Review by JPeeples

"White-knuckle racing action that sends you into euphoria."

Burnout was released in October of 2001 for the Sony PlayStation 2. Burnout was developed by Criterion and published by Acclaim. It's checkpoint-based racing with a few refreshing gameplay twists

One of these gameplay twists is the insane amount of traffic in each track, whereas most checkpoint-based racing games just have you going against your opponents, this game has you contending with traffic, as well as your opponents. You’ll have to stay focused if you want to succeed in this game. Another twist is the game’s crashing system. You see, you have to crash into stuff to get money, but crashing costs you time, which can cost you reaching a checkpoint, not reaching a checkpoint ends your run, so you have to balance out crashing, with getting to the checkpoint. The game features a Burn meter that fills up as you do insane and risky things, such as drive on the wrong side of the road, or the shoulder, or narrowly avoiding collisions. Once your Burn meter has reached its peak, you’ll be able to unleash a speed boost, called the Burnout, that sends you speeding through traffic at lighting speeds, but if you don't control it correctly, you'll crash, and lose time, so you have to use it wisely

Each aspect of the game compliments another aspect of it. The crashing aspect compliments the checkpoint aspect because they go hand-in-hand, you can’t have one without risking the other. If you want to crash a lot, and go for money, then you’ll have to recognize that this could cause you to miss the checkpoint, conversely, if you want to reach your checkpoints with time to spare, you’ll need to realize that you won’t be able to crash a lot, or you’ll risk not accomplishing your goal. These strategies apply even moreso when you activate your Burnout (done by pressing X and RI simultaneously), you’ll need to be in total control of your vehicle when you use your Burnout, or else you’ll crash and burn. Your control over the car diminishes when you activate it, so you’ll need to choose the best method of control given your vehicle, and the conditions around the track. If the track is littered with traffic, you might want to use the left Dual Shock stick for more precise control, if your vehicle will benefit, or, if the track isn’t full of cars, you might just want to use the D-pad because you won’t need the extra control that the left Dual Shock stick might provide you. Again, you have to think your way through. The entire game is full of give-and-take relationships that you will recognize as you play through the game. The game’s constant give-and-take relationships add a lot of strategy to this genre, it makes you to think your way through a race if you want to race a certain way. Burnout strikes the perfect middle ground with this because it allows you, the player, to control the amount of thinking. It doesn’t force you into thinking a lot, but you’ll be rewarded if you do. Burnout gives you numerous modes,(such as singe race and circuit) and about 20 tracks to give these game mechanics a whirl, so give it your best shot. Burnout gives you six vehicles at your disposal, each of them with their own unique control method. Some of them are easy to control, while others are hard to control. You’ll have to try them all out to see which kind of vehicle suits you the best, and you’ll have a blast doing it.

Burnout’s control is very unique. It allows you to use the D-pad and the face buttons, or just the two Dual Shock sticks on the controller, or you can mix it up and use one stick and the face buttons, or one stick and the D-pad. The D-pad and left Dual Shock stick, allow you to control the movement of your vehicle. The stick gives you a smoother ride, while the D-pad makes you put a bit more effort into your control, giving you more control over your car. This adds an interesting parallel because some vehicles, such as the sports cars, benefit from using the D-pad because you have more control over the car’s movement, while other cars, like the mini-van, benefit from the stick because they don’t require as much control. The right Dual Shock stick controls the acceleration and braking of your car, something you can do with the X and Square buttons respectively. Using the right stick, in conjuction with the left stick, gives you total control over the car using only two mechanisms, this is great for those who feel more secure in driving with this style of control. Using the right stick, in conjuction with the face buttons, can give you smoother control of your vehicle (if that’s what you want) and will allow you to use the face buttons give you a more hands-on control scheme; the choice is up to you. No matter which choice you make, you’ll be in for a wild ride, the control, no matter which scheme you use, is as responsive as could be. The controls are as fluid and intuitive as you, the player, make them. This is one of the few games that truly gives you full control over how you play the game. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Criterion for allowing the player this much freedom in control, they have raised the bar for racing game control.

Burnout’s graphics are among the best on the PS2. The games makes liberal use of several visual effects that really add to the excitement of the game. For example, when you crash, you’ll be treated to motion-blur enhanced replays that help to emphasize the damage done; likewise, when you use your Burnout, you’ll see a motion-blur trail around the car that helps to emphasize the insane speed you’re traveling at. This is one of the few games that really uses this technique in an intelligent manner, rather than just using it to use it. The game also makes use of particle effects to enhance the feel of the game. For example, when driving over dust, it will go behind your car, obstructing the view of other drivers, this can also be done by cars ahead of you, meaning you could be the one eating dust, so stay alert. These effects do a great job of complimenting the rich textures used throughout the game. Everything in the game, from the buildings next to the track, to the vehicles themselves is covered in rich textures. The buildings in the game have defined looks to them, they’re so defined, you’ll be able to make out the bricks on a building, or the style of window-pane used on it. The vehicles have rich paint jobs that look just like the real thing. The sun glistens off of the vehicles, and realistic reflections, such as light, or the front of the car behind you, litter the back of the vehicles.

Burnout’s sound is as well-done as any other aspect in the game. The music throughout the game has a quick tempo to it that does a great job of complimenting, and enhancing the effects, of the high-octane racing action on-screen. The game makes great use of each sound effect it uses. For example, the crashing effects sound as powerful as the crashes themselves; if you crash into a large vehicle, you’ll hear a loud crashing noise, whereas crashing into a smaller vehicle will elicit a less-boisterous sound effect. The amazing use of sound effects doesn’t stop there. When you activate your Burnout, the music will fade, and the sound of heart beating will slowly replace it, the heart beats faster as you speed up, and it beats slower as your Burnout fades. This single effect does so much to emphasize the speed, that it must be experienced to truly appreciate.

Burnout is packed to the gills with replay value. You’ll spend many an hour trying to beat all of the circuits and unlocking all of the secrets that the game has stowed away, and you’ll have a blast doing it. I would recommend that you space out your play sessions of the game as to not burn yourself out (no pun intended) on the gameplay, which, while fun in short bursts, can become shallow if you play it for too long. Keep this in mind when you play the game, and you’ll have a blast. Don’t try and get everything done in a day, because you won’t be able to experience everything this game has to offer. This is the kind of game that must be savored for as long as possible, in case there is never a game like it again.

All in all, Burnout is one of the finest games the PS2 has to offer. It combines everything that makes the PS2 a great system. It has great gameplay, amazing graphics, and mind-blowing sound. It’s one of the few PS2 games that makes a great single player, and multi-player game.
Pick this game up as soon as possible. At the very least, rent the game, give it a shot, and, if you really like the game, buy it as soon as you can.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/12/01, Updated 11/12/01


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