Platform: XBLA | PSN
Developer: Criterion Games
There's something about the way that the Ham-Handed Voiceover Troll in Burnout Crash! gurns 'The ice-cream man, the ice-cream man is coming!' that makes me laugh every time. Don't get me wrong, the voice acting in this game is so very over the top and bro-tastic that there are moments where I wish I had a several rolls of duck tape to shut it up, but occasionally there are one of two moments of gentle comedy. Aside from the odd laugh, Burnout Crash! does seem at first to be a rather satisfying experience. This is a game for anyone who has found themselves stuck in traffic, caught in a gridlock, or forced to suffer an oblivious imbecile doing 30mph in a 50mph zone and groaning as the cars stack up behind you and the sluggish idiot in front of you.
For anyone who has ever cursed the gods of the road, this is a game that may well be right up your street...when all goes to plan.
At its heart, Burnout Crash! is all about causing the most damage at an intersection ('junction' to us folk lacking a Constitution) by ramming your vehicle into a mess of traffic, causing an enormous pile up and watching the bill rocket sky-high. In that respect, at least, it's a game firmly modelled on the Crash mode in existing Burnout games.
But there are differences, quite a number of them. For starters, Burnout Crash! is played from a top-down perspective, reminiscent of early GTA titles. Each intersection, and there are 18 of them across which to dance a ballistic ballet of explosive destruction, consists of a mess of feeder roads and several buildings just waiting to be smashed into. The road layouts are different each time, from simple crossroads, to parallel dual-carriageways, to enormous roundabouts of utter carnage. The key on each of these levels is essentially the same - cause the most carnage and don't let the traffic escape.
In order to better fulfil that remit, Burnout Crash! has implemented a nifty explosive tool called the 'Crashbreaker'. A meter at the bottom of your screen will slowly start to build up, accelerated by new crashes, explosions and extra damage. Once that meter is full and glowing, simply tap 'A' to execute the Crashbreaker, blowing up your car all over again and propelling nearby vehicles away from you to cause more rampant anarchy oft he road. As you launch yourself into the air with the Crashbreaker, though, you can reposition the car thanks to a system called 'Aftertouch'. Having blocked up one feeder street with a 20 car pile-up, a fizz and a bang sees you into the air and gliding towards two buses on the other side of the road. The variety of cars in the game play around with the stats a little bit, with some cars built to explode more powerfully across a wider area but with minimal Aftertouch, and other vehicles designed to have smaller explosions, but the ability to glide their battered, burning, metal corpses across intersections with silky ease.
Imagine if Burnout Revenge, a tower defence game, a pinball machine and an obnoxious gameshow host all got into a massive hot-tub and had the night of their lives. This would probably be the result.
There are three game modes across each intersection. 'Rush Hour' is the most straightforward, and indeed likely to be the mode that people return to for a quick bit of destructive catharsis. The premise is simple: you have 90 seconds to rack up a collateral damage tab that would look James Bond (or Jason Statham) look like a well behaved boy. At the end of that time limit, your car gets an extra-big explosion as a finale and that's your lot. Simple, effective, fun.
'Road Trip', meanwhile, is a little more complex. You get five strikes. Let a vehicle through to pass safely to the other side, that's one strike. Amass all five and it's game over. That's all well and good on the initial intersections but later on, when the fan gets well and truly hit by the proverbial, it become something of a nightmare. It's easy enough amass blockades of derelict vehicular husks, but they only stay that way for so long. Eventually they'll explode, setting off a wild chain reaction that, although relatively lucrative at times, blasts apart any obstacles in a road. More often than not I found my blockades exploding just as four or five cars came along and swiftly robbed me of any kind of victory whatsoever. It's a shame, because if you can last long enough to trigger the 'Super Feature' at the end, the game will naturally cease, with everything left on the map obliterated by some freak accident, be it tsunami, tornado, meteor or offending aliens, for deliciously high scores, its power determined by the number of strikes you have left.
Sadly, though, what this means in practice is that you're never allowed to fully revel in the destruction. It's an arcade blow-'em-up with harsh penalties for failing to do your job properly and its all too easy to get lost in the riotous fun, the game plays fantastically on a basic level, lining up ricocheting skill shots, carefully collecting scrap around you to be fired off like a bumper sized Typhoon. The core aspects of the game have been put together brilliantly, they offer up distracting, carefree fun...which is why it's a bit of a shame that Road Trip demands such vigilance.
Pile Up still penalises you for letting traffic escape, but it does so in a slightly less offensive way, starting you off with a 5x multiplier and letting it slowly dwindle as you leak cars from your intersection. The idea is to try and get as many cars on the map at end of the game because when that happens you enter Inferno Mode, which keeps the carnage running so long as there are fires burning on the map, your blast strength and fiery potential now governed by your multiplier.
Things get better if you get a bunch of friends round and have a Kinect camera. The Party Mode is excellent, with random actions (punching or Force Pushing towards the screen is particularly satisfying) triggering the Crashbreaker and Aftertouch sorted out by leaning and stepping forwards, back, left and right. It actually works surprisingly well and the 'party' aspect is certainly welcome, making those versions that don't have it resemble the kid who always gets picked last for team sports. It's a crying shame that there's not an equivalent for the Move.
Aside from that, multiplayer interaction is largely limited to Autolog, which the game shoves into your face at every opportunity. There are some nice touches, a little trophy for the personal competitions that you set up and you can issue challenges to your mates. The trouble is that if you don't have any friends playing Crash!, it'll be a lonely experience for you as there are no global online leaderboards. Autolog Recommends will, we were told, help you find challengers from across the globe...but we haven't seen any of it yet, and that's a week after release.
Ultimately Burnout Crash! has all of the ingredient to be a really fun little title, but the pedantry of its setup means that much of the carefree glee is lost after half an hour of gameplay. Rush Hour is excellent fun, the most simple incarnation of the game's attractive premise, but the fact that you have to jump through hurdles to get there is somewhat self-defeating. If you have Kinect then it's just about worth a punt for 800 MSP, but if not, particularly on the higher, more frenetic levels, I'm just not convinced it's a game you'll come back to.
- Premise is excellent
- When it all comes together it is destructive arcade bliss
- Rush Hour and Party Mode are great fun
- Multiplayer anyone?
- Voiceovers can grate
- Often frustrates by design
The Short Version: Burnout Crash! is not a bad game, in fact it can be a incredibly fun game at times, but such periods are actually relatively short-lived and mired by frustrating designs, a relative lack of multiplayer (imagine what fun a co-op mode would have been!), and an unlock structure that's akin to force-feeding you gruel just so you can have pudding. Still, for ninety seconds at a time you can enjoy unhindered destructive awesomeness...if that's enough. Trust me, it isn't.