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Xbox Review - 'Burnout 3: Takedown'

by Eric on Sept. 22, 2004 @ 12:38 a.m. PDT

Burnout 3 takes the series even further, now featuring a unique 'crash and burn' racing concept and a one-of-a-kind special effects engine that delivers spectacular visuals. The intensity heats up as players race, and often crash, their way through oncoming traffic in an attempt to claim the top spot.

Genre : Racing
Developer: Criterion
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: September 7, 2004

Buy 'BURNOUT 3: Takedown':
Xbox | PlayStation 2

Not many racing games have attempted to break the tried-and-true mold of the genre, until Criterion Games dazzled gamers with insane speed and groundbreaking crashes with their Burnout racing game series, where it is not just about winning, but also about taking big chances and creating glorious pileups. As much as I enjoyed Burnout 2, I could not help but think how cool it would be if there were some way to combine the wrecks found in "Crash Mode" with the intense racing found in the racing mode. Apparently, I was not the only one that was thinking about this very same concept, as a mere two years later, Criterion has finished up work on the latest in the Burnout series and has not only found a way to combine both modes in Burnout 3: Takedown, but take that idea to a completely new level with things that even the most hardcore of fans could have never dreamed up.

Burnout 3: Takedown gets its name from the all-new "takedown" gameplay feature that now allows you to take down your opponents during a race. When one of the other drivers comes up and tries to pass you, you can now try to take them out by smashing into their car to make them lose control, or by smashing them into a wall, or if all of that fails, you can try and smash them into another vehicle! When this happens, the game goes into a Matrix-style slow motion cut scene, and the camera pans over to your opponent's car as it wrecks before going back to the standard race cam and continuing on with the race. The effect is downright stunning and extremely fun to pull off. You not only get points for taking down an opponent, but this is also the main way you fill your boost meter in Burnout 3. You can still get boost by driving into oncoming traffic and taking chances, but the amounts are small, and the only way to fill your boost meter is by doing "takedowns." Complementing the takedowns is another new feature in the series called "Aftertouch Takedowns." Aftertouch Takedowns allow you to take out opponents with your car after you wreck, letting you get the most out of your crash. At the point when you crash, you can push and hold down the A button to slow down time and use the joystick to somewhat control where your car goes after the initial impact. The idea is to try and steer your vehicle into an opponent, causing them to wreck too. As easy as that sounds, actually pulling off an Aftertouch Takedown is quite hard. This is not due simply to the NPC drivers being able to avoid your wrecks but more due to the fact that in Aftertouch cam mode, it is usually extremely hard to see the oncoming cars, making it difficult to know where to move your car. Nevertheless, Aftertouch Takedowns, while somewhat difficult to pull off, are still extremely fun and a great addition to the game.

As cool as takedowns are, they are only one of many different features that you will find in Burnout's main mode of play, World Tour mode. The heart of the game, World Tour mode, spans three continents U.S.A., Asia and Europe. Each one is represented by a map that features all of the available tracks and races. There is a ton of variety in race types here, ranging from your standard circuit races, point-to-point races, "Burning Lap" time trials, "Road Rage" takedown-only races, "Lap Eliminator," where the last place racer is eliminated in each lap, and of course, "Crash Mode." Aside from having a bunch of new modes and some old classics, the way World Tour mode is set up is what really makes this special. Instead of splitting up all of these modes and giving them their own sections as has been done in the past, Criterion has put them all in one big mode, and the end result could not have turned out any better. As you play through World Tour mode, new events crop up and are clearly marked on the maps, making them very easy to find. You have the option of doing any of the open events, and more than one usually opens up at the same time. The thing that makes this so great is that you never get bored playing the same race mode over and over again. Unlike other racers that usually have you doing only one or two types of modes, Burnout 3 gives you many different modes to engage in so you never get burnt out on a single mode. If you start to get tired of simple racing, you can go and do a few crash events, and vice versa. The flow and pace of World Tour mode is outstanding, and thanks to the 40 tracks and over 100 events, you can easily spend hours on end lost in Burnout 3.

