animathias

3/5 seems about right. I'm having fun with it, especially for $10, but the idea that this could have been something much more amazing is always in the back of my mind when playing it.

Oh well, I'm happy I bought it. I think I've already put more time into it than I did Catherine - what a disappointing game that turned out to be.

Posted by kollay

From listening to the bombcast, I was actually expecting more of a two.

Posted by Michaelblack18

im not really surprised about this espcially after everything ive seen from this but also parts of me are screaming please make a full new real burnout game!

Posted by rrcplus

I don't know, I think this game is a lot of fun. I didn't think it was initially, but after playing for an hour I really got addicted to it. It doesn't have much depth, but it's a fun game to play for an hour a day. And for 800 MSP I can't really complain.

I could've spent my microsoft points a lot worse. (Like on Gears of War 3's Imulsion weapon skin. Which is so ugly it makes me wanna stick a fork in my eyes.)

I think a lot of people including myself thought this game was going to be 1200MSP, which it isn't worth.

Posted by rmanthorp

Shame, fanboys are going to go nuts now...

Moderator
Posted by mdimmett

I'm really surprised they actually finished an released this game. The biggest problem with this game is the top down perspective. Half the fun of the mode was being in first person and hurling your car into a group of cars on a blind corner. From all the videos I've seen of this it just looks slow and chunky. However, I do think Criterion will learn something from this and hopefully they will take some of the mechanics they created for this title and put it in a $60 game. I would love to see destruction of buildings implemented in the original format or even some of crazy finishing moves.

Posted by ApolloBob

@Absolute_Zero said:

Bummer.

@ApolloBob said:

Crash mode from Burnout 3. An entire game of the Crash mode from Burnout 3. That's what they should have done.

Also, this. It's what I would've liked. But I haven't even played the trial yet, so maybe I'll like it. xD

Ok - I had a chance with the trial game last night, and while my original sentiment still stands, I did buy the full game. As has already been said, 800 MS points feels about right. As a simple "smash things, explode things, try to smash and explode the most things" experience it works well enough. But whoever thought the constant assault of annoying sound bites was a good idea needs a punch in the head.

Posted by Little_Socrates

But what about the lobster monsters?

Posted by pandastrong

Kind of a bummer. Not that a 3/5 is a bad score, but there was some real potential here and it seems like the game failed to deliver on that.

Posted by Absolute_Zero

@ApolloBob said:

@Absolute_Zero said:

Bummer.

@ApolloBob said:

Crash mode from Burnout 3. An entire game of the Crash mode from Burnout 3. That's what they should have done.

Also, this. It's what I would've liked. But I haven't even played the trial yet, so maybe I'll like it. xD

Ok - I had a chance with the trial game last night, and while my original sentiment still stands, I did buy the full game. As has already been said, 800 MS points feels about right. As a simple "smash things, explode things, try to smash and explode the most things" experience it works well enough. But whoever thought the constant assault of annoying sound bites was a good idea needs a punch in the head.

Hmm. Either way it's unlikely that I'll be buying the game; I've been spending so much more time on my PC. xD But thanks for the impressions anyway! Maybe I'll end up buying it in some far-flung future.

Posted by KennyIsMe93

Shame. I was hoping for a better product

Posted by louiedog

I agree with this review 100%. Road Trip mode is disappointing and it's kind of unfortunate that most people will probably try that out and never buy the game. Rush Hour is a lot better and I'm having a ton of fun with it. It's a shame really that they didn't nail Road Trip and it's essentially the main mode. Still, the game is fun despite a couple of really poor design decisions that may end up killing this game's sales.

Posted by FriedGreenEngineer

I'd figured it'd get a worse score. It's just not Burnout. When I first saw this game I was horrified at what happened to my Burnout. After looking at some videos it seems like an okay game, but it definitely doesn't fit well with the past games in the franchise. It looks more or less a side project or spin-off. I'm still hopeful for their next REAL game.

Posted by mariokart64fan

me not buying this , top down really? put this on the snes ds wii or any nintendo platform where 2d would be welcome , fine but on a hd platform that people buy mostly fps games , or burnout paradise type games, then youll run into problems,

instead of wasting time with this game they should have done a full fledged burnout ,

i am so disapointed , in the art style used , ,

top down has never impressed me but was welcome given the time,

now its no excuse you can make it 3d ,

Posted by Rekt_Hed

As much as I love all the burnout games I'm happy this title turned out to be average so hopefully they will get the message and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAKE A NEW PROPPER BURNOUT GAME!

I've completed burnout paradise 4 times now all the way to elite. PS3, XBOX and PC! Gimme something to to get my teeth into.

Posted by neverhouse

I couldn't put it down. There was this constant sensation of standing in a desert of exploding casinos, that I just couldn't pull myself away from. Before long, I had to turn the background music off, but that was the only real annoyance. It isn't really Burnout, but it's well worth the money.