Practice and persistence. And crashing.
Racing games are a dime a dozen. From the classic coin-op Pole Position to the latest home console titles, they've been a staple of the video game market from the very beginning but with very little in the way of innovation coming forth over the last two decades. Mostly, racing games consist of driving from Point A to Point B as fast as you can without crashing into walls or oncoming traffic. And while some games, such as Project Gotham Racing, have added cool and exciting ways to rack-up points, great visuals and stunning speed, it's still all about getting from Point A to Point B as fast as you can without crashing into walls or oncoming traffic. Then the Burnout franchise came along, changing all that.
Following in the footsteps of the previous games in the series, the point of Burnout 3: Takedown is to crash, causing as much damage as possible. The more cars you wreck, the higher your points and more cars you unlock. That's it. Death and destruction is rewarded, and it's a bloody good time!
While racing is a part of the game, the bulk of your time will be spent in Crash Mode. Each of the 100 crash junction presents new obstacles for you to speed past, jump over, and, yeah, smash into at full speed for maximum effect and destruction. Hitting a semi just right will cause it to jackknife or separate the cab from the trailer, resulting in crashes on both sides of the two- or four-lane roadways. And even if you don't connect with the semis perfectly, you can be guaranteed that their loads (spools of cable, barrels, boats, etc.) will scatter here and there -- hitting cars which, in turn, will hit other cars -- for another great payday.
And while crashing is a great way to blow off some end of the day steam, it really has little replayability once you've figured out how to score a gold medal and/or highest cash rewards on each junction. And it only worsens once you've unlocked all of the vehicles. With no incentive to score higher for more rewards, why keep playing?
Well, there are two reasons actually.
01. There are other modes. Race (which is just what the name implies), Time Attack (where it's you versus the clock), and Road Rage (which I have no parenthetical for).
Even though these different modes provide various ways to play the game, crashing is still the primary focus (except for Time Attack where crashing hurts your chances of beating the clock). During a race, the best way to gain (and keep) the lead is not necessarily by being the fastest, but the most ruthless. Meaning: If you're right behind the leader, kick in some boost and ram him right off the road. Or slam him into the wall. Or oncoming/cross traffic. Or a over a cliff. Or, if you can hit it just right, time your boost so you can get your nose right under his bumper and lift him off the ground for some serious (and deadly) air. But make sure they don't do the same to you, or you risk falling back to last place and never catching up.
With Race you can conceivably get away/win without knocking another driver from the road, relying solely on your driving skills. In Road Rage, however, you cannot. Seeing as how the mode lacks a clock or finish line, Road Rage pits you against an endless stream of AI drivers with the goal being to destroy as many of them before your car is totaled. (And it will be totaled) The more you destroy, the higher your points and more you can brag to your friends. But it's not just about knocking the cars from the road or plowing them into walls.
Last year, Electronic Arts released Need for Speed Underground, which, while a great racing game in its own right, was mostly about supping-up your ride to make it take a turn that much tighter, to give it a little more speed to edge out your competition, and, most importantly, adding new layers of paint and decals to make that baby look as sweet as she can possibly be. Style was the name of the game. And while Burnout 3 features none of that gearhead tweaking, Road Rage is also about style.
Signature Takedowns, as they're dubbed, are takedowns that are so utterly cool that the game rewards you with bonus points and Polaroid snapshots of the wreckage. (Video would have been sweeter, however, especially on the Xbox.) Slamming your opponent into the wall is all well and good but will only garner you 150 points (well, more if you go on a streak). But Signature Takedowns (such as Gone Fishin, Pillar Driller, and Truck Torpedo) net you anywhere from 2000 to 2500 points each time they're pulled off -- depending on your style. The faster and more precisely you hit 'em, the higher the points and cooler the wreckage.
With there being no set end to Road Rage, the replayability is based on your desire to best yourself. For instance, in an early run I toppled 43 cars. Since then, however, my best is 34. Until I break the elusive record I myself set, I won't be happy. And guess what. Then I'll have to break that new record as well. Not just on that one track, but on all of them. It never ends, and so what if some of the takedowns do become repetitive. Forcing another car into oncoming traffic or the back of a truck means you're that much closer to another Signature Takedown. Practice and persistence is the name of Road Rage. And style.
02. The other reason to continue with Burnout 3 is Xbox Live. Here you can race against human players across the globe, team-up to crash and cause as much damage as humanly possible, or break into two teams (Red and Blue) in Takedown Mode where one team has to reach the finish line before the other destroys them all.
The unpredictability of human players adds an element to the game that EA certainly could not have built into the AI. No matter how ruthless the computer-driven cars are, you can generally outthink them. But when you toss in human players who might never have raced with before, well, that's a whole new ballgame. While the AI isn't there to win (they're just faster obstacles for you to outmaneuver), Xbox Live players are. And they will do whatever it takes (and outthink you) to score a gold.
As I said before, racing games are a dime a dozen. If a company is going to successfully pull ahead of the pack they need to break the rules and be innovative with their product. This isn't an option. Gaming is built on recycling, which, after 30 years, is resulting in the creation of some very stale, tired retreads. With Burnout 3 you can sit back and enjoy the racing if you like, but for me and many other online gamers it's all about taking the other racers down with as much style as possible (or crashing into a semi, causing $1.5 million in damage in a mere twelve seconds).
22 September 2004