Formats: PS3 (reviewed) | Xbox 360 | PC
Developers: Criterion Games
Burnout is trying something a little different to the previous games in the series and has opted for an open-world feel with a major refocus towards the online action.
The single player mode has suffered in order to make this great online multiplayer racer / crasher. The new menu-less free-roaming city feels too vague and unstructured for racing. There aren’t any tracks so to speak as races have turned into point A to point B style races letting you find the best route, but it’s a nightmare trying to keep your eye on the compass, the sat-nav map and the road. If you screw up a race there isn’t a restart option, this becomes really annoying when you’re in the hills and it takes ages to drive back to the city. This could have been fixed with a restart option or even an option to teleport to any event or area of the map, a loading screen would have been forgiven for the convenience.
The new style of races should have only been included as an extra mode rather than completely replacing the traditional circuits that had glowing borders. Even more has gone missing from the old titles, controlling your crashes with ‘aftertouch’ has gone, so you can’t take out the AI cars when you plough into an oncoming bus at top speed. Crash Mode has been replaced with Showtime, where you bounce your car along in any direction you want, hunting down traffic to boost your score and keep the carnage going for as long as possible.
You can no longer hit traffic going in the same direction, you can get away with the odd clip sometimes but it’s inconsistent so it’s best avoiding it altogether when driving. Marked Man is a new mode where you have to race to the end and survive a pack of cars trying to take you out. Very, very hard. I had more fun finding all the breakable billboards and gates or discovering all the mega-jump locations. There are hundreds and it’s incredibly addictive finding them all.
A strange addition to the series is a handbrake button, this is for all the 90 degree turns you’ll be doing and countless 180s for going back for that turn you missed. You can’t help feel the drifting has been toned down too much to make this seem like a worthy addition. It is quite handy online though when you’re mucking around.
Try to stick with it because you need to progress through the single player’s events to unlock extra vehicles to give you an edge online, whether you want speed, strength or handling. Some of the later cars are face-meltingly fast while others hit like a train would a stranded car on a crossing.
For all you road fiends out there without broadband yet (seriously why?), you’ll be disappointed to learn that there is no offline multiplayer whatsoever. Bad EA! Bad Criterion! This is all forgiven though because of the excellent online mode where clearly most of the development time has been spent. It’s a seamless transition from single-player too, with just a few taps of the D-pad putting you online where your car stands. Up to eight players can meet to complete up to 350 Freeburn challenges as simple as everyone performing a drift or something requiring more team-work like having seven people park between two jump ramps and the eighth player barrel-rolling over them all! There are a set number of challengers for groups of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 players all requiring everyone to take part. If you want to get them done you better start forming a large varied group of like-minded online Burners because there’s nothing more annoying than doing a challenge where you all have to meet on the dam waterworks roof and one player is ignoring you all at the other end of the city. Kick em’ out and start again when someone else joins in! As the host you will be able to boot out any uncooperative players and set up challenges and races.
You can race online too, but it suffers from the same navigation problems as the single player game. At least your human opponents are vulnerable to the same mistakes. Or you can all just mess around crashing into each other or compete for the longest drift or see who dares dodging oncoming traffic for the longest distance as these stats are constantly tracked.
Another great new feature is the way you can compete with your friends for the best time down a street or the most damage caused in Showtime. If you top both, the sign on the map will turn gold and you will ‘own the road’.
It goes without saying that it all looks incredible too with no lag or pop-up issues at all. The crashes will make you wince and cringe as your car is crushed in half when you barely see the brick wall you’ve just disintegrated into. Although some of the slow motion crashes can really begin to grate as they take forever and the aforementioned aftertouch has been removed.
But hey, PS3 car nuts finally have decent game, so if they can fix the dodgy single player elements for next time it’ll be perfect. Get playing with a good gang and you’ll enjoy possibly the best online experience yet.
- Online Freeburn challenges are awesome fun
- Sense of speed and graphics scream ‘next-gen’
- Lots to collect
- Single-player racing has lost its touch
- Navigating city is awkward thanks to the sat-nav map not rotating
- Have to drive to each race
The Short Version: The single player racing is disappointing thanks to it being overly-complicated until you know the streets off by heart. Whoever thought Burnout and map-reading needed to be merged needs a good beating. The online challenges are great though and are much more fun than the racing; you’ll spend weeks trying to beat them all.