In the past titles, the most enjoyable aspect has been Crash Mode, which makes a big return in Burnout 3 with many new features. At its core, Crash Mode is still the same: you take a car and try to cause the biggest possible crash. This time around, however, there are many more things to do than simply causing a big wreck. There are different cash bonuses you can collect as you speed to your fiery end that will increase your overall total, but the biggest thing is the new cash multipliers that will double or quadruple your score. The cash multipliers are placed at different parts on the crash levels, and many have to be snagged with some skillful Aftertouching once a wreck is started. These are a good idea in theory but not that well realized in the game. What Criterion should have done is put these in extremely hard-to-reach places that took a nearly perfect crash along with some very good Aftertouching. They also should have made them more like special bonuses that gave more money to your overall total that could be used for unlocking new vehicles. Instead, Criterion made the cash multipliers needed to score gold on the Crash Stages. They also put them in fairly easy places to reach. While this adds a totally new layer of gameplay to the Crash Mode, it also takes away one of its coolest features which was the randomness of the crashes. Thanks to lots of Aftertouching and aiming your car for the cash multipliers, the crashes really no longer have random outcomes every time. In the end, the Crash Mode now has become mainly about getting the Cash Multipliers then deciding what the best way would be to smash into the cars that would make the biggest crash. While that is a little disappointing, the new "Crashbreaker" option still keeps things exciting. On every crash stage, there is a set number of vehicles that need to wreck, and once this number has been reached, you can use your "Crashbreaker" by hitting the B button. A crashbreaker makes your wrecked car explode with a massive force that sends your car – as well as nearby ones – flying. You can also use Aftertouch with this to steer your vehicle into oncoming cars or other vehicles to cause even more damage. Overall, Crash Mode in Burnout 3 is an improvement over the previous versions, but it is no longer the best mode in Burnout.

That title goes to the brand new Rage Mode, the single most entertaining mode ever put into a racing game. Rage Mode puts you on a track with lots of other cars and only one objective: takedown as many cars as possible before you destroy your own car. Had a bad day at the office? This is the mode for you! What's even better than smashing up tons of cars is the fact that you can take on your friends in multiplayer mode and not only see who can take out the most cars, but also relieve some of that road rage! While Rage Mode is easily the most fun "mode" in the game, the actual racing modes in Burnout 3 are the most fun sim or arcade racing experience you will find.

Criterion stated as it was nearing completion on Burnout 2 that it really was excited about the possibilities of Xbox Live and wanted to take the Burnout series online. Sadly, by the time XBL was released, Burnout 2 was nearing completion and the developer did not have the time to add in full online play. We had to settle for the next best thing, which was an online ranking system. Two years later, Xbox Live has been a massive success with over 1 million gamers, and this time around, Criterion was able to add in full online play over XBL. In addition, the end result is some of the very best online gaming you can experience today. All of the main modes of play are available for you and seven of your friends. Moreover, some modes can have as many as 16 players in them, but not all at once. The online play itself is smooth with very little lag (assuming you have a good host). The only real problem we have had was getting into a game itself. We had some issues with that, but overall we didn't see really any big problems, and most likely, the few bugs would be ironed out in an update soon.

Burnout has always been a good-looking game with an impressive engine behind it, but Burnout 3 really has had some big graphical upgrades. Everything is more detailed, with more polygons being used on the vehicles and environments. The textures are also a lot better than in the other titles and look great even for a PS2 port. The new particle effects for the sparks and explosions are quite stunning, and the improved physics for the crashes are even better than before. With all of these improvements and added detail, you would expect this to come at some kind of price, most notably in the frame rate department. If there is a price for all of this eye candy, we can't find it! The frame rate is a rock solid 60 fps with no noticeable slowdown, and the sense of speed looks even faster now, thanks to some very cool motion blurs.

I have always been a fan of the Burnout series, but now thanks to Burnout 3: Takedown, I am no longer a fan but now a full-fledged junkie! I would certainly consider Burnout 3 to be the "GoldenEye" of racing games!

Score 9.9/10

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